The story of cattle in Africa: Why diversity matters

Cattle are central to the lives and diverse cultures of Africa’s people. This book highlights how cattle have evolved in Africa over centuries and illustrates the varied and vital roles they have played in the past and continue to play today.


Robust, genetically diverse African cattle are treasured assets for estimated 800 million livestock keepers across the continent. Cattle are a critically important daily source of food and nutrition, of much needed income, and of nitrogen-rich manure for replenishing soils and other uses. They also fulfil a wide variety of sociocultural roles. Thanks to their rich genetic diversity, different breeds of African cattle are well adapted to a remarkably wide range of environments - from the harsh fringes of the Sahara Desert in North Africa, to the drier areas of the Horn of Africa, to the wet tropical lowlands found along the Congo River, and on to the vast savannahs of Southern Africa.

“The story of cattle in Africa: Why diversity matters” showcases a few of the continent’s indigenous cattle breeds, highlighting their social, cultural, economic, genetic and environmental importance. Through stories told by farmers, one learns about the contribution these animals make to the livelihoods of their keepers as well as those who participate in the extended range of economic activity that surrounds each animal. In addition, cattle are a critical daily source of nutritionally rich animal source foods (ASFs), providing protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that help meet the dietary needs of millions of African people, especially children and reproductively active women.

Publication cover

Header photo: ILRI/ Stevie Mann