Early intervention to save livestock will aid north-east India’s recovery following flooding

In this blog Tristan Knowles illustrates the importance of supporting livestock in post-disaster response efforts.

The Brahmaputra River in north-east India is once again flooding, putting at risk the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Importantly, the flooding also affects the livestock that these people own. Research by Economists at Large for World Animal Protection has shown that early intervention to save livestock following rapid-onset disasters can generate significant economic benefits.

The economy of much of rural India depends on livestock, so looking after livestock in the aftermath of this kind of disaster is crucial for economic recovery. Local people go to great lengths to keep their livestock safe from the floodwaters, but many are affected by disease and malnourishment after the water recedes.

Early intervention to save livestock following disasters can generate significant economic benefits

In 2013, I visited Assam with my colleague and fellow economist, Rod Campbell, to undertake field research on World Animal Protection’s response to the 2012 Assam floods. We visited the Dhemaji district in northern area of Assam, a state in north-East India which the mighty Brahmaputra River winds through on its journey from its headwaters in Tibet through to the Bay of Bengal. Dhemaji has been hit by flooding again this year.

The purpose of the fieldwork was to obtain qualitative and quantitative data on the economic value of livestock to the local economy. This data was used to construct a simple benefit-cost model to estimate the economic importance of the intervention. The total cost of the response was nearly US $50,000. Distribution of rice bran and veterinary medicines accounted for 78% of this cost with staff related costs (including travel) making up a further 17%, with the balance due to other costs.

The value of animals assisted by World Animal Protection

The total number of animals that benefitted from the intervention was estimated by World Animal Protection at 56,206 animals, owned by over 4000 different households. As market prices for livestock are volatile and unreliable in the aftermath of a disaster, we estimated the intrinsic value of livestock based on the future benefits they’re likely to provide to their owners.

The results showed that World Animal Protection’s response assisted with the post-disaster health and welfare of animals worth approximately USD $4.7 million to the local economy.  By assisting livestock and their owners, it is possible to help to speed up the economic recovery of the region to a state of normalcy, following an economic shock caused by a natural disaster such as a flood.

Early intervention helps to reduce mortality and morbidity among livestock, reduce unwanted sales of livestock due to lack of feed or poor health and in the long-run, allows for livestock owners to continue farming in the way they’re accustomed. This illustrates the importance of supporting livestock in post-disaster response efforts. This is not news for owners of livestock who understand fully the direct and indirect impacts of losing livestock on their livelihoods.

Quite apart from any moral reasons to help the people of Assam, we think the reasons above should provide justification for aid agencies to respond rapidly to assist as many livestock as possible, as early as possible.

Further Reading

You can read the report on the benefit-cost analysis of WSPA’s 2012 Intervention in the Dhemaji district of Assam, India at our website.

You can follow Economists at Large on Twitter @ecolarge.
You can follow Tristan on Twitter at @tristanknowles and Rod at @R_o_d_C


* This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog belong solely to the blog owner and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of World Animal Protection.