Heifer in Trust, Social Protection and Graduation : Conceptual Issues and Empirical Questions

The ‘heifer-in-trust’ or ‘livestock-in-kind credit’ model is being examined in this article through a social-protection lens. It seeks specifically, to engage with debates about the use of asset-based strategies to support graduation from social protection. Drawing on project experience with dairy goats in Ethiopia and dairy cattle in Tanzania, the article concludes that while the asset-ness of livestock may in principle allow them to make a unique contribution to livelihood transformation and thus graduation, the most obvious target group is least likely to be able to handle the demands and risks associated with livestock assets. In this article a well-established genre of livestock projects are examined through the lens of asset-based graduation. Specifically we ask what can be learned about social protection and graduation from the experience of projects built around the ‘heifer-in-trust’ or ‘livestock-in-kind credit’ models that specifically target poor people. What does graduation look like? Is there anything special about the ‘asset-ness’ of livestock in the context of social protection that either facilitates or constrains their contribution to graduation processes? Our focus is specifically on sub-Saharan Africa but we recognise that livestock have played critical roles in large-scale poverty-alleviation programmes in other regions, with Operation Flood in India being an obvious example.