In the late 1990s a review of aid-assisted livestock projects included an assessment of sustained impact on poorer producers. The majority of these projects were based on a technical transfer paradigm in which constraints facing poor livestock keepers were to be addressed by the development and uptake of technologies. However, the lack of sustained impact on the poor was dramatic.
Partly in response to these problems, a second broad category of livestock projects evolved which aimed to strengthen the capacity of organisations to develop and deliver novel technologies and services to the poor. These projects focused on government organisations (veterinary and extension services, research centres) and aimed to promote more client-focused and decentralised approaches. A key project activity was training middle-level managers, researchers and field-level technicians. Again, the sustained benefit of these 'organisational projects' was limited. New skills did not change the way organisations behaved, as the overriding institutional frameworks rarely provided incentives for addressing the specific needs of the poor.
Despite this rather gloomy picture a few projects did demonstrate substantial impact. These included new approaches to primary animal health care using privatised community-based animal health workers (CAHWs). However, even these projects faced problems at a policy and institutional level – veterinary policies and legislation did not support CAHWs and were often vague or not implemented. This article describes how workers at the African Union/InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources addressed policy constraints to CAHW services in the Horn and East Africa.