Livestock/animal assets buffer the impact of conflict-related traumatic events on mental health symptoms for rural women

Core message

Programs that transfer livestock assets to resource poor rural households have been demonstrated to effectively improve the welfare of target households and even their wider communities in the form of increased incomes and child nutritional status. An innovative program of this type—Pigs for Peace (PFP) —in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo produced strong evidence that such asset transfers can also have positive impacts on women’s mental health.

For this livestock asset transfer intervention, the aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a hybrid microcredit / livestock asset transfer program on economic, health and intimate partner violence outcomes using a randomized community trial. Half of the selected villages received the pigs 18 months after the initial group, and thus represented the control group. Individual participants (men and women of at least 16 years) were selected based on commitment and willingness to co-invest in animal housing, etc and each received a female piglet and agreed to pass on two piglets from the first litter. Most of the household participants were women (84%), 25 years of age or older, married, had on average three children and had never attended school. Initial baseline and 18-month survey data were collected to measure outcomes on subjective health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, economic stability and exposure to 18 different trauma events, such as deprivation, combat, forced isolation, sexual violence/humiliation) over the past 10 years. Residual change analysis was used to examine the amount of change from baseline to 18 months between the intervention and delayed control groups, controlling for baseline scores.


The survey found that participants reported a mean of over four conflict-related traumatic events in the past 10 years such as being close to death, imprisonment, or witnessing or experiencing sexual violence. However, keeping livestock assets were found to moderate the effects of these events. Statistical analysis found that the interaction between livestock asset value by conflict-related traumatic events was significant for both PTSD and depression symptoms, even when controlling for other household wealth indicators. Specifically, as the livestock assets increase, the impact of conflict-related traumatic events on symptoms consistent with PTSD and depression are reduced. The findings support existing evidence about the importance of livestock assets to economics in rural households but expands on previous research by demonstrating the psychosocial effects of livestock/animal assets on health.

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