Crop-livestock systems in West Africa: Update on past work

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Presented by Shirley Tarawali at ILRI, Addis Ababa, 20 January 2012

Presented by Shirley Tarawali at ILRI, Addis Ababa, 20 January 2012

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  • Farmers in the dry savannas of West Africa have operated integrated crop-livestock systems for many decades. The challenge is how to increase the productivity of the crops and livestock without depleting the natural resource base, and taking account of farmers’ perceptions.
  • Not sure if this is necessary - can cover in the previous slide
  • For each of these, we can consider how they cannot be the solution on their own. Either in relation to the other components, but more importantly, to farmers’ direct economic and social circumstances, their priorities and the decisions and trade offs they make…..
  • For each of these, we can consider how they cannot be the solution on their own. Either in relation to the other components, but more importantly, to farmers’ direct economic and social circumstances, their priorities and the decisions and trade offs they make…..
  • Many are familiar with the approach adopted in the dry savannas, involving a range of partners with complementary expertise - international IITA, ICRISAT and ILRI, NARS in several countries and extension services. We have tried to combine biophysical aspects together with soft science - economics, social studies, impact assessment and adoption.
  • Bringing these issues together has formed the basis for the crop-livestock project in West Africa that seeks make research for development a reality. Issues relating to a range of biophysical challenges for both livestock and crop production, to management of natural resources and the social, economic context that these operate in. The need for close partnerships with farmers themselves and with a range of stakeholders, given the diversity of issues to be considered is also important. In summary, the focus has been twofold - to bring together different components from previous component research and to test and develop these with farmers and other stakeholders in a holistic manner.
  • This slide summarises the “starting point” in 1998 for what is often referred to as “best bet options”. After just one year, the option of no inputs was rejected by farmers, and BB became a treatment with local sorghum fodder. In the past year, the focus has been entirely on BB+ with farmers abandoning BB. Furthermore, the majority of farmers have included some of the improved varieties in their fields, meaning that the L treatment has also begun to vary! It is useful to be aware of this as we move to consider the recent activities implemented in the context of the present project.
  • After beginning in Nigeria in 1998, project activities were initiated in Niger and Mali, and with the onset of the Danida phase, in Burkina Faso and Ghana. Locations were selected to represent different crop-livestock farming systems. In Nigeria, intensive cowpea-sorghum-small ruminants, in Niger more extensive, millet-cowpea with more cattle, in Mali again cowpea-sorghum(maize) based but with the cash crop cotton also in the system - not as a research focus, but as an influence on the way these farmers manage their crop-livestock systems. Ghana and Burkina also represent fairly intensive - or at least intensifying systems.
  • The feeding strategy tested in Nigeria is based on information initially from Niger that indicated a small amount of the cowpea fodder per day could have a significant effect on animal liveweight gain - and it was not necessary to “waste” this valuable fodder resource. In 2003 dry season farmers tested two amounts of cowpea per sheep per day - 300g or 600g. Results are summarised here (more detail in report). Whilst there was no significant difference in terms of overall weight gain over the 75 day feeding period, when this is converted to gain per g of cowpea fed, the difference is dramatic and the lower amount of cowpea appears much more effective. In terms of manure, if we convert the amounts produced to a per hectare basis, on the assumption that the 300g would have come from one third of the area (and return to the same) and the 600g from two thirds of the area - again we see an indication of a greater efficiency for the lower amount. And note as well - the amount of about 1 t/ha, if applied annually (and not 2-3 t/ha every 2-3 years) seems to be one of the best strategies for nutrient return.
  • Because we have been conducting feeding trials on farm, we have allowed farmers to feed their animals additional supplements but have kept records of these. The majority of farmers feed small quantities of cereal bran - a by-product of crop grain processing. We also realised that, for newly formed womens groups, bran is an important resource for small ruminant feed - since they are involved in the processing they have ready access to this. So the question is how to get the best out of the bran and cowpea feed resources?
  • What we are now focusing on in Niger is how best to increase the feed available to use in this measured way. Including for example micro-dose of fertilizer combined with organic manure and improved varieties of cowpea and millet. We are also looking at the use of compost pits - but again here issues relating to labour to transport compost to the fields become important.
  • There are already a number of appropriate interventions out in the field in Burkina Faso from various other projects (including ILRI led, IFAD-IDRC funded project on nutrient management). One of these is the use of compost pits (shown here). The farmer is able to get excellent yields of maize in fields adjacent to his homestead, without any addition of inorganic fertilizer. However this also raises other issues that emphasise the importance of the holistic approach - he cannot transport the compost to more distant fields, and these are very poor. Furthermore, we know that the benefits of the organic manure would be enhanced if he could combine it with inorganic fertilizer - and that touches on various policy issues. In Burkina we will focus on beginning with feeding and composting options, but there are also opportunities to introduce the dual purpose crop varieties and management strategies. We can also benefit from good Danish partners with expertise in group management - which is often an important aspect of being able to get credit.
  • Ghana provides some examples of new challenges that perhaps need to go back to crop breeders. In this case, small ruminants face severe feed constraints in the wet season because of the intensity of cropping - maize tops, harvested after the cobs have formed are an important feed resource. Are there crop breeding opportunities here? As with Burkina, in Ghana our trials with farmers will begin by looking at feeding and compost options. There are again opportunities to introduce the dual purpose crop varieties and management.
  • Partial economic budgeting, using crop and livestock data from on farm trials has been implemented in Nigeria and Mali. Over a number of years this has led to the development of formats that enable collection of relevant input and output cost data, labour estimates, and related market information. We will highlight one example from Niger, based on the recently conducted feeding trial. Over a number of years, assessing economic values for this integrated approach, a number of new issues have also arisen and these will be mentioned.
  • Summary of new issues that need to be included in completing economic analyses. These emphasise the value of the social studies that have complemented the biophysical data.
  • Some issues that have come up, partly as a result of semi-structured interviews conducted earlier, and also serving to emphasise the benefit of the multi-locational studies.
  • Although what we see on the ground today might look fairly straightforward, it is the result of a lot of dialogue with farmers and input from them.
  • These next two slides try to pull together some of the more generic aspects that have come out of our best bet options work. What things are important to make sure that it works.


  • 1. Crop-livestock systems in West Africa: Update on past work Shirley Tarawali Presented at ILRI on 20 January 2012
    • A shift in crop breeding/selection
    • Dual purpose legumes and cereals
    • Recognition of the greater systems context
    • “ Learning by doing”
      • Complementary expertise of several centres
      • Work closely with farmers
      • Take an “INRM” or “Sustainable Livelihoods” approach (ie not just productivity)
  • 2. Changing human population 2000 2050 Source: Thornton et al. 2002 Poverty & Livestock Mapping, ILRI, Kenya
  • 3. 2000 2050 Changing production systems Source: Thornton et al. 2002 Poverty & Livestock Mapping, ILRI, Kenya
  • 4. Pathways of crop-livestock integration? Crop farmer Inputs Grain Marginal Fallow Manure Stover Land resource Livestock farmer
  • 5. Land resource ? Livestock farmer Manure Stover Crop farmer Inputs Grain Fallow X Marginal X Crop farmer Livestock farmer
  • 6. Crop-livestock systems - already integrated!
  • 7. The challenge?
    • To produce more crop and livestock products
    • But:
      • don’t deplete the natural resource base
      • don’t overlook farmers’ perceptions, priorities and circumstances
    • Strategies of integrated natural resource management (INRM) and sustainable livelihoods (SL)
  • 8. Science solutions?
    • Improved crop varieties
    • Soil management
      • Add fertilizer
      • Put more manure
    • Livestock
      • Better quantity and quality feed
      • Kraal on fields
  • 9. Science solutions? Not just one crop species Not just for grain Farmers buy limited inputs Manure has to come from livestock Livestock have to be fed Feed comes from cropland Crop varieties - more and better quality feed Kraaling not always practical!
  • 10. What next?
    • An integrated approach
    • Need for “soft” science to better understand farmers, the systems they operate in and how these may influence adoption and adaptation
  • 11. Integrated approach
    • Combine the “best” component interventions
      • dual purpose crops (cereal + legume)
      • crop management (best use of inputs)
      • feed stover to livestock
      • manure returned to field
    • Holistic assessment with farmers as co-developers
  • 12. Research Development Social, economic policy issues Livestock production Dual purpose crop varieties Soil management Partner- ships including FARMERS
    • Project basis
    • Combine component
    • research outputs
    • Develop holistically with
    • farmers and other
    • stakeholders
    Crop management
  • 13. Best bet options - the beginning
    • 1998:
      • BB+ - best bet options plus minimum inputs
      • BB - best bet options, no inputs
      • L - local plot of sorghum-cowpea
      • Livestock feeding dependent on agronomic treatments,
      • manure returned to fields
      • Biophysical (grain, residue, soil, liveweight, manure quantity/quality)
      • Economic (input and output costs)
      • Social (semi-structured interviews)
  • 14. Nigeria Bichi (U.Zangi, Minjibir) Niger Banizoubou, Kodey Mali Fana and Koulikoro Ghana Bawku E., Tolon Kumbungu Burkina Faso Namaeguema, Pobe Intensification of integrated crop-livestock systems (Danida)
  • 15. On farm livestock feeding - Nigeria 2003
  • 16. Bran is an important source of feed (especially for women)
  • 17. New in Niger - micro-dose - compost pits
  • 18. Compost pits are good……….but - transport to distant fields? - complementarity with inorganic fertilizer? In Burkina Faso: - begin with farmer evaluation of feeding and compost options -potential to dual purpose varieties and crop patterns - excellent Danish partners, with expertise in group dynamics
  • 19. In Ghana: - small ruminant feeding in wet season - a new challenge? - begin with farmer evaluation of feeding and compost options - opportunities to introduce dual purpose varieties etc - outstanding partnerships at grass roots level
  • 20. Elaborate social, economic, policy and institutional options - enabling environment
    • Highlights
      • format for economic data collection and analyses, with and without family labour
      • example from Niger
      • new issues to include
      • understanding enabling environment
  • 21. New issues to include
    • Manure value
    • Soil capital
    • Livestock reproductive performance
    • Livestock “value”
    • Alternate uses for crops (eg sorghum stalks)
    • Grain storage (cowpea)
    • Value of grain as seed
  • 22. Understanding the enabling environment
    • Trade-offs and balances related to production and resource management
      • influences:
        • resource base, access to market, environmental and cultural factors
    • Credit
      • transition in Nigeria - to paying up front (confidence and improved income?)
      • not yet in Niger and Mali
      • opportunity for cross site comparisons
  • 23. What is new?
    • Bringing together the best (and not necessarily no inputs - but maximum use of minimum inputs)
    • Close interaction and continuous dialogue with farmers - changes and suggestions
    • Economic evaluation - not just value of crop yields, but livestock production, manure value
    • Relate to social information - for example:
      • livestock are important as an emergency cash reserve;
      • small ruminants often managed by women
      • access to market makes a big difference
  • 24. What have been the challenges?
    • Time and discussion
      • why not extrapolate from on-station?
    • “ Fear” of putting technologies or varieties in farmers hands
    • Learning to move away from assessment of “success” in terms of yield alone
    • Institutional issues
      • many and diverse partners and expectations!
  • 25. Lessons?
    • Start small and simple - BUT START
    • Address key issues for farmers - not everything
    • Define how what is planned fits into bigger picture (site selection)
    • Partners - contribute to key issues
    • Close communication with farmers - modify appropriately - learn by doing
    • No free inputs
    • If no best bet option - go with what the farmers do and learn from it
    • On station research for specific aspects
  • 26. Lessons?
    • Keep the holistic balance - all aspects are important, the aim is SUSTAINABLE improvements in productivity - so the highest production (especially of grain) is not always the “best” and the “fit” into the social and economic circumstances also needs to be considered
    • Multi-site investigations demand flexibility according to farming system, BUT don’t get away from the basic principles. Have a protocol and database structure
    • Learn to document process etc
  • 27.
    • This presentation was originally prepared in 2003