Feeding livestock, feeding the soil
Crop residue tradeoffs in crop-livestock systems
Smallholders in mixed crop-livestock systems constitute a very large fraction of
farming enterprises in developing countries. In those systems, crop residues (CR) are
a strategic production component: their use can be split into animal feeding,
construction material, cooking fuel, mulch remaining (sometimes burnt) in the field.
Mixed crop-livestock systems are very dynamic and are evolving rapidly in response
to external drivers such as demographic pressure, development of urban markets and
increased demand for crop and livestock products, climate variability and change. In
addition, the recent interest for bio-fuel production exacerbates further the pressure
on biomass in production systems.
This study aims at better understanding the tradeoffs in crop residue uses in cereal
based systems in four regions: millet, sorghum, maize based systems in West Africa;
maize based systems in Eastern and Southern Africa; and wheat/rice based systems Figure 1: Selected countries and sites
in South Asia. The major tradeoff in most systems is the short term benefits of using
crop residues to feed livestock versus leaving the crop residues in the field to improve
soil productivity (nutrient balance, erosion control, and soil health).
The study focuses on the decision making processes at the farm/household level and
will capture the diversity/contrasts and recent changes in CR uses at various scales in
order to better target technical, institutional and policy options to improve livelihood
without compromising long term system sustainability.
Figure 2: Site selection criteria Figure 3: Possible systems trajectories
according to Livelihood and Sustainability
What determines the decisions about crop residue use
(current crop management, agro-ecology, markets/institutions,
resource endowments, dynamics,…)?
What is the impact of those decisions on livelihoods and
What are the technological, institutional and policy options
that would enhance livelihood and environmental benefits?
Figure 4: Project general conceptual framework
Combination of village and household surveys and ex-ante tradeoff modelling.
Two thousands households surveyed in the four regions using stratified sampling,
based on intensification level and market access.
Thematic household survey to capture:
i. Decision making for the allocation of crop residues;
ii. Identification of soil fertility management practices and feeding
iii. Retrospective questions to understand farm evolution/trajectories.
Village group survey to capture:
i. Drivers and market access;
ii. Communal feed resources;
iii. Systems evolution in term of feeding strategies and soil productivity.
Collection (primary and secondary data) of key bio-physical parameters (minimum
data set) to address sustainability issues.
Contrast and trend analysis at household, village, system scales and identification of
potential solutions (tradeoff analysis) under a range of scenarios.
Note: Household and village surveys will be conducted in early 2010 in four
different regions. To guarantee a homogenous global data base, a feasibility study on
Figure 5: Project activity flowchart
use of computerized survey instruments is underway (see www.cwest.com).
The SLP funded project entitled ‘Optimizing livelihood and environmental benefits from crop residues in smallholder crop-
livestock systems in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia’ is conducted by IITA, ICRISAT, ILRI, IWMI and CIMMYT with scientific
contribution from CIP, CIAT/TSBF and WU Photo Credits: B. Gérard (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9)
S. Mann (4, 7, 8) and P. Delfosse (1)