Population growth and urbanisation are driving a livestock revolution. Mixed farming systems are the present and the foreseeable future of West African livestock systems, with concurrent changes in livestock feeding systems and the role of grazing, fodder and penning. The livestock economy has to be seen as part of a national economy in which urban and rural facets interact. Effective policies need to be based on recognition of the capacity of rural people to invest in improving their livelihoods. The population of West Africa has risen rapidly in the past 40 years and is expected to continue rising. However, rural population has increased slowly while urban population has grown dramatically The result has been: an increase in demand for cereals and pulses (which produce crop residues for livestock) and a much increased urban demand for livestock productsgrazing land has diminished, crop residues are becoming a more important element in livestock raising, and fattening penned livestock has become profitablea shift of livestock raising southwards in West AfricaThe paper looks at farmers’ ability to adapt to changing markets for their products and the factors of production are illustrated with examples from Senegal, Nigeria, Niger and (by way of contrast) Kenya. This rapid change sets new challenges for livestock scientists, and they need to improve their methods or to change their priorities. Challenges include:better understanding of livestock economics: the livestock element in a farming system is always very cursorily treated compared to the cropping element. There appears to be a gulf between those who study the declining number of pastoralists (who often do look at matters like milk sales and seasonal feeding systems) and those who study the increasing number of farmers who incorporate livestock in an integrated farming system, who ignore these matters. There are very few studies of fattening economics, or the current market value of crop residues etc., or of changes and payments that occur in such things as access to stubble on farm land. All these require attention if we are to understand farmers’ strategies and their likely reaction to some suggested interventions or new technologies.reducing the disease risk under structural adjustment policies: how to finance veterinary services given reduced government resources (eg through the training of para-vet). Farmers may well be willing to pay more for effective vaccination services but are they asked about this? What are the priorities for a reduced veterinary service? It almost certainly is not an artificial insemination service, at least in Kenya where farmers find private bull services cheaper (costs vary according to the perceived quality of the bull). What can we do to help poor men and women make a more risk-free start with poultry?practical methods of increasing the utility of manure with inorganic fertilisers seen as additives rather than main source of replacement nutrients for the soil. These methods will have to take into account the limited labour availability in the farm family.practical preserving and processing methods for meat and other livestock products to increase their market rangeadapting recommendations to the current distribution of livestock: in the past few decades more people and livestock have moved into the subhumid zone to the south. Have technical recommendations developed for the semi-arid and pastoral zones been modified as necessary?developing practical methods of improving the nutritive content of crop residues and their storage. Practical means taking into account costs, access to materials (e.g. urea) and labour availability.developing multi-purpose fodder crops that would fit into existing farming systems and meet market needs including both crops that supply fodder and human food (e.g. certain legumes) or fodder and substitutes for expensive fertiliser. watering: is it a problem and what are the practical solutions? This may or may not be a problem in the context of fattening and dairy development.breeding: how should farmers take advantage of the spread of fattening techniques? If cows, sheep and goats are increasingly kept in enclosures, what are the implications for breeding? Are farmers already developing a market in the services of good sires, as in Kenya? Are research services taking advantage of this development?
The most desirable policies for agriculture are those that work for farmers and enable and encourage their private investments and ability to adapt. It makes sense to seek complementarity between government investment and services and private investment, when most governments are facing reduced public resources per capita. Encouraging private investment requires:moderate taxation regimes (otherwise private households are left without resources of their own to invest) good management of the economy, since private investors cannot make wise decisions in the face of unpredictable inflation or sudden changes in exchange ratesconcentrating government interventions on those areas where private investment and market incentives are insufficient, for example in veterinary services to combat disease or in providing rural roads and some types of water supplies. disseminating information, but leaving farmers to make their own judgements on whether to follow or modify it.improving rural people’s judgement by appropriate schooling as well as by extension services. Kenyan farmers send all their children to school, at least for primary education, and if possible for more, because they appreciate its utility for both non-farm and farming jobs. The utility of education offered by state schools in West Africa appears less apparent to rural parents. Increasing the prosperity of the rural sector also requires the development of the urban sector which provides its main market. The symbiosis between the two is currently more evident in Asia than in Africa. Some effort is required from central and local governments and community-based organisations to increase both the productivity and market pull of a network of small towns. This may do more for farming than direct intervention, because all the evidence shows that farmers are very capable of responding to profitable new opportunities and markets. Productive towns require such infrastructure as electricity, water and telecommunications, and so do villages that are in a position to grow into towns. All need to be linked by a good transport system. This may seem to be straying far from the needs of the livestock sector. However, livestock are an integral part of the national economy. Research into fattening, breeding for fattening, processing, and disease prevention are all needed, to help farmers meet the challenges of rapid change in their markets and in the rural/urban balance. Some research can be done as small-scale experiments assisted by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and CBOs. Some will be done by farmers themselves, exchanging information with traders and neighbours. Others need to be carried out by scientific institutions. However, no experiment, whether carried out by a farmer, an NGO or an international research organisation, will have lasting results unless it generates good profits under the labour, financial and climatic constraints under which people are operating. Farmers have to be good businessmen and if they are not, they are apt to end up as landless labourers. [adapted from author]This paper was prepared for an ILRI conference in 2001 on sustainable crop–livestock production in West Africa
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Vision, mission and strategy
ILRI's strategy 2013-2022 was approved in December 2012. It emerged from a wide processof consultation and engagement.
ILRI envisions... a world where all people have access to enough food and livelihood options to fulfil their potential.
ILRI’s mission is... to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research for efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock—ensuring better lives through livestock.
ILRI’s three strategic objectives are:
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