Livestock Challenges

Last couple of years the Livestock Policy Initiative of IGAD (IGAD-LPI) in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia (MoFED), has revisited estimates of livestock’s contribution to the Ethiopian economy, through three studies, which conclude that the contribution of livestock in the Ethiopian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and to the wider economy is much higher than previous estimates.

The whole post and study reports are available from the IGAD-LPI blog


The book provides a stocktaking of where we are with livestock system classification. It presents the most up to date maps of global livestock production systems and provides revised estimates of the number of poor livestock keepers, globally, within the different production systems. It proposes alternative approaches to mapping production systems that are explicitly linked to livelihoods, and reviews the ways in which intensive production can be accounted for. Several examples are presented of how systems’ information can be of value. It also underscores the areas that need further development. The FAO and ILRI continue to work jointly on several of these.

Download the pdf of this FAO/ILRI book

SLP was part of the 5th WCCA & 3rd FSD held in Brisbane, Australia last week. Diego Valbuena (SLP Postdoc Scientist) gave an overview on the crop residue use in different mixed crop-livestock systems across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This presentation reflects the current analysis and synthesis of the village-level data of the SLP Crop Residue project. The main points of this presentation were that:

  • Crop residues in mixed systems are fundamental resources for short-term objectives, especially for livestock feed.
  • Residues as mulch is not a common practice, mainly occurring in regions with relatively very high crop production or with high crop production and relatively low feed demand. In regions with high pressure on residues, an increase of agricultural production is needed.
  • There are no silver-bullets: each region has its own potential, challenges & options for more sustainable agriculture.

Finally, the presentation shows the next steps of the SLP Crop Residue project.

The presentation is available from the Slideshare website

Kindu Mekonnen, SLP associate researcher of the East Africa team writes:

“Biomass is a crucial resource for smallholder farmers. Crop residues form an important source of biomass but there are competing demands for its use. The key trade-off is between use of crop residue for feeding of livestock and retaining residues on the field to sustain soil fertility. This issue has formed the basis of a global research project on trade-offs in residue use in smallholder systems. In East Africa, the research has focused on two sites in Ethiopia and one in Kenya.

As part of this research a village survey was conducted each site with the objective understanding diversified and competing uses of crop residues; analyze past trends of uses of crop residues; and identify production and utilization constraints of crop residues. A total of 8 villages per site were surveyed in two sites in Ethiopia (Kobo and Nekemte) and one site in western Kenya (Kakamega).

The most important findings from the research so far are (1) The use of crop residues for animal feed (stall feeding and direct grazing) surpassed the other competing uses in all the sites; (2) The practice of mulching crop fields using crop residues has declined in the last 10 years in the three sites because of competing use of the resources for various services and products; (3) Soil/land related problems, weed, insect and pests, high input/low output prices, poor distribution of rainfall/drought and lack of information/services are some of the constraints associated with low crop productivity and production of crop residues; and (4) Lack of modern crop residue processing technologies limited the efficient utilization of crop residues in the three sites.

The pressure on residue use and the decline in its use as a mulch raise serious concerns for system sustainability. Our next task will be to look at policy, institutional and technical options for reducing pressure on biomass in smallholder systems for the long term benefit of poor smallholders.

We will present this work at the International Congress: Water 2011– Integrated water resources management in tropical and subtropical dry-lands. The congress will be held from 19 to 26 September 2011 in Mekele, Ethiopia. The title of our presentation is “Competing uses, dynamics, and production and utilization constraints of crop residues in East Africa: Implications for conservation agriculture”.

This presentation is available from Slideshare

These proceedings are an important source of information for animal and crop scientists working on the challenges of feeding the developing world’s rapidly rising livestock population and improving the productivity of its agriculture. It is hoped that, by collaborating more closely, these scientists will be able to develop the innovative approaches and new technologies needed in the next century

Pdf book available from ICRISAT website

SLP has been strengthening links with different academic institutions. The result of these links has been a small set of internships, BSc or MSc thesis with various universities. Research topics are diverse trying to investigate the complexity of mixed crop-livestock farming systems from different but complementary disciplines, tools and scales. Topics include: biomass production and management; chronosequences, land-use/cover and soils evolution; and remote sensing,  NDVI analyses and R scripting.

Crop residue management and farm productivity in smallholder crop-livestock system of dry land North Wollo, Ethiopia (Hailu Terefe, Wageningen University, The Netherlands).

The objective of this study is to explore and analyze crop residue and manure management practices and their influence on farm productivity. Data collection and analyses include farmer resource allocation and socio-economic by semi-structured questionnaire; biomass production, N content and digestibility of crop residues and soil nutrients; and crop-growth simulations to explore the influence of crop residue management use on farm production. The results show that nutrient contents and physical structures of arable plots are declining. Modelling results suggest that to reverse this situation, farmers should retain about 70% of crop residues in the field; but retention should ensure incorporation into the soil. To achieve this strong interventions are needed.

Pdf document available from ILRI website

Development of an open source tool to analyze Vegetation Index from Remote Sensing data (Romain Frelat, INSA, France).

During this internship, I have developed a free package in R to conduct automated analysis of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from different optical satellite instruments (AVHRR and Spot Vegetation). Land Surface Phenology metrics can be easily computed from points or polygons generated either in GIS software (shp) or Google Earth (kml). Metrics and vegetation anomaly maps are calculated for every cropping season to support the study vegetation dynamics in agricultural landscapes.

Pdf document available from ILRI website

R package available from CRAN

Evolution de l’occupation des terres en lien avec les caractéristiques physico-chimiques du sol dans un village pres de Nekemte, Ethiopie (Matthieu Crespin, UCL, Belgium).

C’est dans ce but que ce travail, réalisé à l’échelle du village, devrait permettre de quantifier et de comparer la qualité des sols pour des occupations et des situations topographiques différentes : cultures, pâturages, forêts d’une part et vallées, pentes et sommets d’autre part. Il devrait également permettre de tracer l’évolution de la fertilité pour des sols de forêt jusqu’à des sols convertis à la culture et ce pour trois groupes d’âges différents.