It can be seen that the present livestock production, based on global grazing
husbandry systems, ecological destruction through bush fires, and overgrazing
due to high stocking density in areas where feed or water resources cannot
support the number of animals, does not augur well for present and future
productivity and sustainability.
What then are the solutions to ensure sustenance of the ecosystem and its
herbage and tree shrubs cover and of the grazing livestock species for the
future economic development of Sub-Saharan Africa?
Livestock production is still very much based on traditional systems in
Sub-Saharan Africa, even in such agriculturally advanced countries as Nigeria,
Zimbabwe, or Egypt. One would have thought that, with a large number of
livestock research institutions and faculties of agriculture and veterinary
medicine in the region, a newer and more modern approach to livestock enterprise
would have provided the answer for future productivity and the sustainability of
both animals and the environment. It is true that old habits die hard and,
therefore, the traditional herding system will continue in many African
It will not be possible drastically to change the cultural and socioeconomic
status of the livestock producers for at least another decade. It has, however,
been shown that their production systems are more efficient in terms of
livestock product yield per animal per unit area, probably because of their
husbandry knowledge and complete devotion to their vocation. Large-scale farms
with modern techniques of production are not the only way to sustain
productivity. They are too capital and labour intensive to guarantee a profit
compared with the low-input systems of traditional owners. A lot of large-scale
livestock and arable farmers have failed in many countries, Nigeria being a good
example. Indeed, it has been shown that in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, and Mali
the contribution of communal livestock production to the national animal protein
yield is greater than that from commercial ranching enterprises in terms of kg
of protein production per hectare per year (Barrett 1992). For these and other
reasons, our attention must be primarily focused on how to improve the
traditional systems, to introduce simple and adaptable innovations and
techniques to enhance productivity and yet protect the environment from being
abused to the extent of irreversible degradation.
Suggested solutions for sustaining the productivity of both the livestock and
plant species for future development are therefore centred on the following
1. improved animal genetic resources to meet future needs;
3. improved management;
4. government policies and
5. active participation by the private sector.
Improved animal genetic make-up
Modern ideas about animal production are mostly based on: the use of
big-engineering to improve on the genetics of various animal species for higher
output, embryo transfer, and immuno-genetics; artificial insemination and
cross-breeding for quick genetic gain in heterosis; improvement of reproductive
efficiency through the use of hormones and drugs to improve fertility rates.
Developments in breeding animals with increased resistance to diseases and pests
as well as in animal health and disease control through vaccine production are
major contributions. Recombinant DNA technology has of recent years offered
remarkable opportunities for restructuring animal phenotypes and ability to
withstand viral and bacterial diseases. Cross-breds, if so adopted, would yield
more meat (through faster growth) and higher milk output in a relatively short
time. The goal of all these techniques is to produce a biologically efficient
animal species for each ecosystem. However useful these techniques are, they are
too advanced to be used by the present-day resource-poor subsistence farmers in
Sub-Saharan Africa, but could be of advantage in future to conserve the
ecosystem and yet increase livestock production to meet the needs of the year
2000. For the next decade, emphasis should be on animal health through effective
control of "economic diseases" such as gastroenteritis due to helminth
parasites, streptothricosis, trypanosomiasis, and other chronic diseases that
give rise to wastage owing to abortion, infertility, stillbirths, and
unthriftiness, and even deaths.
Improved nutrition is the key factor. One way of achieving it is through
increased crop yields, because grains and tubers are used to supplement natural
grasses. Other methods are: effective management and utilization of natural
pastures; feed resources conservation; and use of arable crop wastes.
At present, the global grazing orbit is declining owing to physical
development (roads, new HQs, etc.) and the expansion of cultivated land as a
result of large agricultural schemes. Therefore, better and more efficient
management of range land is essential, e.g. controlled grazing, controlled
stocking density, avoidance of bush fires, range reseeding, and water supply.
In order to conserve feed resources, silage and hay could be made from
high-quality grass and legumes, and agricultural crop residues such as groundnut
and cowpea tops could be conserved when the nutritive value of the plants used
is high. Unfortunately, the inputs for such technology (tractors, bailers, etc.)
are hard to come by for many peasant livestock farmers.
Within the past two decades, the mechanization of agriculture for crop
production has contributed immensely to increases in cereal crop production and
therefore in crop residues. However, it must be noted that mechanized farming
has also physically contributed to soil degradation, resulting in deterioration
of the soil structure and compaction of the subsoil (Anande-Kur 1992). These
effects in themselves render the soils prone to erosion. The integration of
livestock and crop production systems on a given land area can improve soil
fertility through the output of organic manure by the animals and the more
effective utilization of crop residues.
The utilization of crop residues for increased animal protein production has
received greater research attention within the past decade because of the higher
quantities of crop residue, especially from sorghum, maize, and millet, and
partly because of the astronomical increase in the prices of agricultural
by-products such as wheat and maize offal residue used for livestock feed,
groundnut and cotton seed cake, and brewers dried grain. The importance of crop
residue in the dry season feeding of ruminants in the Northern Guinea Savannah
has long been recognized. Van Raay and de Leeuw (1971) estimated that crop
residue grazing accounts for 85 per cent of total grazing time from the harvest
period in December, declining to 40 per cent in February in the Sudan Sahel zone
of Nigeria. Alhassan (1985) estimated that for every kg of grain harvested,
there are 4 kg dry matter of straw from sorghum, 8 kg from millet, and 4 kg from
maize straw. From table 12.4 it can be seen that approximately 16.4 million
metric tonnes of sorghum straw and 23.2 million metric tonnes of millet straw
were available in Nigeria in 1980/81 from 6.1 million hectares of sorghum and
4.5 million hectares of millet, respectively. This may apply to other countries
in Sub-Saharan Africa where these crops are grown on a large scale. By treating
this straw with non-protein nitrogen sources or chemicals (e.g. urea, ammonia,
and sodium hydroxide) the lignin content will be degraded and the feed value and
palatability enhanced. If animal feed is supplied in this way, further
destruction of the ecosystem by way of bush fires for early grass growth and
overgrazing when feed resource is scanty can be prevented or minimized. Here
again, education of the stock rearers about the need to settle and adopt such
simple technologies is essential. Other agricultural by-products with great
potential for animal feed include sugarcane tops, molasses, bagasse, discarded
cocoa beans, pineapple tops, and other rejects.
Table 12.4 Estimated areu sown to sorghum and millet and their grain and
straw producffon for venous cropping years
| ||Area ||Grain production ||Estimated
straw ||Area ||Grain production ||Estimated
| ||(ha m.) ||(m.t) ||(m.t) ||(ha m) ||(m.t.) ||(m.t.)
|1964/65 ||5.6 ||4.2 ||16.8 ||4.4 ||2.7 ||21.6 |
|1969/70 ||5.8 ||4.3 ||17.2 ||4.2 ||3.2 ||25.6 |
|1974/75 ||4.8 ||3.9 ||15.6 ||4.0 ||2.6 ||20.8 |
|1980/81 ||6.1 ||4.1 ||16.4 ||4.5 ||2.9 ||23.2 |
Source: Nuru (1986).
It can be seen that, for optimum resource usage, there is an urgent need for
an integrated approach to livestock development for increased product
availability at reasonable or affordable prices and enhanced natural resource
management and conservation.
Similarly, the use of microbes has greatly enhanced our knowledge about the
production and utilization of better nutrients to feed various species of
animals for a higher output of meat, milk, and milk products. In addition,
modern trends in production make use of anabolic steroids - a combination of
progesterones, oestrogen, testosterone, and zeasolone (plant origin) - as feed
additives to promote faster growth and therefore higher output; growth hormones
to increase milk production in lactating cows; and ionospheres (antibiotics) and
coccidiostats in poultry. These drugs are mentioned only in passing here,
because the level of education, socio-economic status, and acceptance of these
new techniques by the majority of livestock producers cannot at present be
guaranteed. Only a few enlightened farmers in southern Africa are able to use
these technologies. More appropriate and simple technological innovations
therefore need greater emphasis.
Improved management techniques
Change from a free-range production system to an acceptable marketoriented
and sedentary system could be considered. Most of the destruction of ecosystems
is due to bush burning, overgrazing, and lack of adequate water points. A more
sedentary husbandry system with higher input and higher output could be
desirable in some agroecological areas. This would not be easy in the arid zone,
but it would be possible in the semi-arid and sub-humid zones. In the arid
zones, a reduction of livestock numbers in keeping with the carrying capacity of
the land is desirable. Agro-pastoralism is a solution in some areas where there
is adequate rainfall. This is the emerging trend in the sub-humid zone of
Nigeria, where more and more pastoralists are settling (ILCA 1979; Otchere et
al. 1985). In this way, the concept of integrated farming systems can develop to
great advantage. In the Congo, and other densely forested countries, the use of
typanotolerant breeds of animals is now more emphasized. These animal species
are not only adapted to the environment but also more productive in such areas.
It must be noted, however, that sedentarization and its acknowledged benefits
can be achieved only through a dynamic and workable land tenure system that is
the responsibility of the government.
According to Harrison (1987), forestry has been considered separately from
agriculture and livestock. Foresters view farmers and herders as vandals and
destroyers of forests, while peasants see foresters as policemen who exclude
them from land that was traditionally theirs to control and use. Farmers view
tree planting as an alien activity carried out by unpopular professionals.
Forestry nevertheless has a crucial role in farming and pastoralism in Africa.
There is a need to integrate forestry fully into crop and livestock production
in order to sustain agriculture in a stable ecosystem in the future. The Grazing
Reserve Law in Nigeria is worthy of emulation by other countries. Suitable trees
will provide fodder for animals at the end of the dry season and the beginning
of the rains when feed is scarce. The most crucial role of appropriate forest
trees would be the recycling of soil nutrients in an environment in which heavy
rains leach nutrients below the reach of crop roots and the maintenance of soil
organic matter in an environment in which high temperatures break down organic
matter very quickly. A promising approach to agro-forestry to sustain crop and
livestock production is alley farming. Suitable multi-purpose trees that provide
abundant fodder or mulch from their leaves, fuelwood and stakes from their
stems, as well as the ability to fix nitrogen are greatly recommended. At the
moment, trees such as Leucaena leucocephala, Gliricidia septum, and Sesbania
seban, among others, have been found suitable. There is, however, the need to
increase the number of species that meet the requirements.
With the current increase in crop production through massive landclearing in
many countries in Sub-Saharan African, coupled with the growth of population and
hence the physical development of more and larger towns and cities
(urbanization), the land-use pattern is constantly changing and less land is
available for crop and livestock production.
Intensive production systems and the use of crop residues and agricultural
by-products are thus further emphasized. Because of the limiting factors on
global grazing, which are even more likely to be a problem in the year 2000 if
livestock and human population growth are not restrained, the need arises for
sedentarization and pasture establishment if there is to be enough animal
protein and at the same time the natural ecosystem is to be conserved.
Technically, scientists have developed suitable pasture plants to meet the
variations of the agro-ecological zones in Sub-Saharan Africa. The grasses and
legumes required include Digitaria spp., Buffel grass, Guinea and Rhodes
grasses, together with Stylosanthes, Centrosema, and other varieties of legumes.
It will require social and cultural changes amongst the nomadic and livestock
owners if they are to adopt the technologies that have been developed and to
treat livestock ventures as viable commercial enterprises not just a way of
life. In this respect, several African governments have a lot to do as regards
land tenure systems and the provision of assistance in the acquisition of
infrastructure and credit facilities for a profitable future livestock industry.
As part of the new technology in animal husbandry, improved pastures produce
more dry matter of high nutritive value and lead to greater animal productivity
than do native pastures. To date, the traditional African livestock farmer has
yet to adopt these new techniques. Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, grazing land
is communal; only a few private ownerships exist. Improvement of the range by
individual stockowners by oversowing with legumes and by fertilization is not
advantageous because grazing areas are for communal usage.
There must be more emphasis on the training of range and pasture specialists
in order to achieve success in range improvement and conservation and in pasture
establishment and effective utilization, and also to prevent further range
degradation and to ensure increased livestock productivity.
Government policies and commitments
Government policies and programmes to assist herdspeople and the millions of
people engaged in livestock enterprise need to take cognizance of the following:
(a) The land tenure system must be revised in some countries to make it
easier for those who really need land to obtain it. The need to instill pride of
ownership and willingness to invest in development is crucial because communal
grazing is free and therefore unattractive for commercial livestock enterprise.
(b) Nomadic education as presently carried out in Nigeria is encouraging and
worth emulating by other countries.
(c) The supply of sufficient manpower/experts, e.g. animal scientists, range
managers, and technical staff, is essential. Most African universities are
non-starters in the production of such specialists.
(d) Regulatory control of herd size and distribution to achieve ecological
balance and avoid overgrazing needs policy attention. The encouragement of herd
owners to move to the sub-humid zone in Nigeria, which is rich in feed
resources, is a very slowly developing programme.
(e) Greater incentives to producers - marketing, credit facilities, technical
supervision, subsidized inputs, etc. - are essential.
Active participation by the private sector
Private sector participation in the primary production of livestock is highly
desirable if the necessary output of livestock products is to be achieved in the
future. Through this sector, environmental degradation can be minimized and
increased productivity of livestock products ensured. So far, only in Zimbabwe,
Botswana, Kenya, and South Africa are people engaged in modern commercial
livestock production. The need to invest in the industry as a high-potential
economic enterprise cannot be overemphasized if the future is to be