Building capacity for better conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources: Burkina Faso workshop

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Burkina Faso

By Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn

Jeremy Ouedraogo, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries in Burkina Faso, attended a Regional Capacity Development Workshop in Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in the capital of Ouagadougou, 4 to 6 November, 2013.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only a handful of qualified livestock breeders and geneticists. Regional collaboration among scientists and institutions in this area provides rare opportunities to exchange information, pull together resources, network with other professionals, and partner strategic organizations.

Addressing more than 75 representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries before meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon on 6 November, Minister Ouedraogo highlighted the need for regional cooperation among individuals and institutions given the region’s scarcity of qualified livestock breeders. He pointed out the urgent need for more appropriate breeding strategies and schemes that will ease access by poor farmers herding livestock in harsh environments to superior livestock germplasm. He thanked ILRI and its partners for supporting Africa’s Global Action Plan on Animal Genetic Resources, which was endorsed by African governments in 2007.

The minister referred to collaboration between ILRI and partners that has effectively built investments, programs and capacity in this area. Best practices must be captured for replication and scaling up, he said. While research should benefit local communities, he said, the scale of the impacts of research depend largely on whether national policies, national budget allocations and national development plans reflect the importance of better use of native livestock resources and allocate funds for developing national capacity in this area.

The minister encouraged the workshop participants to engage actively with those developing a second State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources report, due to be published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014.

APM 2013: How can we unlock the genetic potentials of local livestock breeds?

The workshop was organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). In partnership with FAO, the African Union–Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism for Africa (TEAM-Africa), ILRI and SLU are holding regional back-to-back workshops this November in Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Botswana. The purpose is to strengthen regional platforms boosting knowledge exchange, collaboration and capacity in improved conservation and use of Africa’s animal genetic resources.

CGIAR and ILRI have worked together with SLU for a decade to develop capacity in animal genetic resources work. Groups of selected ‘champions’ of this work have been given training in their home institutions by the ILRI/SLU project to advance animal genetic resources teaching in higher education and research work within and outside the university.

Abdou Fall

Abdou Fall, ILRI representative for Burkina Faso and West Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan)

In an opening address to the workshop, Abdou Fall, ILRI’s country and West Africa’s regional representative, commended the strong representation from 22 countries in the region: from Senegal to Congo and from Benin to Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

This geographic breadth’, Fall said, ‘should help provoke dynamic discussions on better and more sustainable use of Africa’s livestock breeds and genes and the capacity development programs that underpin this.

Training has long been a central element in the capacity development approaches ILRI and SLU have taken to strengthen Africa’s use of animal genetic resources; indeed, for many partners and donor organizations, Fall said, this training has been a hallmark of the project’s achievements over the past decade. But Fall highlighted that capacity development work in CGIAR/ILRI goes beyond training and transferring knowledge and skills to individuals, and now embraces work effecting change in organizations, institutions, cultures and sectors.

Fall said capacity development activities can serve sustainable use and appropriate management of the continent’s diminishing livestock genetic resources only if they are embedded within broader policies, strategies and frameworks. ILRI takes a systems approach to capacity development, he said, which addresses up front institutional and organizational shortcomings and regulatory and cultural barriers to sustainable development.

Progress in this kind of capacity development work is measured at the following three levels:
Environment: The policies, rules, legislation, regulations, power relations and social norms that help bring about an enabling or disabling environment for sustainable development;
Organization: The internal policies, arrangements, procedures and frameworks that enable or disable an organization to deliver on its mandate and individuals to work together to achieve common goals
Individual: The skills, experience, knowledge and motivation of people.

Taking such a systems perspective, Fall explained, requires finding the right balance between, on the one hand, responding to expressed demand for agricultural research-based knowledge and interventions, and, on the other, jumping on emerging opportunities and innovations with potential for accelerating agricultural development.

This workshop should help AU-IBAR increase its animal genetics work through a 5-year project funded by the European Union and through strengthened collaboration with FAO in this area. Outcomes of the 4-day Burkina Faso workshop — including lessons learned from the past, a prioritized list of new topics/problems for new MSc and PhD students to take on, a list of key messages, and action plans for animal genetic resources work in Western Africa — will help lay the foundations of the West African Platform on Animal Genetic Resources.

More information on ILRI’s contribution to capacity development for animal genetic resource work can be found here: and here

About ILRI
ILRI is one of 15 CGIAR research centres and 16 multi-centre research programs located around the world and dedicated to reducing poverty and improving food security, health and nutrition, and natural resource management. Like other CGIAR centres, ILRI leads, co-leads or supports cutting-edge research on sustainable agriculture and designs like the use of services like to label products being sold, conducts and monitors in-country research-for-development programs and projects with the aim of producing international public goods at scales that make significant difference in the lives of the world’s poorest populations. ILRI does this work in collaboration with many public and private partners, which combine upstream ‘solution-driven’ research with downstream adaptive science, often in high-potential livestock value chains engaging small- and medium-sized agri-businesses and suppliers. In this work, ILRI and its partners are explicitly supporting work to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and their successor (now being formulated), the Sustainable Development Goals.

ILRI envisions a world where all people have access to enough food and livelihood options to fulfill 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’.

Diana Brandes-van Dorresteijn is a staff member in ILRI’s Capacity Development Unit.


ILRI deputy director-general of research at World Bank summit makes (serious, sane, realistic) case for West African pastoralism

Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Two major recent World Bank agricultural summits in Mauritania and Senegal recently urged African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoodheals.

‘. . . African agriculture employs a massive 65–70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30–40 percent of GDP. It represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region’, said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, who opened the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on 29 Oct 2013.

The statement that follow are by John McIntire, deputy director-general—integrated sciences, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who gave his thoughts at one of these summits on ‘The future of West African pastoralism’.

From ILRI deputy director general John McIntire

• West African pastoralism is biologically and economically sustainable at current levels of animal productivity and personal incomes

• By ‘sustainable’, I mean roughly constant annual average stocking rates (in tropical livestock units [TLU]) and roughly constant rates of personal income growth from animal production

• Beyond current levels of real per capita incomes, the biological facts of pastoralism – heat, aridity, low soil fertility, sharp seasonality – make it difficult to raise productivity and incomes at current shares of livestock in total incomes

• Income can be expected to grow more rapidly among herding peoples who have moved out of pastoralism (into industry, services, and government) and this income will contribute indirectly to the viability of pastoralism per se by providing finance for growth and insurance against calamity

Why pastoralism is sustainable only at roughly constant levels
Adaptation to marginal areas
• In West Africa, pastoralism thrives in marginal areas just as it does in Australia, in the western United States, in Mongolia, in parts of Latin America and even in the Arctic Circle, because it is adapted to such areas and other sectors (arable farming) are not

• The adaptation of pastoralism to marginal areas is, unfortunately, what traps it in a low-productivity equilibrium and subjects it to catastrophic risks that are difficult to insure against

Pasture productivity
• Pasture productivity is low in pastoral areas because of heat, aridity, low soil fertility, and unusually sharp seasonality

• An important system constraint to pastoral growth is that the chief limiting resource – wet season pastures – cannot be expanded easily without inducing conflicts with arable farming

• Sown forages do not complement pastures in pastoralism, as they often do in mixed farming systems, because heat, low soil fertility and aridity make it costly to raise forage yields in pastoral areas without irrigation

• Irrigation is usually too expensive for sown forages in pastoral areas unless used for commercial dairying, which is not common in remote areas because markets are thin

• Sown forages are not a complement to wet season pastures because that is when pastures are cheapest anyway

• Associated with low-growth sustainability are high risks caused by rainfall variability, animal disease, and markets

• Periodic droughts disturb long-term growth of herds, destroying animal capital and forcing herders to restock

• However, the risks of pastoralism now appear to be less of a threat to pastoral livelihoods today than in even the recent past because of higher non-pastoral incomes (which provide diversification), better communications and cheaper transport

• Animal health is better than in the past (less trypanosomiasis because of more intensive land use; elimination of rinderpest, more veterinary services) but gains from better animal health are (partly) self-limiting because they are partly consumed by forage costs; that is, healthy animals consume more feed, causing the price of feed to rise

• The long-term shift from cattle to small ruminants will continue and this will tend to reduce income risks aggregated over time by shortening the periods in which flocks recover compared to the recovery periods of cattle

Competition in market for animal proteins
• West African price trends will be unfavourable to red meat because of faster technical changes in non-ruminant meats, so the value of ruminant sales cannot be expected to grow in real terms relative to other animal-source proteins; the constant pressure of imports harms the economic viability of pastoralism by limiting its traditional markets

A likely future
• From this reasoning – constraints to the asset base of pasture and animal capital, persistent risks and the costs of managing them, competition from other sources of protein – the quantity, quality and productivity of pastoral assets can only grow slowly in real per capita terms

• As long as population growth is vigorous, real per capita income growth is limited by growth of the capital stock in a way that is not typical of the industrial and service sectors

What can be done?
Build pastoral assets
• Defend pasture corridors against crops and towns; corridors maintain mobility and reduce risk of conflict between farmers and herders

• Build roads – roads reduce marketing costs, promote social capital, and insure against distress sales

• Make irrigation more compatible with pastoralism – one idea is to subsidize modest areas dedicated to forage reserves; another is to see that irrigation projects do not deprive pastoralists of access to dry-season water; ensure that irrigation does not aggravate vector-borne diseases of people or animals (such as Rift Valley fever)

Create social capital for pastoral peoples
• Provide free social services – education, medicine including Delta 8 hemp flower products, social protection; they give additional incomes to pastoralists and reduce their income risks and improve life prospects for pastoral peoples outside herding …

• Give pastoralists legal entitlements to rent income (minerals, wildlife, tourism) in their regions; this is controversial and I do not wish to minimize the political problems but we know that the mechanisms for income transfers today are cheaper than ever before and those mechanisms should not be adduced as a pretext not to distribute resources regularly and transparently

• Give legal pasture land entitlements to pastoral associations but do not make them individually tradable because of the risk of land grabs

• Sell commercial index-based insurance products and link the use of those products to participatory disease surveillance via the cellular phone networks market information …

• Invest in public research – especially in veterinary epidemiology, disease surveillance, in diseases related to animal confinement and production intensification

Promote complementary private investments
• Some complementary private investments might be lightly subsidized on the grounds that subsidies contribute to maintenance of a unique livelihood and culture

• Target productive investments – in industrial feedlots, animal waste management, in peri-urban dairying – to the finishing stage of animals’ lives; such investments are crucial for expanding pastoral markets because they offer growth possibilities that other investments at earlier stages do not offer

• Ease resource flows between pastoral and non-pastoral sectors – Remittances of money and knowledge from pastoral peoples working in cities or on arable farms, or return of those people as vets, well diggers, road builders, irrigated farmers, teachers and health workers, are beneficial to total pastoral income, not by direct effects on pastoral incomes but by adapting to risks and by improving resilience

More information from John McIntire: j [dot] mcintire [at] cgiar [dot] org

Read the whole World Bank press release: West Africa: The Sahel—New push to transform agriculture with more support for pastoralism and irrigation, 27 Oct 2013.

Punctuated equilibrium: Pastoralist timelines of past and future

On the last day (23 March 2011) of a ‘Future of Pastoralism in Africa’ Conference, organized by the Future Agricultures Consortium and the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University and held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), pastoralist experts took the conference participants through timelines that they had drawn up for selected pastoralist areas.

These hand-drawn timelines—with their famous place names and (in)famous droughts, wars and other major events variously, simply and affectingly sketched lightly on flipchart papers pasted to the walls of the conference hall—must have evoked memories, some of them heart-breaking, all of them heartfelt, in all but the youngest academic in the room. This was Africa’s pastoralist past—laid out in its crudest essentials on linear temporal bars punctuated by shorthand notes denoting big, often cataclysmic, events. This was an exercise meant to make room for rethinking the future of African pastoralism.

Examples of the kinds of statements made about the timelines (their baldness often matching the events they described) by the pastoralist ‘gurus’ who stood, one by one, to highlight a handful of major events depicted in each, follow.

Pastoralist Timelines

Niger Delta
‘A Tuareg rebellion arising in colonial times continues to this day. . . . Conflicts are a worse threat than climate change.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Afar/Middle Awash
‘Critical dry-season grazing lands have been completely taken up by state farms. . . . More than 90,000 hectares of grazing land in Afar has been converted to sugar cane. . . . A 1973/4 drought is called the “gun drought” because the massive stock deaths led to massive sales of guns and other household assets to buy food. . . . Since a 1970s drought, people have begun keeping more goats than camels and cattle, and sugar cane is now taking over.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Southern Somalia/Northeastern Kenya
‘The 1891 rinderpest calamity started the rural-to-urban migration. . . . Shifta conflicts in the 1960s began to isolate and stigmatize the area. . . . An outbreak of Rift Valley fever in the 1990s crushed the livestock trade. . . . The economic vibrancy in this stateless region outstrips its politics. . . . There is an on-going and robust cross-border boom in livestock and other trade. . . . Garissa is the fastest-growing town in Kenya; livestock remain critically important there. . . . The whole area is a kind of duty-free zone for electronics and other goods. . . . Piracy is a kind of livelihood diversification into the sea.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Northern Kenya
‘Boundaries were first fixed and herding ranges squeezed in the colonial era. . . . In the post-colonial era, 1960–70, shifta started as legitimate rebels before becoming, and being seen as, bandits. . . . Starting in the 1990s, non-governmental organizations set up permanent offices, around which towns began to grow up. . . . A paved road built from Isiolo to Moyale will drive some pastoralists further away. . . . Land insecurity remains the biggest problem. . . . Roads and education bring with them new opportunities. . . . There is already much anticipation (and business deals being made) about the pipeline and railroad being planned from Lamu through Isiolo to Sudan. . . . Those who have resources have taken over the cattle economy of the area.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

‘In some areas and periods, there are no droughts because there are no rains at all. . . . Long-term marginalization and militarization have both been rapidly accelerating in recent years. . . . The future looks bleak. . . . The only good news is that there is widespread acknowledgement that international peace processes have failed.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Southern Kenya/Maasai
‘Considerable inter-Maasai conflicts occurred from 1850 to 1900. . . . Early on, the Maasai ceded much of the Rift Valley to the colonialists. . . . In the 1940s, the colonialists created sectional divisions that remain problematical today. . . . The formation of group ranches led to catastrophic land losses. . . . Droughts of 1984, 1997/8, 2000, 2005, 2008/9; the last affected all areas, with no one escaping. . . . Major non-drought events include the 1945 establishment of national parks and the 1980s establishment of group ranches. . . . Since the 1990s, Christianity has swept across Maasailand, bringing with it great changes.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Northern Tanzania/Maasailand
‘Kenya and Tanzania took very different paths regarding land and ethnicity. . . . Security of land and resources will be critical over next five years.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

‘From colonial times to today, the Karamajong herders are not allowed to move. . . . A challenging national policy environment in Uganda makes promoting pastoralist livelihoods in Karamoja difficult.’

Southern Ethiopia/Borana
‘The 1972 and 1984 droughts were key events. . . . Education and services have both been improving in the region since 1991.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Timeline keyword commonalities
Conflicts, diseases, droughts, geopolitical influences, land and land-use issues, national policies.

Keywords about the future of pastoralism
International issues, mobile phones, political representation, small towns, terrorism (and its impacts on aid).

Summing Up the Conference
After the timelines were described, some participants were asked to sum up the conference. The following are some of the things they said.

Dorothy Hodgson, Rutgers University, USA
‘Is there really such a thing as “pastoralist systems”? . . . Are we talking about pastoralism as a livelihood or as an identity? . . . Some are saying that pastoral women will drive pastoral futures. . . . We have to stop adding gender as a footnote. . . . It’s time to mainstream gender into pastoralist issues instead of “siloing” gender work’.

Peter Little, Emory University, USA
‘Population matters, politics matter, education matters to the future of pastoralism. . . . Diversification of pastoral livelihoods matter—especially as key resources are rapidly being lost. . . .Ecology matters as pastoral orbits become increasingly restricted. . . . And language matters—we should keep the word “innovation”, for example, about innovations.’

Orto Tumal, Pastoralist Shade Initiative, Kenya
‘Our future challenges are great. . . . We will, and must, march on.’

Paul Goldsmith, Develop Management Policy Forum, Kenya
‘Pastoralism has produced some very seductive literature.’

Luka Deng, Government of Sudan
‘There is a huge amount of information on pastoralists, but the real question is about what to do with it.’

Two of the conference organizers then closed the proceedings by making some acknowledgements, of which the following were included.

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Andy Catley, Tufts University
‘In the early 1980s, pastoral groups were weak and arguments for pastoral rights appeared nostalgic in tone and character. . . . A tremendous intellectual contribution to pastoralism in the years since has helped to transform pastoralist discourse at all levels. . . .  Some of the “masters” of this discourse are here in this room today. . . . Stephen Sandford (private), Jeremy Swift (freelance), Ian Scoones (Future Agricultures Consortium) and Roy Behnke (Odessa Centre) have altered the intellectual foundations of our understanding of pastoralism. . . .

‘The central importance of livestock disease, particularly the great rinderpest epidemic in East Africa at the turn of the 20th century, was mentioned by several of our timeline developers. . . . The global eradication of rinderpest was announced earlier this year. . . . Three of those who contributed significantly to this great achievement (only the human disease smallpox has been similarly eradicated from the face of the earth) are in this room and I take the privilege of acknowledging them now: Solomom Hailemarium, African Union; Darlington Akabwai, Tufts University; and Berhanu Admassu, Tufts University.’

Future of Pastoralism in Africa Conference

Ian Scoones, Future Agricultures Consortium
‘As we have heard this week, there is not one but multiple futures of pastoralism in Africa. . . . We have a new generation of African scholars contributing to African pastoralism. . . . We have an extraordinary body of scholarship now coming from this new generation. . . .’

See previous postings on the ILRI News Blog:

The future of pastoralism in Africa debated in Addis: Irreversible decline or vibrant future?, 21 March 2011.

Climate change impacts on pastoralists in the Horn: Transforming the ‘crisis narrative’, 22 March 2011.

The case for index-based livestock insurance and cash payments for northern Kenya’s pastoralists, 23 March 2011

Or visit the Future Agricultures Consortium website conference page or blog.

The future of pastoralism in Africa debated in Addis: Irreversible decline or vibrant future?

Maasai man takes his goats out for a day's grazing

A Maasai man takes his goats out in the early morning for a day’s grazing in northern Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

An international conference deliberating the future of pastoralists in Africa is taking place this week (21–23 March  2011) at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Big changes are occurring in, and to, Africa’s vast pastoral regions. Livestock herders’ access to resources, options for mobility and opportunities for marketing are all evolving fast. Is there, the organizers of this conference ask, opportunity for a productive, vibrant, market-oriented livelihood system or will pastoralist areas remain a backwater of underdevelopment, marginalization and severe poverty?

The Future Agricultures Consortium, an alliance of agricultural development researchers and practitioners that facilitates policy dialogues and debates on the role of agriculture in broad-based African growth, and the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, which also has a mixed staff of development researchers and practitioners, have jointly organized this conference to share new learning about ongoing change and innovation in Africa’s pastoral areas.

One of the aims of the conference organizers is to shift the crisis narrative that so often dominates news and discussions of pastoralists in Africa. As noted on the Future Agricultures Consortium website: ‘Frequently depicted as in crisis, pastoralists are changing the way they live and work in response to new opportunities and threats revealing the resilience that pastoralists have demonstrated for millennia. Accessing new markets and innovating solutions to safeguard incomes, this often misunderstood and marginalised community is re-positioning itself to make the most of the East African economy. . . .

‘The pastoralist way of life—synonymous with irreversible decline, ‘crises’ and aid rescues—is poorly understood. And whilst the words ‘pastoralism’ and ‘crisis’ have become fused in the minds of many, there are positive signs of vibrant pastoralist livelihoods that debunk the usual reportage of pastoralists depicted as insecure, vulnerable and destitute. . . .

‘Failed by generations of unsuccessful state development plans and aid strategies, pastoralists have been let down because the real problems and issues they face have not been taken into account. A more accurate understanding of the processes of change happening within pastoralist areas, which are significant and complex, has been obscured by the perpetuated myths of pastoralism in crisis.

‘Understanding the complexity and potential for pastoralism is crucial to informing policies for securing the future of this age-old and resilient sector in sub-Saharan Africa.’

Hot topics
The new research and practical experiences being shared at this conference are on the following hot topics in academic and development research.
Regional pastoralist policies (and the politics of pastoralist policy)
Mobility and the sustainability of pastoralist production systems
Impacts of climate change on pastoralism
Commercializing pastoralism through better markets and trade
Delivering basic health, education and veterinary services to pastoralists
New approaches for strengthening pastoralist livelihoods and social protection systems
Alternative livelihoods and exit strategies for pastoralists
Pastoralist views of land grabbing and land tenure
Pastoralist innovations
How conflicts are affecting pastoralist development in the Horn of Africa
The place, and potential, of youth and women in pastoralist societies

Researchers, policymakers, field practitioners and donor representatives at this conference are assessing the present and future challenges to African pastoralism so as to begin to define new research and policy agendas.

For more information, visit the Future Agricultures Consortium website conference page or blog and revisit this ILRI News blog.

Exploring farmer-herder relations and conflict management in Niger

This week, ILRI and partners are presenting research on farmer-herder relations and conflict management at an international conference on 'the future of transhumance pastoralism in west and central Africa'.

farmer-herder relations


The main objective of the conference, taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, from 20-24 November 2006, is to provide a forum for discussing the challenges of transhumance pastoralism and associated issues affecting the economy and society of pastoral communities in the West Africa sub-region. Through the presentation and analyses of different experiences, conference participants will share experiences to identify interventions that could enhance pastoral livelihoods and promote environmental and social harmony among communities.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are presenting their findings on farmer-herder relations and conflict management, based on research conducted in Niger. Their study found that conflict, in some form or another, is common in agro-pastoral communities of Niger and has the potential to affect the livelihoods of farmers and herders alike.

Background to study

The nature of livestock husbandry and farmer-herder relations is changing and the potential for conflict management failure increases unless systems of governance change accordingly. Farmer-herder conflicts are enduring features of social life in the Sudano-Sahelian zone. A survey was carried out in four sites in Niger (Bokki, Katanga, Sabon Gida and Tountoubé) to determine the proximate and long-term causes of conflict over natural-resource use, to evaluate the appropriateness of existing institutional arrangements for managing conflicts and identify innovative options and incentives to reduce the incidence and severity of conflicts.

Causes of farmer-herder conflict

Conflict should be expected in an environment of highly fluctuating resource availabilities on unfenced land. Results from this study showed that in all sites, damage to crops was the first reported cause of conflict between farmers and herders. Crop damage is not limited to growing crops on the field but also unauthorized livestock grazing of crop residues after harvest.

Reported causes of farmer-herder conflict in study sites between 2002 and 2004

The increasing number of conflicts due to unauthorized livestock grazing of crop residues is a reflection of the change in farmer-herder relations from that of mutual trust that characterized manure and entrustment contracts to more inherently conflictual relationships based on wage and tenancy contracts. Other causes of conflict reported were access to watering points, expansion of crop fields to corridors used for animal passage, and theft of animals.

Farmer-herder relations and conflict management

The ability of rural communities to prevent and manage conflict is largely based on the strength of networks of communication between herding and farming interests, respected community leaders, and leaders in neighbouring communities. Overall, local institutional arrangements were found to be functional with a high percentage of conflicts effectively managed at local levels. In all the study sites except Bokki, there was a high level of involvement of internal mediators.
Reported causes of farmer-herder conflict in study sites between 2002 and 2004

In all the villages, at least 75% of reported cases of farmer-herder conflict between 2002 and 2004 were resolved. In Tountoubé all reported cases of conflict were resolved. The results support a basic premise that conflicts that necessarily arise as people pursue diverse livelihood strategies are largely managed effectively at the level of local communities. In all the villages, the elders, marabouts and chiefs are the main channel for mediation. For example, all resolved conflict cases in Sabon Guida and Tountoubé were through village elders and chiefs. The high level of success of internal mediation in both villages could be attributed to the high respect for the authority of village chiefs and council of elders by all social groups. However, in Bokki there is a relatively high involvement of external mediators – local court and police- in resolving conflict in the village.

Understanding changing farmer-herder relations

Over the past 20 years, there have been changes in livestock ownership and management that have worked to increase both the inherent conflicts of interest between farming and herding and the potential for these conflicts of interest to escalate. Conflicts of interest have intensified in many areas due to the greater proximity of livestock and cropping during the growing season.

There have also been a number of changes that have affected how local communities manage farmer-herder conflicts. The continued erosion of the local authority of elders, while welcome on a number of levels, have increased the number of poles of authority which may potentially reduce local communities’ ability to manage conflict effectively. The number and nature of social ties between farmers and herding professionals have changed as livestock wealth has become more concentrated, availability of cropland has declined, and the range of herd movements has shrunk and become more erratic.

The relationships between farmers and herders in the Sudano-Sahelian region of West Africa have always been multi-dimensional and like most social relationships have involved both cooperation and conflict. There has always been a strong seasonality to this relationship, with conflicts associated with crop damage and field encroachment onto key pastoral sites common during the rainy season, while cooperative relationships of milk barter and manure contracting are more important during the dry season.

Understanding farmer-herder relations is key to conflict management and resolution. This will improve understanding of the proximate and underlying causes of conflict, the behavioural patterns that are most conducive to provoking or avoiding conflict and the main mechanisms by which conflict between the groups are resolved or managed. Innovative options and incentives that reduce the incidence and severity of conflicts would enhance livelihoods of both farmers and herders, and promote social harmony within and between communities.

farmer-herder relations

Bird maps developed for Uganda

ILRI and Uganda experts have just produced a series of poultry density maps for Uganda, which will provide information on potentially threatened areas in the event of bird flu reaching the country.

Africa is on red alert for bird flu, with five states – Egypt, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Burkina Faso- now having confirmed cases of the deadly H5N1 strain in poultry.

Uganda, located in eastern Africa, has an estimated population of 25.3 million and an annual population growth rate of 2.7%. Despite Uganda’s progress and concerted poverty reduction efforts, poverty is still widespread, with an estimated 38% of the population living below the national poverty line. The latest figures show the average life expectancy of a Ugandan is 43 years (47 years in 1990), infant mortality is 83 per 1000 live births, and under 5 mortality is 141 per 1000 children. The annual number of births is 1.3 million, but an estimated 184,000 children under 5 die each year.

(Data sources: World Bank; UNICEF.)

Agriculture is the most important sector of Uganda’s economy, contributing over 32% of GDP and employing over 80% of the work force. The poultry maps give a visual representation of poultry density in Uganda, including total poultry density, local chicken, exotic/cross-bred chicken, turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl and geese. The maps reveal that almost 50% of agricultural households keep local chicken, but only a tiny proportion (0.7%) keep exotic/cross-bred chicken. Most local chicken are reared in the eastern and northern regions. For households rearing local chicken, 80% had less than 10 birds.

The maps also show high densities of exotic chicken can be found around major urban centres like Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe, Masaka, Mpigi and Mbarara. In these densely populated areas, demand for chicken has outstripped supply of local chicken. Many are now rearing exotic chicken mainly for economic gain. Of the households that rear exotic chicken 56%  have less than 10 birds, with the vast majority (80%) having less than 100 birds.

Uganda 2002:
Total Poultry Density

Uganda 2002:
Duck Density

Uganda 2002:
Local Chicken Density

Uganda 2002:
Exotic Chicken Density

Uganda 2002:
Geese Density

Uganda 2002:
Turkey Density

Uganda 2002:
Guinea Fowl Density

Uganda 2002:
Livestock Density Per Household

Uganda 2002:
Ownership of Welfare Assets

These maps complement poverty maps published earlier this year.
See Where are the Poor in Uganda?

For more information on bird flu, go to Livestock in the News

West Africa’s regional livestock trade

Regional livestock trade in West Africa is suffering due to lack of policy integration and illegal cross-border “taxes”.

Livestock trade policies differ widely between countries in West Africa. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are livestock exporting countries, and want to strengthen livestock marketing and processing and promote regional trade. Livestock importing countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, promote policies that protect local livestock producers, boost internal production, and ensure food security in livestock products. A recently released report investigating livestock policies in six West African countries has urged that regional policies be streamlined, harmonised and implemented in a coordinated way to avoid bureaucratic bottlenecks. The report also noted that transportation of livestock across borders and illegal “taxes” represent significant additional marketing costs that impact negatively on regional livestock trade.

  • In West Africa, cross-border transportation can cost a staggering 300% more than the equivalent transfer of beef from Europe to West Africa’s coast. Meantime, regional cross-border transfer of cattle costs twice as much as domestic transportation, despite better transportation infrastructures.
  • Intra-regional trade in live animals attracts certain costs which are unlikely to be incurred if meat products are traded. For example, livestock drovers (people who drive herds of animals to market) are paid handling fees during the 2-3 day trip.
  • Some governments in the region are not fully committed to the implementation of agreed trade policy reforms concerning trade liberalisation and facilitation, exchange and payments systems and investment facilitation. This negatively affects costs of livestock trade and regional integration.
  • Illegal road taxation at numerous checkpoints can be as much as 10% of total marketing costs. Here, traders are required to make non-receipted payments to public agents for no obvious reason (see box below)
Illegal “taxes” at checkpoints hurt regional livestock trade

Numerous checkpoints exist along the highways where non-receipted payments are systematically made to police, customs, veterinary and other officials per truckload of cattle.

    Along the main cross-border trading routes, the checkpoints at Ferkessedougou and Bouake, both in Côte d’Ivoire, have the most notorious reputation, harbouring up to three different agents, namely: police, customs and gendarmerie. The checkpoint in Zegua, Mali is also reputed for frequent payments made to officials. Depending on the itinerary, total non-receipted payments can range from 12,000 FCFA on the Bittou to Accra route to 71,000 FCFA from Sikasso to Abidjan, translating respectively to 1.7 and 10.5% of cross-border marketing costs for cattle in the two routes. Illegal “taxes” between Sikasso to Abidjan are nearly twice as high as the government imposed fuel taxes for the same route.

Abolishing illegal cross border “taxes” would result in significant cost reductions and minimisation of delays that lead to deteriorating cattle health and sometimes death.

Recommendations include:

  • Protocols on regional livestock trade and regional integration introduced by the Union Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (UEMOA) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), need to be streamlined, harmonised and implemented.
  • Regional livestock trade should shift its current focus from live animals to meat.
  • Regulations that provide for the free movement of people and goods in the region should be implemented by reducing the number of roadside checkpoints, curbing the excesses of conveyance companies (sociétés de convoyage), and actively fighting illegal road taxation.

Report and Briefs

The full report and a set of four briefs are now available for download.

Read the complete Improvement of Livestock Marketing and Regional Trade in West Africa report:

Brief 1: Marketing livestock in West Africa: Opportunities and constraints: Brief 1  T.O. Williams, I. Okike, I. Baltenweck and C. Delgado.

This brief summarises the discussions and major outputs from a regional workshop held in Niamey, Niger in 1999. The objective was to analyse the economic, institutional and policy constraints to livestock marketing and trade in order to provide a basis for new policy interventions to improve market efficiency and intra-regional livestock trade.

Read the complete brief:

Brief 2: Livestock marketing channels, flows and prices in West Africa: Brief 2. I. Okike, T.O. Williams, B. Spycher, S. Staal and I. Baltenweck

Livestock markets that are strategically located along the border of neighbouring countries to ease cross-border trade were studied to identify livestock marketing channels from farm gates to terminal markets. Economic operators and livestock flows within these channels were also examined along with seasonal variations and other factors affecting livestock prices. The findings indicate that producers and operators can realise significant economic benefits by increasing meat production and livestock trade value through improved credit access and better market information.

Read the complete brief:

Brief 3: Lowering cross-border livestock transportation and handling costs in West Africa: Brief 3. I. Okike, B. Spycher, T.O. Williams and I. Baltenweck

This brief analyses the costs incurred in the transfer of animals through the marketing chain and highlights areas where costs could be reduced for example, intra-regional trade in live animals attracts certain types of costs which are unlikely to be incurred if meat products, rather than live animals, are traded.

Read the complete brief:

Brief 4: Promoting livestock marketing and intraregional trade in West Africa: Brief 4   I. Okike, T.O. Williams and I. Baltenweck

Livestock trade has the potential to contribute even more to foreign exchange earnings if properly promoted. The major economic, institutional and policy barriers to the realisation of the full potentials of livestock trade are identified in this brief.

Read the complete brief:

Numbers of malnourished children in Africa predicted to grow

New study is 'reality check' for forthcoming World Summit +5 The number of malnourished children in Niger and other African countries will grow if neglect of agricultural research and development continues, a policy institute report warns. Innovative agricultural practices are needed. The number of hungry children in Africa will grow by 3.3. million, from 38.6 million to 41.9 million by 2025, according to a new report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). IFPRI and the International Livestock Research Institute belong to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which works around the world to reduce hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. The new IFPRI report cites low investment in agriculture as one of the reasons for its predicted rising numbers of malnourished children. The report argues that investment in agriculture can strengthen food security and reduce child malnutrition significantly by generating innovative agricultural practices in these countries, where more than three-quarters of the population make their living from the land. ILRI concurs with IFPRI on the need for greater investment in research to improve agriculture and agricultural policies in Africa and stresses that a focus on livestock is particularly urgent. The economies of the four dryland countries the report cites as in most danger – Burkina Faso, Niger, Somalia and Sudan – are based on livestock. Research-based innovations, such as new varieties of cowpea that feed people, livestock and soils, are refining the integration of mixed crop-and-livestock production in these countries to produce more food on less land with fewer resources. The IFPRI report, coming in the wake of a severe food crisis in Niger and its neighbouring West African states, provides a reality check for the 2005 Millennium+5 Summit to be held in New York City on 14 September 2005. The report estimates that Africa needs at least $303 billion in new investment to halve hunger on the continent by 2015, one of eight Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. IFPRI News Release, 11 August 2005

Photo essay: Niger: Behind the famine footage


The words being spilled over the hunger crisis in Niger are rising to a torrent. Media attention and consequent growing concern over soaring levels of child malnutrition finally made the crisis register on the world’s conscience. In July, as babies were shown succumbing to malnutrition, respiratory and other infectious diseases (malaria, diarrhoea) that attend the malnourished young, Niger virtually overnight became, in the words of an emergency advisor with Save the Children UK, ‘sexy'. It had been difficult until then (22 July), she said, to get international donors to dip into their pockets for Niger, a country that had not hit the headlines for drought and famine since 1985. ‘Niger is sexy now’, she said. ‘Children are dying.’ We’re now fed daily images of matchstick thin children with swollen bellies and yellow hair; of cattle carcasses littering pasturelands and roadsides, where the beasts have lain down on the sandy soils to die; of men and families and whole villages roaming the countryside with their remaining animal stock in search of work or food; and of hungry families feeding themselves on boiled grass, acacia leaves and rats. These images are signs of the country's nutritional distress.

To those of us in the over-fed developed world, they are dramatic signs. To most of the developing world’s rain-fed dryland farmers, however, such images are commonplace towards the end of the annual dry season. The story behind the famine footage in Niger is that forced fasting and weight loss, dependence on wild foods, migration, transhumance, liquidation of livestock assets, and early death of people as well as animals – particularly among the young and old – remain the cornerstone of traditional seasonal coping strategies of Niger and other drylands of the developing world. That such annual suffering and untimely death is commonplace among the world’s one billion people living in ‘absolute poverty’, defined by American economist Jeffrey Sachs as ‘the poverty that kills’, is a story itself, one that surely deserves the world's attention as much as Niger's current crisis does.

Although Niger is a country that ‘works’ on many levels, including the daily courage and stamina of its 12.9 million people, whose life expectancy is just 46 years, levels of infant mortality are high even in good years, with 3 out of 10 children dying before they reach the age of 5 from poverty, malnutrition and disease. In the 1990s it was estimated that over 32 percent of Niger’s children were stunted (half of them severely), over 15 percent wasted and over 36 percent underweight. Beyond a shortage of food, factors contributing to the country’s rising malnutrition rates include water shortages, poor water quality, an inability to pay for medical services, poor sanitation conditions and inappropriate child-care practices.

The media are calling Niger’s crisis a ‘famine’ or ‘starvation’. MSF (Doctors without Borders) is calling it a ‘severe nutritional crisis’. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) calls it a ‘complex emergency’. FEWS NET, a research-based famine warning service financed with United States assistance, speaks of the ‘locally severe, but non-famine nature of the crisis’. Whatever we call this food crisis, it should not be happening and it is not a temporary emergency. As FEWS NET remarks, ‘It is the predictable and inevitable result of inadequately addressed chronic poverty. Although the willingness of much of the world to address these 'famine' conditions in Niger is appropriate and welcome, without a similar commitment and prolonged attention to addressing the chronic issues that are at the heart of the current localized crises, the same problems will re-occur again soon.’

The Hunger Crisis Little Boy WalkingAfter months of repeated pleas from the United Nations, international aid began in July to pour into this vast arid and semi-arid and landlocked West African nation, ranked by the United Nations to be the second poorest in the world. Niger is now at the biggest impact of last year’s reduced grain, pasture and fodder yields, brought about by the biggest locust invasion of the last 15 years followed by a premature end to the rainy season. Crop and livestock farmers in Maradi, Tillabery, Zinder, and Tahoua – four departments bordering Nigeria in the south – are suffering the most. In villages here, household granaries and fodder stocks are low or empty, cereal prices are skyrocketing (they are now 75-80 percent above the average for the last five years), and livestock prices are plummeting (the cereal purchasing power for livestock-dependent households in agro-pastoral zones is only 25 percent of what it was a year ago).

Populations have migrated out of the most vulnerable zones and are consuming wild food. One child out of five under the age of five is moderately malnourished and at risk of becoming severely so in the near future if not assisted. Moderate malnutrition is estimated between 13.4 and 19.4 percent, severe malnutrition between 2.4 and 2.9 percent in the most severely affected areas, with rates similar to those of the worst conflict zones and emergencies in the world. As many as 150,000 under 5-year-old children are affected by severe malnutrition among the estimated 800,000 malnourished children nationwide.

Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters in July that several thousand children had undoubtedly perished this year for lack of food. An April 2005 joint food security assessment by the Niger Government, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), WFP and FEWS NET estimated that 2.4 million of the 3.6 million people living in agropastoral areas were highly vulnerable to food insecurity. Of those, 1.2 million were judged to require some level of food aid. The latest estimate is that 874,000 persons face extreme food insecurity conditions and need free food. This number could grow in the next six weeks as pastoralists return north with their remaining livestock.

Although some press reports indicate that from 150,000 infants to 3.5 million people are threatened by starvation in Niger, FEWS NET argues that there is no basis to expect that starvation is a likely outcome for these numbers of infants or people. ‘Children will likely die from malnourishment but a substantial proportion is probably dying from conditions related to poor water quality, or other non-food related problems.’ FEWS NET reports that although the current food security crisis in Niger is serious, it affects far fewer people than current crises in Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sudan (Darfur and Northern Bahr El Gazal). The situation in Niger is on par with that found in eastern Chad (in both the refugee camps and among local populations near the camps), and much more severe than those currently found in Mali and Mauritania.

The Hunger Season Woman Carrying ChildHunger is an annual event in Niger, where some 82 percent of the population rely on subsistence farming and cattle rearing and only 15 percent of the land is suitable for arable farming. Beyond a little irrigation along the Niger River, most farmers are at the mercy of the rains. Food shortages lasting several months are nothing new. The annual hunger season starts after the millet is planted, at the beginning of the rains in June, and lasts through October, when it’s harvested. Last year’s double whammy of a locust plague followed by poor rains reduced not only millet harvests but also pastures, which feed the country’s livestock, the lifeblood of Niger’s farmers as well as herders. So the hunger season this year has been longer and more intense than normal, putting many people, along with their livelihoods and livestock, over the edge. Niger’s nutritional crisis is likely to deepen still further in the run up to the next harvest. Rural households traditionally help close the annual hunger gap by selling a few animals to buy enough grain to survive until the next millet harvest, in October. This strategy is not working this year. Too many animals are flooding the market, sending livestock prices down, and rising prices for scarce local grain are beyond the reach of poor farmers surviving on less than US$1 a day. Farm households have exported their young men to work as far away as Libya and Algeria and nomads are competing with farmers for scarce resources as they move their herds around looking for fodder. FEWS NET has published the following crisis indicators about the crisis in Niger:

  • Unprecedented high food prices.
  • Scarcity of local foodstuffs.
  • Scarcity of animal feed.
  • Collapse of livestock prices.
  • Exodus/migration of entire households to neighboring countries in search of new employment.
  • Accelerated use of unsustainable survival strategies, liquidation of livestock, household assets and excessive felling of trees in fragile environments.
  • Malnutrition rates continue to climb.

The Bad News/Good News

  LittleBoy SmilingBoy Crying

The bad news is that in the short-term, malnutrition rates, especially for children, are likely to continue to deteriorate, even if this year’s rains continue to be good. Admissions are rising at therapeutic feeding centres and it is estimated that fewer than one malnourished person in ten makes it to one of the centres. In addition, the rainy season increases the prevalence of malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, which typically increase the risk of severe malnutrition among children. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in July doubled its Niger appeal and warned that it would soon raise it again. Less publicized food crises await to be properly addressed in other countries of the Sahel, the semi-arid strip south of the Sahara desert, such as Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

The good news is that the current rainy season has gotten off to a very good start in Niger. FEWS NET reports that farmers have been able to plant early; according to the Niger Government’s estimates, 92 percent of the area expected to be under cultivation had been planted by June 15 compared to the 65 percent that is normal for this time of year. The favourable rains are improving pastures, although animal conditions will not rebound immediately. FEWS NET reports that cereal prices in other parts of the Sahel are beginning to fall and those in Niger will likely do the same. Prices for livestock should soon improve with good pasture conditions. The maize harvest is underway in Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, and Ivory Coast, and supplies of imported maize from those countries should soon be arriving in Niger. This will bring lower overall cereal prices.

The national body in Niger in charge of coordinating risk reduction, prevention and response activities to mitigate and manage food crises (Dispositif National de Prévention et de Gestion des Crises Alimentaires – DNPGCA and Cellule Crise Alimentaire of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet – CCA) has so far promoted subsidized sales, cereal banks, food for work and loans of cereals to be reimbursed after the upcoming harvest in October. Since mid-July, the Government has been distributing free food to specific targets in the most critical areas while continuing to subsidize sales in less critical areas. New partners are settling in Niger and/or boosting their capacities: French Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, Qatari Red Crescent, IFRC, Save the Children US, Islamic Relief, Oxfam UK, Concern, Réunir, MSF/Switzerland. Development partners are stretching their ongoing programs to emergency response activities: World Vision, Care, Africare, CRS, Caritas, Oxfam Québec. These Christian, Muslim and secular humanitarian actors are implementing a range of activities in the most affected area of Niger’s southern agro-pastoral zone, where most of the population is concentrated, with the objective to save lives, to protect agricultural production tools/livelihoods and livestock and to promote the 2005 agricultural campaign.

Immediate Needs Girl Carrying ChildFEWS NET recommends the main focus of additional, immediate, assistance be:

  • an augmentation of supplemental feeding for children under five;
  • additional support for Niger’s free food distributions;
  • provision of emergency animal fodder and livestock nutritional supplements;
  • assistance with sanitation and potable water (in areas with the highest malnutrition); and
  • seeds for second season cropping, especially short cycle beans.

On 4 August, the UN raised its emergency flash appeal to almost $81 million and the WFP reported that if assistance were not provided quickly, it expects to see a massive liquidation of property and livestock with a severe impact on the current agricultural season.

Long-term Needs

Boy Shovel

Emergency assistance is not enough. More research and development resources should be spent to address Niger’s chronic food insecurity. Observers say projects aiming to address the root cause of the food crisis, which is poverty, are being diverted to support emergency efforts when the situation calls for close links between relief, development and research activities. Only such links will ensure that humanitarian programs do not inhibit longer term research and development efforts from addressing the underlying causes of poverty. Serious analysis shows that hunger can be conquered and at a modest cost compared to the benefits. The case for making agriculture a priority sector for aid to Niger – where agricultural production accounts for 39 percent of GDP – is overwhelming. ‘The least funding so far is for agricultural programmes’, Jan Egeland has said, ‘which I regret because those are the programmes that can get people out of this,’ explaining that people are now slaughtering or selling their cattle used for breeding.

The case for supporting livestock development in Niger – where livestock products make up one of just two main exports and 82 percent of the population practice agro-pastoral subsistence farming – is also overwhelming. ‘The hunger crisis in Niger is difficult to assess because it is “patchy”,’ says Bruno Gerard, an ILRI partner scientist based outside Niamey and working for the last 14 years working for ILRI’s sister institute, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). ‘That and other issues that must be addressed to resolve Niger’s chronic food insecurity are largely researchable issues,’ he says. Gerard manages a large project with 10 partners building research-based ‘decision-support systems’ to help farmers improve their marketing, soil fertility and other strategies. ‘This is not a hopeless country’, says Gerard. ‘Traditional options are simply not working well. The real opportunities here are in finding ways to intensify the traditional mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems for greater productivity and sustainability. And that’s just what we’re doing with ILRI and other scientific partners.’

The Livestock Crisis Cattle Carcass Nomadic herdsmen, whose starving cattle and donkeys have begun dying in large numbers, are at even greater risk than crop farmers. Humanitarian workers reckon it will take them at least two years to rebuild their herds. The limited availability of pasture and of fodder is endangering livestock. Niger’s fodder deficit in pastoral areas in 2004 was 154 percent greater than the 2000 deficit, and at 4.6 tons, the largest fodder deficit in Niger’s history. One-third of this deficit was caused by locusts and two-thirds by the 2004 drought. Fodder remains very expensive. Cows, sheep, goats and camels, which represent the ‘saving accounts’ of agro-pastoralists and pastoralists, are typically meagre and are being sold at dramatically low prices. The monetary value of livestock compared to the equivalent in cereals has decreased between 42 and 55 percent. High cereal prices and falling animal prices in the most affected pastoral and agro-pastoral areas, have led to some households having to liquidate assets in the face of these harsh terms of trade.

In worst cases, cows are being sold for US$10. Dakoro, Filingué and Ouallam are the worst affected zones for livestock. Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists began moving their animals south towards the coast earlier than normal to graze on the residue of harvested crops. While this preserves the herds, pastoralist households, especially women and children who normally remain in Niger, will be longer without meat and milk from their animals, and will have to buy more of their food by selling small animals, their assets, or their labor. This also results in larger numbers of males migrating to seek paid labour. This year's return of livestock herds from the south began with the good rains that started in May and June. There have been cases where some herds were temporarily ‘stranded’ between their northern pastures that had yet to regenerate, and the areas they were leaving in order for planting to begin. It is also noted that this year, coping capacities appear to be stretched to the limit by continuing high cereal prices that translate into poor terms of trade in selling livestock to buy cereals.

Cattle Herded

-Source: FEWS NET

ILRI and Livestock Research in Niger

Woman Cattle Back

ILRI has conducted livestock research for development in Niger for three decades. ILRI’s senior scientists in the country have included (in chronological order) geographer and anthropologist Matt Turner (USA), rangeland ecologist Pierre Hiernaux (France), soil scientist Mark Powell (USA), agricultural economist Tim Williams (Nigeria), animal nutritionist Salvador Fernández-Rivera (Mexico), and livestock systems specialist Augustine Ayantunde (Nigeria), the latter leads ILRI research in Niger today. Among the Nigerian support team that have worked for ILRI over these years are two technicians who have lived and worked for 15 years in ILRI’s two target villages in Fakara, an area between the Niger Valley and the Dallol Bosso, one hundred km east of Niger’s capital, Niamey. ILRI work in Fakara covers a region of over 500 sq km. Most of the images in this photo essay were obtained in Fakara in June 2005, one month before the country's hunger problem began to make news.

ILRI’s long-term focus in Niger is finding improved ways to integrate livestock keeping into crop farming systems to improve the Sahel’s fragile lands as well as the livelihoods of its peoples. ILRI ( has conducted much of its research in Niger under the aegis of two systemwide programs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (, which sponsors the research of ILRI and 14 other centres working to alleviate poverty in the developing world: the ILRI-convened Systemwide Livestock Programme ( and the ICRISAT-convened Desert Margins Program ( In these and other projects, ILRI focuses on livestock aspects and ICRISAT on food and feed crops which, taken together, can refine the integration of crop and livestock production with triple-bottom-line benefits for people (more food), livestock (more feed) and soils (more nutrients).

ILRI’s Niger team recently conducted a project funded by USAID investigating how to improve markets for small-scale peri-urban farmers producing milk and fattening sheep (for Muslim holidays) and collaborated with America’s Wisconsin University on research to help manage conflicts between crop and livestock producers. In the scorching hot and resource-challenged Sahelian environments, where transhumance is practised as it has been for millennia, and where millet and livestock mean life and livelihood to most of the population, conflicts over increasingly scarce water and land resources are increasing.

Livestock Relief Man HerdingFAO renewed on 2 August its appeal for $4 million urgently needed for veterinary services and to feed livestock, which play a key role in the livelihoods and food security of many of the most vulnerable households. ‘Livestock are crucial to agro-pastoralist families in Niger, for income as well as food,’ the Chief of FAO’s Emergency Operations Service, Fernanda Guerrieri, said. ‘The sale of livestock is often a measure of last resort, after families have already consumed all of their cereal stocks and require cash to buy food for the lean period before the next harvest. A loss of livestock or decrease in their market value can have a devastating impact on these families’ food security,’ she added. Livestock aid is needed for more than 10,000 families who have lost their animals. Without this assistance, the crisis could worsen and more food aid would be needed. The funds will be used to provide veterinary services and feed for more than 10,000 families facing severe hunger due to livestock losses. Livestock Floods

Oxfam is helping 28,000 people by buying, for a fair price, cattle too emaciated for herders to sell. Cattle prices have been plummeting and are now 90 percent lower than they were before the crisis. Even healthy animals are fetching only a fraction of their former value. A strong bull that once went for more than $500 now sells for as little as $18. ‘Oxfam’s response is stimulating the economy by trying to use local markets,’ said Mike Delaney, Oxfam America’s director of humanitarian response. Another voucher-for-work project is linked to the cattle-buying program. Oxfam has already purchased 1,000 cows from local breeders for about $53 a head, providing people with money to feed both their families and their remaining animals. Oxfam then has the cows slaughtered in the villages and inspected by veterinarians to make sure the meat is fit for consumption. Women involved in the voucher-for-work program dry or fry the meat. Oxfam gives some of the meat to them in exchange for their work, or distributes it through the rest of the voucher program.

Bitter Ironies Scrub Newcomers heading into Niger’s countryside find it surprisingly green. Aside from pockets of dusty scrub, healthy young foot-tall millet crops appear from one horizon to the other. Herein lies a bitter paradox. The rainy season, which gets into full swing in August, actually started well this year, in June. But this does nothing to fill the so-called hunger gap between the June planting and October harvesting. Crops may be growing, but they are of no use to anyone for another two months. New grass sprouting from sandy rangelands is just as useless to the ubiquitous herds of cattle and donkeys, for many of which the young shoots are too little too late; the animals lie down on the new green pastures and don’t get up again. Things appear deceptively fine even in the mud hut villages – where the women pound millet and the children run and play – until one takes a closer look or pays a visit to the women’s huts where the ‘silent hunger’, as its being called, has struck young children, making them too weak or ill to cry.

Many villagers say they can’t afford to leave their families to take a famished child to the nearest feeding centre. They are busy ploughing and preparing their land for the next crop that will feed their household for the coming year. Even when sick, many people won’t come for treatment because they’re frightened to leave the young crops that they’re trying to nurse into life. It is a deathly bind. Top United Nations aid official Jan Egeland and aid officials have accused the international community of reacting slowly to the crisis in Niger, which was widely predicted after last year's poor harvests, and further say the slow response has greatly increased the cost of dealing with the crisis. When the first appeal was made, only $1 per day, per person would have helped solve the food crisis, the U.N. has said. Now that the situation has worsened and people are weaker, $80 will be needed per person. One reason for the delay in international response was that other events were crowding out news about the hunger in major media.

Following the worst turmoil in Darfur and the tsunami in Southeast Asia, ironically it was the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in June, with the rock-star Live8 concerts and ‘Make Poverty History’ campaigns that attended it, that helped push the Niger crisis off world headlines. While the G8 was noisily canceling the debts of Niger and 13 other African countries, this club of the world’s most powerful nations failed to notice or even mention Niger’s hunger crisis.

The Cereal Crisis Women As local cereals (millet, sorghum) have become scarce items on the market in Niger and the subregion as well as subject to speculation, prices have doubled over normal. Most warehouses are empty. Assessments undertaken by CILSS (the regional inter-governmental body responsible for Sahelian food security) found that unusually high prices for millet and sorghum in neighboring markets in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Ivory Coast have been drawing Sahelian grain to the south during the last few months. Outflow from Niger has been significant and a major factor in driving up prices in the agro-pastoral and pastoral zones of Niger where purchasing power is the weakest. In most years, Niger imports cereals from surplus-producing areas of its neighbors in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali. However, this year, each of these three countries imposed restrictions of exports, due to fears of famine and grain shortages, despite trade treaties that forbid that. CILSS has cautioned that overstatements of the severity of Sahelian food crises by the media, international agencies, and NGOs have had the unintended consequence of causing private traders to withhold stocks from the market, in anticipation of higher prices, or of local purchases by aid agencies, further pushing up cereal prices.

These issues merit further study. Market PlaceWest African grain markets are generally working very well, perhaps too well. The high cereal price levels found in the Sahel are being driven by strong demand for Sahelian cereal production, and greater purchasing power in coastal West African countries. Markets in the most food-insecure zones in the Sahel (and in Niger) usually have higher cereal prices than elsewhere, due to the high costs of transporting grain to these sparsely-populated and poor areas. Although their governments are committed to open markets, high costs and infrastructure limitations do not allow Sahelian markets to efficiently collect surpluses, anticipate local and regional demand conditions, and supply foods to poor households at affordable prices. Source: FEWS NET

ILRI, Livestock and the Millennium Development Goals Boy Ringing Bell The international community is laying the groundwork for a new, coherent and eminently feasible attack on global poverty. The focus of this effort is the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – eight commitments drawn from the Millennium Declaration, endorsed by all member states of the United Nations in September 2000. Ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – all by the target date of 2015 – they represent a set of simple but powerful objectives that every man and woman in the street, from New York to Nairobi to New Delhi, can easily understand and support. . . . The MDG are people-centred, time-bound and measurable. . . . Now we have a set of clear, measurable indicators, focused on basic human needs, that can provide clear benchmarks of progress – or the lack of it – both globally and on a country-by-country basis. . . . Never before have such concrete goals been formally endorsed by rich and poor countries alike. And never before have the UN, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and all the other principal arms of the international system come together behind the same set of development objectives. . . . And the MDG are achievable. – Source: Kofi Annan, Economist: The World in 2003

The knowledge and technologies generated by ILRI and its many partners in the North and South that are conducting livestock research for development are helping to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. ILRI is a non-profit-making and non-governmental organization working at the crossroads of livestock and poverty. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and a second principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Institute belongs to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This association of more than 60 governments and organizations supports a network of 15 Future Harvest agricultural research centres working to reduce poverty, hunger and environmental degradation in developing countries. The co-sponsors of the CGIAR are the World Bank, the UNDP, FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Niger: Emergency assistance is not enough

Emergency assistance is not enough to end Niger's hunger problems. The underlying causes of the current crisis can be addressed only through longer term research, development and policy programs focusing on agriculture, particularly on livestock keeping, the backbone of Nigerian livelihoods. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a US-funded and research-based organization, argues convincingly in its July reports that the crisis in Niger is serious but less severe and affects far fewer people than current crises in four other African countries. This forecast organization warns of the consequences of continued failure to address the root causes of Niger's current crisis. 'Without a similar commitment and prolonged attention to addressing the chronic issues that are at the heart of the current localized crisis in Niger, the same problems will reoccur again soon,' FEWS NET warns. ILRI agrees that much more of the world's attention and resources should be spent addressing the root causes of the hunger crisis now afflicting parts of Niger and its Sahelian neighbours. Emergency assistance is not enough. Such assistance will save the lives of infants today who will go on to suffer and succumb to the affects of poverty over the coming months and years, after the world's media has turned its spotlight elsewhere. The factors underlying Niger's chronic food insecurity need to be understood and acted upon. That requires more research and development work. The case for making agriculture – and livestock production in particular – a priority in research, development, policy and emergency assistance for Niger is overwhelming. The present food crisis also calls for better and stronger links between relief, development and research work. Such links will help ensure that decisions made by development and relief workers are based on credible evidence, that policymakers and journalists are informed by the high-quality research-based information, that research remains relevant to local priorities and that short-term emergency activities do not inadvertently divert longer term R&D from tackling the underlying causes of poverty and vulnerabilities of poor people We need to work in new turfless ways, bringing together the resources and expertise of emergency, development and research workers for integrated and long- as well as short-term problem-solving. The attention Niger's hunger and suffering has generated in recent weeks offers us an opportunity to scale up work that will not only relieve the suffering of the tiny victims of this Nigerian tragedy and their families, and not only help farming communities rebuild their livelihoods, but also leave a more enabling legacy for future generations of the  peoples of the Sahel, whose indomitable spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges we would do well to emulate. Links ILRI photo essay (pdf and html): 'Niger: Behind the Famine Footage' (8 Aug 2005). ILRI image gallery (Flash): ‘Daily Life and Livestock Livelihoods in Niger’ (Jun 2005). ILRI website ‘Top Story’ (html): ‘Livestock aid urgently needed for Niger families’ (2 Aug 2005).

Livestock aid urgently needed for Niger families

Without livestock aid the crisis in Niger will worsen and more food and other aid will be needed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued an urgent appeal today for livestock aid for more than 10,000 Niger families who have lost their animals. It is estimated that 3.5 million – more than a third of Niger’s population – are experiencing chronic food shortages. Food crops have been decimated by drought and locusts, and millions of livestock have perished. Many of the poorest and most vulnerable families are dependent on livestock for food and income. Milk is particularly important for children’s nutrition. Now the rains have come, pasture is available, but many of the animals have died and any remaining livestock are in very poor condition, with little milk being produced. FAO is appealing for livestock, livestock feed and veterinary services to help Niger people rebuild their lives and livelihoods. UN News Centre news article, 2 August 2005 - UN appeals for agricultural aid to prevent food crisis from worsening ILRI Photo Essay, 10 August 2005 - Niger: Behind the famine footage ILRI Top Story, 8 August 2005 'Niger: Emergency Assistance Is Not Enough'