Spending Smartly: Prioritizing Future Crop-Livestock Research Investments in Eastern/Southern Africa
Livestock are vital in the livelihoods of millions of dryland rural poor across Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Many in the drylands earn more from their livestock than from crop production activities. Livestock provide protein so often lacking in the diet of the poor, as well as draft power, skins, and cash income from sales.
Livestock and crops generate powerful synergies in farming systems. Crops provide feedstuffs for livestock, and livestock provide soil fertility for crops through their manure and urine. Their complementary strengths help buffer the farmer's labor-demand and income cycles.
Livestock can be either beneficial or destructive to the environment. Their waste products can improve soil fertility, or cause pollution if too concentrated. Their grazing activity can be a sustainable part of rangeland ecosystems, or it can be destructive to rangelands if herds are too large.
Livestock, like crops are ravaged by drought. Animals die or must be sold off before dying at deeply reduced prices. Even when the drought ends the destitute farmers lack the capital to purchase animals to rebuild their herds. They become mired in poverty and malnutrition.
Scoping the scene
ILRI and ICRISAT are convinced that improving crop-livestock interactions can make a major contribution to reducing poverty in ESA. They have decided to generate their own synergies: the livestock expertise of ILRI and the dryland cropping systems expertise of ICRISAT. This new initiative will commence with a scoping study so that priorities are identified based on evidence and knowledge.
DMP has strong interest in this ILRI-ICRISAT partnership, since livestock are so important to dryland livelihoods and environmental quality issues. As a core partner in this initiative, the DMP will help kick off the partnership by assessing livestock research needs and priorities in the region during June-September 2005. Rapid appraisals will be conducted in Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. These countries encompass the diverse range of dryland production systems and agro-ecological zones in the region.
The analyses will:
This scoping study will set the stage for a large proposal for integrated crop-livestock research in ESA. This will further strengthen the DMP in the ESA sub-region and increase co-funding to the DMP.
For further information please contact the Regional DMP Coordinator for ESA, Andre van Rooyen.