A project that aims to strengthen research in crop-livestock systems, to substantially change lives and livelihood of farmers in Western Africa, was launched earlier this month.  There has been little investment in research and development for crop-livestock systems with market linkages. This is why this launch is significant as it not only brings in US$1.25 million investment in research, it also aims to leverage several times more funding with support of partners.

The project called ‘Enabling Value Chains to Create Sustainable Income for Vulnerable People in Crop-Livestock Systems of Burkina Faso and Niger’ aims to build resilience and incomes in rural communities in Burkina Faso and Niger, where more than 80% depend on livestock and rainfed agriculture for livelihood.

Livestock market in Niger Photo: Andre F.van Rooyen, ICRISAT

Livestock market in Niger Photo: Andre F.van Rooyen, ICRISAT

Speaking at the launch in Niger, Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director at ICRISAT said innovation was key to this initiative. “Research shows that Animal Source Foods (ASF) are set to grow exponentially over the next decade with the livestock revolution taking place in West Africa. We believe that the project has the ability to drive transformational change from the current systems to profitable and market oriented in crop-livestock systems.” Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative of ICRISAT-Niger, highlighted that “the originality of this project, is that it brings together scientists from different programs and partner institutions.”

Efforts will be made to increase production of ASF through integrated management of crop-livestock systems with participation of small-ruminant livestock keepers in value chains. There will be an innovation platform approach for bringing together multi-stakeholder value chain players to bring about more market oriented crop-livestock systems through the introduction of technology, capacity development and policy impact. Scenario analyses using modelling and analytics will be used to determine the highest impact of interventions across farms or regions.

Led by Dr Vincent Bado of the ICRISAT, Niamey, the project will also be implemented by The Institut de l’Environnement de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) in Burkina Faso, The Conseil National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA) in Niger and the New Mexico State University. These efforts are aligned to an on-going USAID-funded initiative Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel–Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-AG) as well as the Association pour la Promotion de l’Élevage au Sahel et en Savane (APSS).

Building the capacity of the National Agriculture Research and Education System (NARES) and Non- Governmental Organizations to manage multi-actor activities between research and livestock-extension institutions, opportunities to enhance participation of youth and women in income generating enterprises will be included.

Mr Steven Humphreys, representing the USAID funded Responsible Value Chain Marketing – REGIS AG Project, at the inception workshop was optimistic: “There are definitely great opportunities to positively impact livelihoods of livestock keepers across the Sahel with these interventions.  The REGIS-AG project looks forward to close collaborations to improve the availability of feed resources,” he said.

The project will leverage the advantage of collaboration between ICRISAT and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) represented by Dr Augustine Ayantunde.  “ILRI recognizes the central role of livestock in supporting livelihoods in the Sahel – empowering small ruminant producers who are often women to market and sell their stock for higher prices and increase throughput are key factors which will reduce poverty’ said Dr Ayantunde.

Mr Abderrahmane Outmani, Expert coordination sectorielle – Elevage, Embassy of Belgium, reinforced the Belgian support in this initiative. “This project is a topical issue that meets the real needs of Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso and Niger. We have launched an initiative on livestock value chain in Niger and we looking forward to close collaborations through this project”, he said.

The main outcome over the next 3 years will be to develop improved value chains rooted in crop-livestock systems at national and regional levels that are productive, profitable and equitable, resilient and sustainable to contribute to food security and poverty alleviation.

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