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Published on 24/01/2017

Greater support is needed for agro-pastoral livestock farming in West Africa

Livestock farming plays a central role in many West African countries. It provides a livelihood for several million families, for whom it represents a source of activity and income, savings, a means of resilience when faced with crises, as well as a strong cultural reference.

With regional livestock numbers estimated at 65 million cattle, over 200 million sheep and goats, and 2.6 million camels, livestock farming also plays a major role in the West African economy, and is in fact one of the main factors of regional integration. Nevertheless, this activity is today threatened by the increase in pressure on natural resources, leading to greater land insecurity for farmers and the multiplication of obstacles to mobility, due to competition from imported low-cost products (powdered milk, poultry) that are competing with local products in urban markets, as well as a structural deficit in investment (milk collection systems, market structures, slaughter plants, etc.) that is slowing growth in the value chain.

Changing public policies

GRET has been working for four years with the Association for the Promotion of Farming in the Sahel and Savannah (APESS) in three countries – Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso – to promote local technical and organisational innovations and enable farmers to have greater influence on public policies implemented in the farming sector. Through the implementation of a support & advice system for agro-pastoral farms,  the launch of new experiments (development of forage crops, experimentation with biogas facilities, etc.), and strengthening of farmer organisations (training of leaders, organisational diagnosis, support with management of investment funds to finance collective projects, etc.), the actions conducted made it possible to consolidate farmer organisations and improve the services they provide to their members.

Significant work was also carried out on territorial consultations at various sites in order to secure long term access for farmers to grazing resources and strengthen synergies between stakeholders in livestock value chains at local level. This stronger collaboration between local elected representatives, farmer organisations, mini-dairies, milk processing companies, input suppliers and local support services generated greater impetus for the collection & processing of local milk, and made it possible to reduce food insecurity for families. The consultation and negotiation cycles organised in zones of conflict between crop farmers and livestock breeders also made it possible to renegotiate and formalise rules for breeders’ access to grazing zones, so that passageways and grazing zones are no longer blocked by uncontrolled installation of crops in fields.

These various achievements provided invaluable elements which APESS used to develop advocacy in favour of agro-pastoral breeding. By participating in numerous international meetings (Farmers’ forum, International Year of Family Farming, ECOWAP+10 Conference, etc.), APESS defended its vision of livestock breeding and made specific proposals in favour of greater support for agro-pastoral family farms. At national level, the Senegalese and Burkina Faso Ministers of Livestock Breeding were invited last December to two national workshops in Dakar and Ouagadougou. Both workshops brought together approximately one hundred key stakeholders from the livestock farming sector and made it possible to develop arguments and proposals on two key issues: improved security of pastoral land and greater support for the local milk value chain.

Improving the security of pastoral land

Growth in livestock numbers, deterioration of land, the development of agriculture, hydro-agriculture facilities and urbanisation are putting increased pressure on natural resources. Traditional regulations are sometimes called into question – accentuating risks of conflict, and requirements in terms of animal mobility are not well catered for, which makes livestock farming more fragile in territories. Although it is dominant throughout West Africa, agro-pastoral livestock farming, which is based partly on mobility, continues to be considered as archaic, and the policies implemented place greater focus on “intensive” breeding.

Faced with these challenges, improving land governance is a key issue. On the one hand, it is necessary for countries to have texts covering the subject of pastoralism in an adequate manner; on the other hand, it is necessary to ensure that recommended measures are correctly implemented and that agro-pastoral farmers are fully included in local consultative and management bodies. Securing pastoral zones also requires better demarcation and recognition of the purpose of these spaces by traditional authorities and populations, as well as by local elected representatives and State services, via deliberations that decide on the purpose of these spaces and remove them from those likely to be transferred for exclusive, private use. GRET and APESS worked on six territories in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali to secure and gain official recognition of pastoral zones.

Supporting the local milk value chain

The local milk value chain in West Africa is at a critical crossroads that should significantly impact its development over the coming decade. Poorly protected with customs duty at just 5 % on powdered milk, local milk may face increased competition from imported powdered milk in the coming years, with the end of milk quotas in Europe and the localisation of numerous international agri-food groups in several capital cities in Africa. In this context, the local milk value chain has little chance of developing, whereas significant potential for production exists and could be more extensively exploited with grant incentives for local milk collection centres and the implementation of higher customs duty on powdered milk. The West African farmers’ advocacy was heard by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which decided at the end of 2015 to launch a major “Milk Offensive”. This dynamic must now be backed at regional level by a structured collective of stakeholders in the local milk value chain capable of facing up to industrials, so that these orientations are rapidly transformed into policy instruments working for livestock farmers and local milk processing companies.

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