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Record number 65457
Title Mixed farming : scope and constraints in West African savanna
Author(s) Slingerland, M.
Source Agricultural University. Promotor(en): H. van Keulen. - S.l. : S.n. - ISBN 9789058082428 - 289
Department(s) Animal Production Systems
Plant Production Systems
Publication type Dissertation, internally prepared
Publication year 2000
Keyword(s) bedrijfssystemen - gemengde landbouw - natuurlijke hulpbronnen - landgebruik - vee - trekdieren - technologieoverdracht - savannen - west-afrika - dierlijke trekkracht - verspreiding van onderzoek - landbouwvoorlichting - farming systems - mixed farming - natural resources - land use - livestock - draught animals - technology transfer - savannas - west africa - animal power - diffusion of research - agricultural extension
Categories Agricultural Extension

Since colonial times the crop livestock integration concept has been a leading development model in francophone West Africa. So far, it has failed in certain aspects, such as cultivation of fodder crops, intensification of cereal production through animal traction, and sedentarisation of mobile livestock keepers. Three major flaws in the concept have been identified, that are partly responsible for the reported failure: neglect of the farm (household) context, neglect of the financing role of livestock, neglect of competition for land and labour. Whether crop livestock integration can remain the leading development model in a situation of high population growth, has been explored through the following research question:

"Is crop livestock integration or mixed farming a suitable model for farming systems development, leading to guaranteed food security and socio-economic survival for all social entities of the rapidly increasing population in Sahelian countries, without endangering their resource basis?"

The context

Physical context

In the study area, the village Kaïbo Sud V5, Province Zoundwéogo, Burkina Faso, resources and their use appeared to be heterogeneous. Scenario studies with SHARES, a model at the level of Kaïbo Sud V5, and HOREB, a model at the level of an average farm in Zoundwéogo province, indicated that self-sufficiency in grain can not be achieved under currently applied crop and animal production technology in average rainfall years. External inputs in the form of inorganic fertiliser and/or concentrate feed for livestock are needed to compensate unavoidable nutrient losses, and a cart is needed to allow intensive management of crop residues and manure.

Agricultural knowledge system

In Burkina Faso, policy makers, research and extension appear to follow the transfer of technology model, a top-down approach leading to development of technologies that are not necessarily addressing farmers' needs. Research is either curiosity-driven or guided by objectives of policy makers. Extension only reaches a limited number of farmers, hence the progressive farmers approach dominates their relations. Farmers generally adopt proposed technologies, either because they have the means to introduce the innovations or because the proposed innovation suits them best. Only farmers that adopted technologies were contacted subsequently, and in turn, those farmers actively asked research and extension for solutions to their problems. Only when they were recognised as a constituency of the policy makers, they could influence the research agenda. Resource-poor farmers and mobile livestock keepers are neither recognised as a constituency nor possessed the means to innovate, hence they hardly benefit from research and extension.

Farming systems development

A framework situating discrete farming systems in the development perspective of mixed farming, has been designed. The framework ranges from separate specialised low external input (LEIA) systems, through integrated and mixed farming systems without or with external inputs, to specialised high external inputs (HEIA) farming systems. Observed farming systems in Burkina Faso could be classified within the proposed framework. Policy makers, driven by the objective to settle and control mobile herdsmen and to constrain crop producers to permanent fields, aimed at mixed farming systems for everyone. The recent sustainability debate appears to support their promotion of mixed (LEIA) farming systems because they are assumed to reduce nutrient losses. Mobile Fulani herdsmen engage in crop production only, when forced by circumstances, such as drought or animal diseases, leading to severe losses in livestock, making continuation of their former way of life impossible. Mixed farming is a poverty-induced option for them and therefore not attractive. For Mossi crop producers, on the contrary, wealth is the drive towards mixed farming, cattle being needed to support the associated technologies, such as animal traction and use of manure. Resource-poor farmers going into mixed farming have to apply labour-intensive techniques (their only resource) and, because of their low purchasing power, they cannot afford external inputs and have no option but to (over) exploit the environment. High external input (HEIA) farming should avoid pollution of the environment.

Ecologically, both HEIA and LEIA can have negative effects on natural resource quality. Socio-economically, high agricultural production per unit area, based on the use of external inputs will lead to larger scale production and lower prices. Resource-poor farmers cannot follow this development and run the risk of being expelled from farming. Economically, HEIA farming is only sustainable when cash crops are cultivated or when high prices can be guaranteed. Around cities, capital intensive production systems can exist, because of the high purchasing power of the urban population and because of the short producer-consumer lines. In rural areas, farming systems that do not rely on high-quality infrastructure and use labour-intensive techniques, achieving moderate production levels are most suitable, guaranteeing local self-sufficiency in food. Production for export should be based on industrially organised systems using high levels of external inputs and capital. To aim at a variety of farming systems, each addressing specific societal needs, seems a more suitable strategy than to aim at the mixed farming system proposed in the model.

Financing role of livestock

In the mixed farming model, the role of livestock was limited to the supply of manure and animal power for crop production, and to value crop residues. For farmers in Burkina Faso and elsewhere in West Africa, livestock plays an important role as capital asset, to cover (emergency) cash needs. In farming systems where crop production depends on erratic rainfall, as in West Africa, livestock can be used to transfer surpluses from years with abundant rainfall to years with deficiencies. Livestock production was negatively affected by this buffer function, because emergency (premature) sales are associated with losses due to foregone offspring and foregone live weight. Emergency sales further restricted revenues, when livestock had to be sold in periods with low market prices. Sales of livestock for financing purposes also negatively affected performance of the farming system as a whole, in terms of foregone manure and animal traction, limiting crop production.

For financing, farmers preferred livestock to other means, even though taking a loan with a savings and credit co-operative was cheaper. Accessibility, security, liquidity and profitability were all more favourable for livestock than for any of the alternatives examined. The fact that a pledge of 150 % of the credit is needed for a loan from a co-operative, was a major constraint for resource-poor farmers. Financing through livestock was therefore more attractive than taking a loan with a co-operative or any other source.

Animal traction

Animal traction has been presented as a key element of crop livestock integration. It appears to be associated with larger farm sizes, larger areas of cash crop and higher livestock numbers, hence with wealthier farmers. In Zoundwéogo province and Kaïbo village, animal traction could develop as there were sufficient animals to serve all households and to cultivate total current crop area. Additional efforts should be made to increase training of bullocks and transfer of bullocks from Fulani livestock keepers to Mossi crop producers is needed. Bullocks appeared too weak for the tasks asked from them, resulting in short working days of 2-3 hours. Output per animal might be increased through introduction of heavier animal breeds or additional animal feeding. Timeliness of seeding and weeding might also be improved by using additional bullocks. The scope for improvement is limited as any solution depends on purchasing power of the farmer and availability of inputs.

Natural resource basis

Mossi and Fulani herds appeared to use the village territory in different ways, dictated by animal species, production objectives and season. Current high population growth leads to an expanded area under crops, for food production, and consequently reduced grazing area in the rainy season. Crop residue management, as proposed in the crop livestock integration model, leads to increased control over this feed resource by Mossi crop producers. As a result, room for the traditional feeding strategy, applied by Fulani and consisting of mobility and tracking changes in vegetation, becomes limited. The quantity (area) of animal feed becomes limiting, especially in the rainy season. In the post-harvest, dry season, both quantity and quality of animal feed becomes limiting because crop residues are no longer available and their animals thus have to rely on low quality grasses from the natural vegetation. Options for Fulani herds were further restricted by excluding them from the use of village wells in the dry season. Fulani have either to leave the village territory more often and for longer periods, or to accept lower animal production. When Mossi specialised crop producers become mixed farmers, the number of animals in their system increases. When Fulani become mixed farmers, their livestock will reside more permanently on the village territory. Larger livestock numbers and smaller grazing area increase risks of degradation, especially because specialist feeders such as goats and sheep will be forced to accept a more general diet, resulting in diet overlap between formerly complementary feeders. Population growth and subsequent urbanisation has been shown to lead to increased demands for firewood that has to be provided from village territories. Degradation of the natural resources in village territories and a decrease in feed resources for browsers can be the result.


The crop livestock integration model, and especially the mixed farming model, has only limited applicability as goal for farming systems development. In Burkina Faso, the majority of the farming population consists of resource-poor farmers, incapable to adopt technologies associated with mixed farming, because they lack the purchasing power to acquire ploughs, draught bullocks, inorganic fertilisers, etc. Mixed farming as a comprehensive development model therefore fails, although several of its components are (at least partially) adopted by a variety of farmers. The concept of restricted nutrient losses through intensive management of manure and crop residues appeared, for instance, valid, but, because of unavoidable losses during (re-)cycling, external inputs are needed to guarantee sufficient food production for the rapidly growing population. Moreover, exchange of crop residues and manure between specialised farming systems, has the same potential for nutrient cycling as mixed farming, but may be preferred because of advantages associated with labour distribution. Constraints for farming system development, especially for crop farmers, can be alleviated by creation of an optimal farm environment, such as a sound financial infrastructure, an agricultural knowledge system addressing farmers needs, a professional infrastructure to provide inputs and to guarantee marketing of outputs, fair farm-gate prices for agricultural products, etc. Attractive prices for meat and milk, infrastructure for veterinary care, grazing rights protected by law and limiting crop production in designated grazing areas and corridors, etc. are needed to facilitate mobile animal production. Technology development should already take its impact on the environment into account. Research and extension should stimulate participation of resource-poor farmers and mobile livestock keepers in technology development and support development of a range of farming systems, in terms of inputs and outputs, because together they can address the variety of societal needs.

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