Our crops and croplands feed livestock

In Tete district, Mozambique, interacting with Innovation Platform farmers.

In Tete district, Mozambique, interacting with Innovation Platform farmers.

Can Africa’s growing demand for red meat be met by better utilizing cropland resources and the available feed/forage technologies produced in the mixed crop-livestock systems of the dry Semi-Arid Tropics?

The answer came to me when I recently undertook an extended trip in southern Africa  where I visited farmer and National Agricultural Research Systems or NARS collaborators of ICRISAT scientists Martin Moyo in Zimbabwe and  Sabine Homann-Kee Tui in Mozambique.

In Jambezi district, Zimbabwe, we were hosted by Chief Shana and farmers, Augustine Sibanda and Phillip Tshuma, in the dry Natural Region V. Here farmers were provided with climate forecasts and sorghum and pearl millet varieties, crops that they had grown in the  past before converting to maize. Chief Shana was enthused by the performance of sorghum and millet and memorably stated they could now say “bye bye to starvation”.

In Tete district, Mozambique, I met  Benjamin Afonso Siawalha and Mr Vinario, farmer members of an innovation platform, which prioritizes crop-livestock value chains as the most profitable options in a very dry region. The key advantage of this IP is the interest of two abattoirs that provide the necessary market pull to which farmers can respond.

My reflection from these two visits is that, in the dry regions of sub-Saharan Africa, livestock do offer a critical requirement for market-led agricultural growth within the next 10 years. However, to capture this regional market demand for red meat, it is clear that the croplands must provide the feed resources to deliver the required increased livestock production. Farmers will not forsake their staple food production of maize, millet, sorghum and pulses; so these croplands need to also produce feed for market-oriented livestock enterprises. The critical contribution will be the residues of our cereal and legume crops, bred specifically for high quality stover. Or technologies that may include intercropped dual purpose grain and forage legumes, forage perennials and trees and possibly excess sorghum and millet grain fed in feedlots.

About the author:
Dr Peter Carberry , Deputy Director General – Research, ICRISAT.

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