Farm project in Niger set to harness the synergies between crops and livestock

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

'Despite the important role of livestock in the farming and livelihood systems and the national economy, livestock has failed to reach its full potential in Niger'. © ICRISAT
'Despite the important role of livestock in the farming and livelihood systems and the national economy, livestock has failed to reach its full potential in Niger'. © ICRISAT

Related tags Fodder Niger Crop-livestock integration USAID

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) have launched a new project aimed at benefitting 1,500 farmers in Niger.

The initiative is set to run throught to September 2025, and it is based on the practice of crop-livestock integration, an approach that has seen a revival in recent decades. 

The teams are looking to boost the productivity and resilience of agro-pastoral systems, along with income, food, and nutrition security in Niger.

Crop-livestock integration, according to the organizations, combines crop production and livestock rearing in a mutually beneficial way to optimize the use of land, labor, and other resources, and to improve the overall productivity and sustainability of a farm.

Project goals

The project is led by Dr Clarisse Umutoni, a crop-livestock scientist at ICRISAT. It is funded by USAID through the University of Florida Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems.

"Despite the important role of livestock in the farming and livelihood systems and the national economy, livestock has failed to reach its full potential in Niger. Limited work has been done on integrated climate-smart technologies and approaches to improve inclusive crop-livestock systems and value chains, increase incomes, reduce multidimensional poverty, and improve nutrition and health," reads a release on the Feed The Future Innovation Lab site.

This project aims to address those gaps; its objectives include

  • Identifying entry points for promoting and enabling productive, resilient, climate-smart and sustainable agro-pastoralist systems.
  • Increasing livestock productivity through development of climate-smart feed systems.
  • Identifying and promoting evidence-based strategies for development of markets and inclusive value chains of small livestock and goat milk for improving household income and nutrition.
  • Improving household nutrition through greater consumption of animal-source foods and diverse diets.

Feed focus 

Crop residues can be used as feed for livestock, while animal manure can be used as fertilizer for crops. This integration can result in improved soil fertility, increased crop yields, and more diversified sources of income for farmers, noted USAID and ICRISAT.

The project wants to achieve a 30% increase in income from business opportunities around the fodder value chain, as well as drive a 25% increase in the use of feed technologies and achieve a 30% increase in the consumption of animal feed.

In relation to the fodder goals, Dr Umutoni told FeedNavigator that the initiative is aimed at: 

  • Improving the production of fodder (dual-purpose legumes-cereal and tropical forage crops) and promoting technologies to improve conservation and quality of crop residues.
  • Creating a feed business model between fodder deficit and fodder surplus areas and by training actors on the management of a feed bank.
  • Supporting women and youth to establish small-scale feed enterprises. 

Generally, she said, the business options under exploration include an on-farm chopped feed model, whereby participants will collect crop residues, chop them, package the chopped feed and then sell it at local markets, alongside the fabrication of multi-nutrient blocks, and silage making options, including collecting cereal residues from communities, storing them efficiently using silage technology and selling them later in the dry season.

"We will work closely with women and youth to ensure they master silage making technology and build their capacity in assessing quality of silage. We will work with extension services and other actors to ensure that women and youth receive regular support, when needed.

"The project will strengthen the capacity of women and youth in business development and management of small-scale enterprises and provide them with the information they need on how to mobilize financial resources."

The organizations also want to plug the knowledge gaps of livestock farmers in relation to animal feed - training will be offered on feed formulation strategies based on the use of local raw materials, explained the project lead. 

The anticipated increase in the use of feed technologies by participants will be achieved through the use of the agro-pastoral field school (APFS ) approach, which is a participatory scaling-up model, and one that can be used to transfer knowledge about new technologies, taking into account the social and local context. "This approach will help crop-livestock farmers to make better informed decisions as regard feed technologies and the adoption of best practices."

Greater inclusivity 

Dr Jacqueline Hughes, director general, ICRISAT, hopes the project can be duplicated in other West African countries. "This collaboration will improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by harnessing the synergies between crops and livestock. While this system of farming is not new, ours is a new approach that builds more inclusivity, especially for women and girls, which is expected to enhance food security by fostering more efficient use of land and resources.”

The initiative is being implemented in partnership with the Dan Dicko Dankoulodo University and the University Abdou Moumouni in Niger, Amate Seed Farm, Ainoma Seed Farm, the Association for the Promotion of Livestock in the Sahel and Savannah (APESS), Arizona State University, and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).

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