NIGER – The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has launched a new project aimed at boosting the crop-livestock integration systems in Niger.

According to the organizations, crop-livestock integration 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

The two-year project, set to run until September 2025, is envisioned at benefitting 1,500 farmers in the landlocked country in West Africa.

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

However, the experts noted that limited work has been done on integrated climate-smart technologies and approaches to improve inclusive crop-livestock systems and value chains which the cutting-edge project aims to tap into.

Focus on feed

Dr. Clarisse Umuton noted that, 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

Therefore, the crop-livestock integration project will focus on the fodder value chain primarily on improving the production of fodder (dual-purpose legumes-cereal and tropical forage crops) and promoting technologies to improve the conservation and quality of crop residues.

In addition, USAID and ICRISAT noted that crop-livestock integration can result in improved soil fertility, increased crop yields, and more diversified sources of income for farmers.

According to the experts, this can be achieved by using crop residues as livestock feed while animal manure can be used as fertilizer for crops.

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.

Supporting women and youth

The project aims to offer technical training on multi-nutrient blocks and silage-making options primarily to women and youths in the feed value chain.

The training will ensure they master silage-making technology and build their capacity in assessing the quality of silage, collecting cereal residues from communities, storing them efficiently using silage technology, and selling them later in the dry season.

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.

“This approach will help crop-livestock farmers to make better-informed decisions as regard feed technologies and the adoption of best practices,” said Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, director general of ICRISAT.

Dr. Jacqueline also hopes that the project can benefit not only Niger but can be duplicated in other West African countries

The initiative is being implemented in partnership with the Dan Dicko Dankoulodo University and the University Abdou Moumouni in Niger

Other partners include 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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