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Livestock water productivity: implications for sub-Saharan Africa

Peden, D., Taddesse, G., Haileslassie, A.
Rangeland journal 2009 v.31 no.2 pp. 187-193
research programs, water conservation, livestock production, soil degradation, developing countries, grazing management, drinking water, land management, issues and policy, Nile River, Sub-Saharan Africa
Water is essential for agriculture including livestock. Given increasing global concern that access to agricultural water will constrain food production and that livestock production uses and degrades too much water, there is compelling need for better understanding of the nature of livestock-water interactions. Inappropriate animal management along with poor cropping practices often contributes to widespread and severe depletion, degradation and contamination of water. In developed countries, diverse environmental organisations increasingly voice concerns that animal production is a major cause of land and water degradation. Thus, they call for reduced animal production. Such views generally fail to consider their context, applicability and implications for developing countries. Two global research programs, the CGIAR 'Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management and Agriculture' and 'Challenge Program on Water and Food' have undertaken studies of the development, management and conservation of agricultural water in developing countries. Drawing on these programs, this paper describes a framework to systematically identify key livestock-water interactions and suggests strategies for improving livestock and water management especially in the mixed crop-livestock production systems of sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast to developed country experience, this research suggests that currently livestock water productivity compares favourably with crop water productivity in Africa. Yet, great opportunities remain to further reduce domestic animals' use of water in the continent. Integrating livestock and water planning, development and management has the potential to help reduce poverty, increase food production and reduce pressure on the environment including scarce water resources. Four strategies involving technology, policy and institutional interventions can help achieve this. They are choosing feeds that require relatively little water, conserving water resources through better animal and land management, applying well known tools from the animal sciences to increase animal production, and strategic temporal and spatial provisioning of drinking water. Achieving integrated livestock-water development will require new ways of thinking about, and managing, water by water- and animal-science professionals.