University of Wisconsin-Madison
Rockefeller Foundation; ILRI-ECRISAT/ Sahelian Center
Jess D. Reed
Soil fertility depletion on smallholder farms is considered to be one of the fundamental causes for the declining food production in Africa. Results from a Participatory Landscape/Lifescape Appraisal (PLLA) in Mali indicate that poor soil fertility is one of the major constraints identified by villagers. In Niger, Mali’s landlocked Sahelian neigh- bor, the sandy soils are also inherently low in soil fertility and nutrient deficiency is a major constraint to crop production. The dominant ethnic groups at the Niger research site are the Djerma and Fulani. Historically, the Djerma were well known as skilled cavalrymen. Today, horses and cattle are an important source of wealth for the Djerma despite being sedentary agriculturalists. Many Djerma live in the Niger River Valley where they cultivate millet, sorghum, rice, corn, and tobacco. They also cultivate cotton and peanuts as cash crops. The Fulani are West Africa’s pastoralists. Historically the Fulani were almost entirely transhumant (i.e. they moved continuously from one area to another grazing cattle). Due to environmental and economic changes, the Fulani are increasingly becoming agro- pastoralists, both cultivating crops and herding their own and other people’s cattle. Even though ruminants are integrated in nutrient cycling in agro-pastoral systems, their contribution is insufficient. Manure availability is an important limitation to soil fertility improvement. In addition, manure use is regulated by farmers’ perceptions and understanding of soil fertility, by their perception of livestock’s role in soil fertility manage- ment, and the management of livestock and related resources at the community level. Soil nutrient management is subject to cultural practices at the communal as well as the individual farm level. The purpose of this study is to identify alterna- tive management strategies to enhance the role of livestock in nutrient transfer in the Sahelien landscape.
The specific objectives of this research are: 1. To estimate the effect of phosphorus supplementation to cattle on fecal phos- phorus output; 2. To estimate millet response to en- riched manure application compared to direct application of phosphate fertilizers to cropland; and 3. To investigate farmers' perceptions and understanding of soil fertility, the role of livestock in soil fertility management, and to assess the contribution of commu- nal action to soil fertility improvement.