V8: Realizing the full biomass potential of mixed crop-livestock systems in rapidly changing Sahelian agro-ecological landscapes

The Sahel is an agriculture-dependent economy facing multiple challenges with growing populations, rapid socio-economic change, climate change impacts, natural resources under increasing stress, and serious environmental degradation. Pressure on biomass resources is a particular concern. Beside meeting the demand for food and fuel by a growing population and feed needs for sustaining livestock production, biomass is also crucial to sustain regulating ecosystem services, e.g. to secure a return flow of organic matter to impoverished soils to improve water holding capacity and soil fertility. The specific objectives of the project are to provide ‘proof of concept’ along two livestock systems value chains to develop co-benefits in agro-ecosystems landscapes and human (men and women) wellbeing: Three key points will be explored: 1) Assessment of the opportunities and effects of promising, adoptable and ecosystem-relevant biomass management practices on agricultural productivity, natural resource sustainability, food security and livelihoods; 2) Analysis of multi-scale trade-offs of interventions to enhance biomass production and utilisation under different biophysical, socio-economic and institutional contexts, and for different farmer types and gender groups; 3) Development of tools for integrated, participatory and gender sensitive assessments of biomass production in mixed crop-livestock systems and potential opportunities for out-scaling. The underpinning hypothesis for this project is that degraded low producing smallholder crop-livestock farming systems have an untapped provisional ecosystem capacity that can be realized, if regulating ecosystem services are enhanced, ultimately a transformation into healthy agro-ecological landscapes. The research questions being addressed are: (i) What are the opportunities and effects of biomass management practices on agricultural productivity, food security, livelihoods and ecosystem services related to soil and water? (ii) What are the trade-offs and socio-economic barriers at different spatial and temporal scales associated with biomass production and utilization under different farmer types and gender groups? (iii) What are the potential opportunities for out-scaling of promising ecosystem-enhancing biomass management practices? Expected outputs from this project include: (i) Research outputs - Protocol for value chain actor analysis; journal articles; (ii) Outputs for next users - Engagements including consultations, training and workshops at site and national levels, skills training /using TAGMI in potential evidence base for policy development change, modelling tools and biomass framework, briefing notes and blogs on key results from the project. Expected outcomes from this project are: (i) Government ministries and departments in Burkina Faso and Niger are using new knowledge of biomass to inform policy and development formulation by 2017; (ii) Integrated crop-livestock farm communities and related biomass value chain actors and supporting development agents (including NGOs) adopt gender and youth sensitive farming practices to enhance biomass productivity. The project’s consortium comprises of 7 institutions: CG centres: ILRI (lead institute) and IWMI; NGOs: SNV Burkina Faso and SNV Niger; Government ministry: Ministry of Animal Resources in both Burkina Faso and Niger; Advanced Research Institute: Wageningen University. Project activities will be conducted in two sites in the semi-arid northern parts of the Volta and Niger River basins. i) Ouahigouya (650 mm annual rainfall) in Yatenga province in northern part of Burkina Faso. ii) Fakara (450 mm annual rainfall) in south-western Niger. Both sites offer existing databases on natural resources and established collaborative actor networks. The project will explicitly investigate the gender gap and assesses how women and youth, when given opportunities, can contribute and benefit from improved biomass production and productivity of mixed crop-livestock systems, for different scenarios. In addition, the project will address the effects of improved biomass production and management on soil and water related ecosystem services.