Harnessing benefits from improved livestock water productivity in crop-livestock systems of sub-Saharan Africa: synthesis
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Amede, T.; Descheemaeker, K.; Peden, D.; Rooyen, A. van. 2009. Harnessing benefits from improved livestock water productivity in crop-livestock systems of sub-Saharan Africa: synthesis. Rangeland Journal. v. 31(2). p. 169-178 .
The threat of water scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa is real, due to the expanding agricultural needs, climate variability and inappropriate land use. Livestock keeping is the fastest growing agricultural sector, partly because of increasing and changing demands for adequate, quality and diverse food for people, driven by growing incomes and demographic transitions. Besides the economic benefits, rising livestock production could also deplete water and aggravate water scarcity at local and global scales. The insufficient understanding of livestock–water interactions also led to low livestock productivity, impeded sound decision on resources management and undermined achieving positive returns on investments in agricultural water across sub-Saharan Africa. Innovative and integrated measures are required to improve water productivity and reverse the growing trends of water scarcity. Livestock water productivity (LWP), which is defined as the ratio of livestock outputs to the amount of water depleted, could be improved through: (i) raising the efficiency of the water inputs by integrating livestock with crop, water and landscape management policies and practices. Improving feed water productivity by maximising transpiration and minimising evaporation and other losses is critical; (ii) increasing livestock outputs through improved feed management, veterinary services and introducing system-compatible breeds; and (iii) because livestock innovation is a social process, it is not possible to gain LWP improvements unless close attention is paid to policies, institutions and their associated processes. Policies targeting infrastructure development would help livestock keepers secure access to markets, veterinary services and knowledge. This paper extracts highlights from various papers presented in the special issue of The Rangeland Journal on technologies and practices that would enable improving water productivity at various scales and the premises required to reverse the negative trends of water depletion and land degradation.