Southern African Center for Cooperation in Agricultural Research (SACCAR)
Private Bag 00108, Gaborone, Botswana
Mr Chairman, Director General of ILCA, IDRC Representative, network members, ladies and gentleman.
On behalf of animal scientists in the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) region, I wish to extend our warmest welcome to you distinguished animal nutritionists. Gaborone is the headquarters of SADCC and the home of the region's Agricultural Research and Training Coordination Centre. We congratulate the organisers of this workshop, especially the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), for holding it in a country which has the highest per capita number of cattle in Africa. In Botswana, cattle, goats and sheep are marketed in such an organised manner that both small- and large-scale farmers can benefit from good returns from selling their animals.
The theme of this workshop, The complementarity of feed resources for animal production in Africa, is very appropriate now. Livestock mean food; and Africa's people desperately need more food. Africa has a higher proportion of undernourished people than any other region in the world, and also the greatest rate of population growth; so the numbers of hungry people are increasing all the time. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that in 1969-71, 32.6% of Africa's population - 86 million people - were malnourished; by 1983-85 the proportion had risen slightly, to a little over 35%, but by then the number of hungry people had increased dramatically, to 142 million! It is true that food production has increased in many developing countries over the past three decades, but hunger and malnutrition continue to affect the lives of up to one billion people in the Third World.
The hunger problem cannot be solved merely by better physical distribution of food from areas with a surplus to those with a deficit. The real problem is the lack of purchasing power among the poor segments of the communities. A successful development strategy, therefore, must promote employment and increases in the purchasing power of the poor through an emphasis on the production of labour-intensive wage goods, particularly food. Since 1986, SADCC has adopted an agriculture-oriented strategy which stresses growth in rural labour-intensive sectors as the primary engine of overall economic growth. The sheer size of the agricultural sector in the region, which employs 40-80% of the total labour force, shows that technical change in this sector will have important macro-economic implications. Increased agricultural production not only increases domestic food supplies but also stimulates further rounds of employment growth in the service and urban sectors of the economy. Because of its output and employment linkage effects with the rest of the economy, agricultural growth helps to improve access to food supplies for both the urban and rural poor.
It is generally accepted that increased agricultural production is brought about by improved agricultural technology. Increased agricultural productivity provides a combination of benefits: increased profits for farmers; increased demand for labour; and lower consumer prices. Growth of this kind produces a net increase in national income that serves as an important engine for driving the rest of the economy. As incomes rise, and as families become more aware of the need for better nutrition, the relative character of food demand changes. Rising income causes food demand to shift to more preferred cereals and to highly income-elastic livestock products. In many African countries these demands have been met by increasing imports of livestock products; FAO trade figures show imports rising from US$ 43 million in 1960 to US$ 113 million in 1970 and then to US$ 680 million in 1980. However, because imports have been draining the scarce foreign exchange reserves of most countries, local production is now being encouraged.
The performance of the livestock sector in sub-Saharan Africa during the past two decades has been disappointing; indeed, livestock production has failed to meet consumption demands. Poor productivity is attributable to several factors including inappropriate government policies, tsetse infestation in areas which would otherwise be ideal for livestock production, and pricing structures which favour urban consumers to the detriment of the rural producers, hence discouraging production.
In the past we used to conduct livestock research without paying too much attention to the needs of the livestock keepers. We neither addressed the issue of availability of markets for livestock products nor analysed all the other issues on the demand and supply sides of the equation. Consumers in all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa now understand the nutritive values of livestock products, especially to their children. And the farmers are ready to supply the needed items. However, feed availability seems to be the main bottleneck.
Traditionally, livestock producers, especially the small-scale ones who are the majority in most countries, were encouraged to provide all their animal feeds from their own farms. Fodder banks, crop residues, crop byproducts and animal wastes are examples of what can be produced on the farm. And alley farming and agroforestry are examples of recent technologies that can be used to produce animal feeds. But we now know that feeds produced on the farm cannot meet all the animals' requirements in terms of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins. Some of the deficiencies by feeding supplements which can only be produced outside the farm. Such supplements are often not available to small farmers. And even when they are available, they may be too expensive to make the enterprises profitable.
This workshop is concerned with increasing the productivity of livestock in sub-Saharan Africa through better feeding. I expect that we will all gain a lot of information on this vital subject. There are many questions to be asked, and answered. One might be how we can influence the producers of raw feed ingredients - cereals, fish meal, agro-industrial byproducts, etc - to produce these materials in large enough quantities to lower the cost of production and hence the price which the livestock keeper must pay. Another might concern the chemical compositions of all types of feeds, including those from rangelands; such knowledge will be of immense help in formulating guidelines on optimum feeding and supplementation regimes. And yet another might concern the availability of animal feeds to the African farmer.
At the 1989 Annual Meeting of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, the Director General of ILCA stated that one of his Centre's thrusts would be focusing on the development of animal feed resources. He pointed out that between 1961 and 1984 about 51% of African byproduct feedstuffs were exported to developed countries. Although the figure might be slightly lower now, we need to study the factors which make our countries export feeds and at the same time import livestock products at a very high cost. Do we have among ourselves specialists on national and international markets and their trends? Do we have any influence on policy to stop such exports? In Botswana most of the livestock byproducts, such as bone and meat meal, are not exported; they are recycled back into the livestock production systems.
The African smallholder farmer is now ready to help meet the demand for more animal products by adopting new technologies for livestock production, from raising beef and dairy cattle to raising pigs, poultry and small ruminants. Feed requirements seem to be the greatest bottlenecks in his or her endeavours. Let us work with him or her on the utilisation of whatever feed resources are available, and let the knowledge of the nutritive values of individual and combined feeds be spread around so that livestock productivity may increase.
I wish this workshop every success.