The Republic of Liberia is located on the west coast of Africa (between longitudes 7o30' and 11o30' west, and latitudes 4o8’ and 8o30' north). It is bordered on the west by Sierra Leone, on the north by Guinea, on the east by Côte d’Ivoire, and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean (Figures 1a and b). It is Africa's oldest Republic, declared independent in 1874 under a constitution modelled on that of the United States of America. Two civil wars from 1990 to 2003 displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the economy and infrastructure. A democratic government was elected in 2005.
The total land area is about 9.8 million hectares (ha), half of which is tropical forest (Table 1). Arable land, comprising of uplands (41%) and lowlands (6%) cover about 47% of the total land area. Pasture land is about 182,000 ha.
Growing at an annual rate of 2.1%, Liberia’s population increased from about 2.1 million in 1984 to 3.5 million in 2008 (LISGIS, 2009a). [According to the World Factbook the July 2011 estimated population was 3.9 million, with a growth rate of 2.609%]. About 53% of the population lives in rural areas, and 70% of the active population is engaged in agricultural activities; agriculture is the dominant contributor to export trade and earnings and a source of livelihood for a greater number of people than any other sector. The sector is dominated by traditional subsistence farming systems. The use of modern technology is limited. Slash-and-burn farming, where forest lands are cleared, burned and upland rice cropped together with other crops is the primary production system. Sixteen indigenous African tribes (Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, Dei, Belle, Mandingo, and Mende) make up 95% of the population. Americo-Liberians, descendants of freed American slaves and the Congo People, freed slaves from the Caribbean make up the other 5% of the population. Liberia has 15 administrative divisions or counties. Population distribution by county is shown in Figure 2.
In 2010, the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at almost US$ 1.7 billion, growing at a rate of 5.1% with a GDP per capita of about $500 (CIA, 2010).
Land ownership is governed by statutory and customary laws. Inconsistencies in these laws have resulted in several types of land holding arrangements with different levels of tenure security. These range from deed holders with a comparatively high degree of tenure security to squatters with no security. Three main types of land ownership prevail: state or public land, individual proprietorship, and common/tribal ownership rights based on customs. Customary ownership, under which chiefs are custodians of the land, is the dominant form of land tenure. A Land Commission has recently been established to propose, advocate, and coordinate reforms of land policy, laws, and programs.
The 4 main Liberian soil types and their properties (Reed, 1951; CAAS-Lib, 2007; EPA, 2007) are summarized in Table 3. The soils range from weakly developed muds and hydromorphic clays along the coast and the inland swamps, to shallow soils on the plateaus and mountains and lateritic hills and terraces in the north. The soil patterns are determined by differences in age, parent material, physiography, and present and past climatic conditions. Latosols are the most widespread soil type, followed by lithosols, regosols and alluvial or swamp soils in that order.
Latosols or lateritic soils: developed from crystalline metamorphic and igneous rocks under high annual rainfall (1700 - 4500 mm) and mean temperature (28-300C) and occupy about 75% of the total area of Liberia (Reed, 1951). They occur on undulating, gently rolling, rolling or steeply rolling land that varies in elevation from almost sea level to about 550 m. The latosols have been classified into seven types according to their location: Ganta, Gbarnga, Kakata, Salala, Suakoko, Voinjama and Zorzor.
They are reddish brown, heavily leached, well-drained, acidic soils with good structure and deep profile. Humus, nitrogen and phosphorus contents are low, meaning that the latosols can be farmed continuously only by repeated application of fertilizers (Jallah et al., 1991). Latosols are the most productive soils in the country on which upland rice, the largest single food crop in Liberia, is grown. Large areas of the soils also support the country’s tree crops and forest as well as providing valuable materials for road construction.
Lithosols or gravel soils: are poorly weathered soils consisting of rock fragments and poorly defined horizons. They are shallow with high gravel content, low moisture retention, as well as low humus and mineral nutrient contents. Lithosols make up about 17% of the soil cover of Liberia, being found mainly in hilly, rugged and mountainous regions of the country and have limited agricultural value due to their extreme topographic variation and shallowness. They are better suited for wildlife and forest reserves.
Regosols or sandy soils: are mostly found along Liberia’s coastal plains and cover about 5% of the country’s land area. They are white to gray in color, acidic, porous (60% coarse and fine sand) soils with low humus and mineral contents. There are three main groups: Claratown, Sinko and Freeport series. Although, inherently infertile, the sandy soils are suitable for pasture, oil palm and coconut production.
Swamp soils: make up about 4% of the soils in the country. They are found in swampy areas along the coast and in the interior. They include the alluvial, grey hydromorphic, ‘half-bog’, and mangrove swamp soils. The alluvial soils occur in narrow tracts along stream and river beds. They contain the largest amount of plant nutrients of all groups of soils in Liberia. They are the best soils for annual crop production.
The most frequent of the swamp soils are the water-logged, gray hydromorphic soils. They are found in the floors of the valley, which are flooded in the rainy season. They are extremely deficient in plant nutrients, and are among the least productive soils in Liberia. However, if drained and fertilized, they can be used for producing rice and other crops.
The topography comprises mainly flat rolling coastal plains running into some interior plateaus, and then mountains in the north-eastern part of the country (Figure 4). There are four distinct relief zones or belts parallel to the coast - the coastal plains (up to 100 m above sea level - masl), rolling hills (100-300 masl), plateaux (300-600 masl), and northern highlands (in excess of 600 masl).
Coastal plains: characterized by a relatively straight coastline with sand bars and long beaches. It is interspersed with salt and fresh water lagoons, mangrove swamps, and a few promontories like Cape Mount (305 masl) in the north-west, Cape Mesurado (91 masl) in Monrovia, and Cape Palmas (30 masl) in the south-east. Its deepest extensions lie along the water-courses. Except for these promontories, capes and small hills, the altitude of the coastal region usually rises no higher than 10 to 20 masl.
Dissected plateau: reaches an average elevation of about 180 masl. Important ranges in the dissected plateau are Mount Mano, Bea, Kpo, Putu and Tienopo ranges. The greatest width of the dissected plateau is about 130 km between the Lofa and St. Paul rivers.
Northern highlands: located between Upper Lofa and Nimba counties, the northern highlands have an average elevation of about 300 masl. They consist of the Wologizi Mountain Ranges in Lofa County with a height of about 1330 masl, and the Nimba Mountain Ranges with an average elevation of nearly 1307 masl. The Nimba Mountain Ranges are shared by Liberia and Guinea.
Liberia has a tropical and humid climate. Temperature remains uniformly high throughout the year with an average varying between 260C and 280C. There are two seasons: the rainy season starts in May and ends in October each year, while the dry season starts in November and ends in April of the following year. Annual rainfall varies from 3,500-4,600 mm in the south, and declines to about 1,500-2,500 mm in the north (Figure 5). Most areas have a water surplus for 5-8 months each year.
Relative humidity ranges from 65-80%, and vapour-transpiration is estimated to be between 3-5 mm per day. Along the coast, the average relative humidity is about 82% during the wet season and 78% during the dry. The relative humidity may occasionally fall below 30% during the harmattan (the period between December and March, when dry heavily dust-laden winds from the Sahara Desert blow over the country).
Table 4 summarizes the land coverage, location and vegetation of the major agro-ecological zones (AEZ), and Figure 6 shows the main vegetation zones. Broadly, three main AEZ can be identified: 1) coastal plain or swamp, 2) forest, and 3) savannah. Each AEZ has its own unique vegetation determined by rainfall pattern, altitude, topography, temperature and human interference.
Coastal plains. The vegetation is mainly mangroves, scattered patches of bushes and savannah woodland. The vegetation and composition of plant communities are dictated by several factors, including hydrological conditions, such as the frequency and duration of flooding, depth of the water level, soil type, and physiography. The savannah plant communities in the coastal plains are potential pasture resources, especially those found in Grand Bassa, Maryland, and Sinoe counties.
Forest. The forest ecosystems can be divided into closed forest and transition or secondary forest. The closed forest can further be sub-divided into evergreen and semi-deciduous forest. The evergreen forest is characterized by trees about 30 m tall with a closed canopy growing in areas with abundant rainfall of at least 3,000 mm per year. The semi-deciduous forest has similar characteristics to the rain forest, but with a greater proportion of deciduous forest trees. Most of the closed forest has been converted into secondary forest and forest re-growth or ‘farmbush’ as a result of clearing for ‘slash-and-burn’ or shifting cultivation farming and for firewood. Generally, farming is done in the cleared site for 2-3 years before it is abandoned for a fallow period of less than 10 years.
A recent survey showed that more than 74% of the cattle population are found in Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Lofa, Bong, and Nimba counties; while Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Bong, Lofa, River Gee and Grand Cape Mount counties harbour 77% of the sheep and goat populations (Koikoi, 2011). Households in all counties own sheep and goats, but cattle ownership is restricted to households in 9 out of the 15 counties (Table 6). The percentage of households owning cattle is highest in Grand Gedeh and Maryland; while Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Nimba, River Gee, Grand Kru and Bong have the highest percent of household ownership of sheep and goats.
Cattle production is not popular in Liberia because the humid forest environment is not suited for cattle rearing. The cattle population consists mainly of the trypanotolerant N’Dama (46.3%) and Muturu (53.7%) breeds (Koikoi, 2011). They are found mostly in Bong, Nimba, Grand Kru, and Grand Gedeh. A few farmers have recently introduced the Zebu from Mali for experimental purposes. The cattle population declined during the war, and it is yet to reach the pre-war level as of 2010 (Table 5).
N’Dama. The N’Dama originated from Fouta Djallon in Guinea and was introduced into Liberia centuries ago and later became a Liberian breed (Koikoi, 2011). Until now, few cattle breeders in Liberia continue to purchase N’Dama breeding stock directly from Guinea or Cote d’Ivoire (Koikoi, 2011). N’dama cattle are mostly found in the north (Nimba), centre (Bong), north-west (Lofa) and west (Grand Cape Mount) counties, which are adjacent to the breeding areas in Sierra Leone and Guinea. There is more variation among N’Dama in village herds because breeding is not selective and there is more crossing with the Muturu (Photo 1).
Muturu or Lagoon. This breed is commonly kept in the south-east (Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Grand Kru Maryland and Sinoe counties) of the country for slaughter on special occasions (Koikoi, 2011).They are a dwarf type measuring less than one metre at the withers with heavy bodies, plain black or black-and-white coats, and short horns (Photo 2). Quantitative data on performance traits of the Muturu is limited. However, they are known to be early-maturing, fertile and survive with minimum care (Koikoi, 2011). Consequently, the Government of Liberia intends to establish a Muturu Research Centre to conserve and promote its use. The Muturu has an average carcass weight of about 110 kg.
The most prevalent diseases in cattle are Contagious Bovine Pleuro-pneumonia (CBPP) causing up to 20-50% mortality (Koikoi, 2011). Others are flukes, ticks and mite mange.
Sheep and Goats
Sheep can be found in all counties, but the numbers are higher in Nimba , Bong , Grand Gedeh, Grand Cape Mount and Lofa counties (Table 6). The indigenous, trypanotolerant West African Dwarf (WAD) or Djallonké is the common sheep breed in all the counties (FAO, 2011b; Kamara, 2011; Koikoi, 2011). It is hardy, prolific and breeds all year round. The large and long-legged Fulani or the Sahelian sheep has recently been introduced under the national re-stocking program. There are small numbers of the Fulani as well as crosses between the WAD and Fulani sheep in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties. The sheep population recently reached and now exceeds the pre-war levels (Table 5).
Goats. Most goats in Liberia are of the trypanotolerant WAD breed (FAO, 2011b). There are considerable numbers of the Red Soot breed and crosses between the WAD and the Red Sokoto goat breeds. Nimba , Bong , Grand Gedeh , Grand Kru and Lofa counties have the highest goat population (Table 6). The long-term goat population trend shows that numbers declined in the civil war, started to increase from 2005 and by 2010 exceeded the pre-war level (Table 5).
Ruminant husbandry systems
About 80-90% of the ruminants are kept under the extensive/traditional/village husbandry system (Sumberg and Cassaday, 1984; Hoste et al., 1992; FAO, 2011b; Kamara, 2011). Other husbandry systems, such as the pastoral, agro-pastoral, integrated cattle-tree plantation, ranching and peri-urban exist to a limited extent.
Dairy production systems. There is no dairy production in Liberia at the moment (Koikoi, 2011). The trade of imported milk is done from importers to stores and small traders.
Traditional, village or extensive system. Most cattle, sheep and goats are kept in free-roaming flocks or herds in villages and their environs, scavenging for feed. Owners of the free-roaming animals provide little or no supplementary feed, housing, health care and breeding management (FAO, 2011b; Hoste et al., 1992; Kamara, 2011; Koikoi, 2011; Sumberg and Cassaday, 1984). The free roaming animals may or may not be tethered during the cropping season. Tethering is common in communities where the extensive or free-roaming system is becoming disruptive to crop production, and where farmers have small number of animals, and limited access to land. Animals may be tethered in the compound or in areas where forages are available for in situ grazing. Forage may also be cut-and-carried to tethered animals in some instances. For example, Muturu cattle are sometimes tethered to avoid damage to crops in Maryland and Sinoe counties.
Pastoral and agro-pastoral systems. N’Dama herds under Fulani management are common in the northern Guinea savannah zone. During the cropping season, cattle are grazed on fallow lands and areas of natural vegetation. In the dry season, they are brought back to cultivated areas where they graze in swamps, rice fields and various areas which they cannot graze during the wet season. Herding is continuous during the rains but much more casual in the dry season. The herds are gathered in the evening and are either penned or tethered. Cows are rarely milked, although some Fulanis in Boni county are reported to occasionally milk N’Dama cows to provide fresh milk for home consumption.
Mixed crop-livestock farming or agro-pastoral systems. Integrated crop-livestock production is practiced in almost all agro-ecological zones and provinces in Liberia. Under this system, the crop and livestock enterprises are integrated components of a single farming system. The level of integration is, however, closer in the savanna than the forest zone. In the Guinea savannah zone for example, settled pastoral families are combining growing crops with rearing small herds of cattle or flock of small ruminants in the Guinea savannah zone.
Integrated cattle-tree crop plantation. There is a long history of integrated cattle-tree plantation production systems in Liberia, the main one being the rearing of N’Dama cattle under rubber plantations. For example the Liberian Agricultural Company kept a herd of N’Dama cattle on their rubber plantation at Buchanan in Grand Bassa county before the war (FAO, 2011a). Integration of livestock into tree plantations has many advantages, including reduction in the cost of weeding and re-cycling of nutrients through urine and manure. In such systems, planted or volunteer vegetation under the plantations provides the main source of feed (Asiedu et al., 1978). They include species of grasses (e.g., Panicum maximum, P. laxum, P. repens, Paspalum conjugatum), legumes (e.g., Calopogonium mucunoides, Centrosema pubescens, Desmodium adscendens, Pueraria phaseoloides) and forbs (e.g., Aspilia africana, Asystasia gangetica, Commelina nudiflora, Euphorbia hirta). However, the available biomass and regeneration of the vegetation after grazing generally diminishes with increasing age of the plantation due to closing of the canopy. [For further details of grazing livestock under tree crops, especially coconuts, refer to Reynolds, 1995].
Ranching. Commercial cattle production was started by the government, some parastatal institutions and private farmers in the Guinea savannah zone to multiply trypanotolerant cattle and sheep before the war. The cattle ranches include: Foyah, Todee, Panama, Kpain, Panta and Shanghai Farm. Additionally, the College of Agriculture and Forestry and the Central Agricultural Experimental Station established cattle ranches for their research and training purposes, while the Liberian Agricultural Company and Firestone had ranches in their rubber plantations. Cattle on the ranches grazed natural and/or sown pastures of mostly Panicum and Hyparrhenia grasses. They grazed day and night or were herded by day and kept in pens at night. The animals had access to mineral salt licks and were dipped or sprayed 2 to 4 times a month. The ranches were deserted during the war. Some ranches still exist, but they have been neglected (CAAS-Lib, 2007). Recent reports indicate that ranching is gradually emerging, and private establishments are stocking existing ranches with N’Dama and Zebu cattle (Koikoi, 2011).
Peri-urban and urban. Rearing of cattle, sheep and goats in and around cities is common in Liberia (Rhissa, 2007; Koikoi, 2011). For example in urban areas in Lofa and Gbarpolu counties, livestock farmers practice more or less semi-intensive rearing of cattle, sheep and goats for meat (Koikoi, 2011). The animals are kept on family and/or private land. Feeding is based on cut-and-carry forages, household waste, crop residues and agro-industrial by-products. The animals may also graze freely or are tethered to graze by road side where possible. The peri-urban and urban systems supply fattened rams and bucks for the expanding urban markets, especially during religious festivities.
Challenges and opportunities
Development of the ruminant sub-sector is constrained by several technical and socio-economic factors (FAPS, 2008). An FAO survey (Smith, 2002) revealed some limitations to livestock development, as follows:
The Liberian Agriculture Sector Investment Program report (LASIP, 2010) identified the following as obstacles to the development of the animal/livestock industries:
A recent review (Koikoi, 2011) of the livestock sector with respect to smallholder dairy and livestock and meat sub-sector development in Liberia identified major limitations and constraints in livestock/meat development as:
Recommendations to improve the livestock sub-sector include (Smith, 2002; Rhissa, 2007; Koikoi, 2011):
Livestock production is one of the areas of focus under Liberia’s Food and Agriculture Policy and Strategy (FAPS, 2008). According to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia “we shall strive to make the transition from “Subsistence to Sufficiency” in the food and agriculture value chains by 2015 and make substantial progress in meeting our millennium development goal of halving the proportion of our people who suffer from hunger”.
Liberia has about 2 million hectares of pasture land which provide the bulk (90-95%) of feed for the ruminant population. It comprises mainly the coastal, derived and Guinea savannahs (CAAS-Lib, 2007). Only 2,025 hectares were improved and utilized by government and private farms before the war in 1990 (Table 7).
Coastal savannah: includes patches of grasslands found in the mangrove swamp and grass/thicket in the coastal plains, especially in Bomi, Grand Bass, River Cess, Maryland and Sinoe counties. The vegetation and composition of plant communities are dictated by several factors, including hydrological conditions, such as the frequency and duration of flooding, depth of the water level, soil type, and physiography. Plant communities in the mangrove swamps contain grasses such as Axonopus flexuosus, Cenchrus biflorus, Dactyloctenium aegyptium, Hyparrhenia mutica, Leptothrium senegalense, Sporobolus virginicus, Panicum congoense, P. repens, Paspalum vaginatum, Pennisetum polystachion, and Setaria anceps. Grasses found in the grass-thicket plant communities include: Andropogon canaliculatus, A. gayanus, Brachiaria fulvibarbis, Hyparrhenia smithiana, Schizachyrium sanguineum, and Vetiveria fulvibarbis. Areas with loose soil and moisture derived from run-off and drainage have tall grasses such as A. gayanus, Cymbopogon giganteus, Hyperthelia dissoluta, Panicum maximum, Pennisetum purpureum, and Rottoboellia exalta.
Derived savannah: is an expanding zone along the forest fringes where grassland or savannah is gradually replacing forest as a result of human interference (Rose-Innes, 1977). The vegetation is a mixture of trees with closed or partially closed canopy and a thick ground cover of tall shade-tolerant grasses and forbs. It contains relic patches of forest trees such as, Antiaris, Borassus, Burkea, Elaeis, Daniellia, Lonchocarpus, Lophira, Parkia, Phyllanthus and Pterocarpus. The grass species include Andropogon gayanus, A. tectorum, Beckeropis uniseta, Chasmopodium caudatum, Hyperthelia and Hyparrhenia spp., Panicum maximum, Pennisetum purpureum, Rottboellia exaltata, Schizachyrium sanguineum, Paspalum and Melinis species. Forage legumes, such as Centrosema pubescens and Pueraria phaseoloides may be seen along the forest-savanna fringes.
Guinea savannah: a typical fire-controlled tree savannah community of broad-leaved deciduous trees, densely distributed in a continuous ground cover of perennial bunch grasses and forbs. The crowns of the trees reach a height of 12-15m but seldom form a closed canopy except over small areas. The height and density of trees may vary from place to place in response to soil conditions as well as the type and degree of disturbance such as the season and frequency of burning, and intensity of grazing.
The main woody genera include: Afzelia, Briedelia, Daniellia, Entada, Gardenia, Isoberlinia, Lannea, Lophira, Monotes, Parkia, Butyrospermum, Mangifera, Pterocarpus and Terminalia. Most of the tall grasses found in the derived savannah are also found in the Guinea savannah. Significant grass species are Andropogon gayanus, Beckeropsis uniseta, Brachiaria jubata, Chasomopodium, Ctenium newtonii, Cymbopogon giganteus, Digitaria diagonalis, Hyparrhenia, Panicum maximum, Pennisetum purpureum, Seteria and Tristachya superba.
Grasses in the savannah woodlands generally grow fast during the wet season, resulting in the accumulation of biomass deficient in nitrogen and of low digestibility by the end of the growing season. Also, legume composition of the natural pastures is generally low, although some herbaceous (e.g., Centrosema pubescens and Pueraria phaseoloides) and shrubby legumes may occasionally be seen growing in the derived and guinea savannahs.
Artificially re-vegetated pasture resources (sown pastures) are limited (Rhissa, 2007; Koikoi, 2011). As stated earlier, only 2,025 hectares out of the estimated two million hectares of natural pastures were established and utilized on ranches owned by government and private farmers before the war in 1990 (Table 7). Several technical and socio-economic factors could be responsible for the limited area of sown pastures. They include: vast communally grazed natural pasture resources; the relatively small ruminant population mostly owned by smallholder farmers who do not approach livestock rearing as a business, and problems with land acquisition.
Desmodium ovalifolium CIAT 3784, D. incanum CIAT 13032, M. atropurpureum, and S. macrocephala CIAT 1582 perished after the first year. Stylosanthes guianensis CIAT 136 was the best biomass producer and weed suppressor in the first year; but it gave the lowest dry matter in the third year (Table 8). The high dry matter yield and weed suppression potentials of S. guianensis CIAT 13032 during the first year suggested that it could be used in short-fallow to produce feed for livestock and to improve soil fertility. Centrosema pubescens CIAT 5189, Centrosema sp. CIAT 5112 and C. macrocarpum CIAT 5062 and 5065 consistently increased in dry matter yield and suppressed weeds best over the 3-year study period, suggesting that Centrosema species can be used in pastures under tree crop plantations for feed and for weed management.
Fodder shrubs and trees
A pastoral area development plan, aimed at reducing degradation of pastoral resources by ensuring their rational management to increase animal production and to satisfy the needs of the people, was proposed for implementation during 2007-2009 (CAAS-Lib, 2007; Rhissa, 2007). Priority activities of the plan included: taking inventory of rangeland and pastoral resources; rehabilitating existing ranches (Table 7); developing pastoral areas; and building human capacity in pastoral management.
Other activities envisaged under the plan were to: 1) design and establish schemes for resource development at the communal, local, county and national levels; 2) construct animal passage channels or grazing routes; 3) map pastures and watering sites; 4) rehabilitate and/or construct stock watering facilities (ponds, wells, dams, micro-dams, etc.); 5) control tsetse fly and/or establishment of tsetse free zones; 6) design and implement pasture and grazing management strategies; and 7) monitor pastoral ecosystems.
Liberia has pasture resources with high potential for cattle, sheep and goat production. However, many are yet to be rehabilitated. With the exception of the cattle ranch of the Central Agricultural Research Institute which is currently utilized by M. D. Sow and Associates (a cattle breeding incorporated group), other ranches lie in ruins or are overgrown by bushes (Koikoi, 2011). Several technical and socio-economic factors constrain improvement of the pasture resources in Liberia (FAPS, 2008; Koikoi, 2011; SFNS, 2010). Among these are:
In spite of the numerous constraints, opportunities exist to increase the contribution of pasture and fodder resources to livestock production and natural resource management. A few are outlined below:
Enabling environment. The Government of Liberia and some donors are interested in investing in the livestock sub-sector to reduce poverty, food insecurity and unemployment as part of the ‘Livestock Development and Promotion’ program (LASIP, 2010). A priority activity under the program is to ‘preserve, improve, and exploit common pastoral property resources of the country’.
Research and development partners are available. The Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) is a semi-autonomous institute that undertakes applied and adaptive research in crop and animal sciences, including pasture and fodder resources. CARI is well connected to the network of international agricultural research and development partners such as the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and FAO. Others are international and national non-governmental organizations (NGO) and farmers’ groups that are interested in dissemination of improved pasture and ruminant production, at the grass-root level.
There are universities (e.g., University of Liberia, Cuttington University), institutes (e.g., Agricultural Institute and Training Bureau, Gardnersville, Monrovia) and training centres (e.g., Youth Agriculture Training Centre, Johnsonville) which can be strengthened to train research and extension staff on various aspects of ruminant and pasture production. In addition, the agricultural extension system is being re-oriented to be operational at the national, provincial, district, and farm levels to facilitate knowledge dissemination. Also, Farmer Training Centres are being developed in all counties to train farmers on various aspects of farming including livestock and pasture and production.
Also, there are proven technologies on pasture resources in the West African sub-region (e.g., Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire) that can be adapted to the Liberian conditions. In addition, the Forage Genebank of ILRI has large collections of grass and legume species which can be used by CARI to initiate research on pasture and fodder crops.
Grassland policy. The absence of a grassland policy negatively affects the development and management of the country’s pastoral resources and the ruminant livestock industry. A comprehensive grassland policy is needed. It should take into consideration the peculiarities of the different vegetation zones, the entire value chain, interest of consumers and producers and preservation of the natural resource base. The focus should be on the Derived and Guinea savannah zones, indigenous grass and legume species, counties bordering Cote d’Ivoire (Grand Gedeh, Maryland, River Gee and Nimba counties) with vast grasslands, and bush fire management.
Establishment of County Grassland Management Committee. For efficient and sustainable management of the communally grazed grassland, a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional County Grassland Management Committee (CGMC) will be needed. The committee should be comprised of herders, farmers, research and extension staff, and decision makers at the local, district, county and national levels. The CGMC should be mandated to develop and implement a pasture resources improvement plan for each county.
Land tenure. The land tenure system needs to be revised to make it easier for those who really need land for ruminant production to obtain it. Communal grazing, which is common in the counties, is free, and therefore unattractive for commercial livestock enterprises.
Strengthening institutional capacity. The Ministry of Agriculture, CARI, universities and agricultural institutes have limited staff with specialization in pasture resources management. There will be a need to establish strategic partnerships with international research (e.g., ILRI, IITA) and development (e.g., FAO, Heifer International) partners to train more research and extension staff.
Rural finance. The ruminant industry is dominated by resource-poor smallholder livestock keepers. Therefore, enabling policies and institutions should be put in place to assist farmers who are interested in the ruminant industry (fattening or dairy production) to access loans and credits to purchase inputs.
Mapping pasture resources. The pasture resources of the country must be mapped at the national, county, district and local levels. The extent of the savannah woodlands and their status should be noted. Indigenous knowledge on pasture resources management should be documented. This information will be needed to develop a comprehensive grassland policy.
Rehabilitation of abandoned and degraded pasture resources. The County Grassland Management Committee should give priority to rehabilitation and equipment of the existing ranches to bring them back to production. Based on the inventory of pasture resources proposed above, degraded grasslands in each county should be identified and rehabilitated in partnership with the local communities. Several rangeland improvement methods could be employed, including: selective felling of unwanted trees and shrubs to encourage vigorous growth of grass; control of weeds such as Imperata cylindrica, Sporobolus spp. and Eleusine spp., Sida spp. and Acanthospermum spp.; planting of native browse species such as Pterocarpus erinaceous, Bauhinia rufescens, Afzelia africana, Ficus gnaphalocarpa, Opilia celtidifolia and Khaya senegalensis; introduction of an acceptable nutritious legume (S. humilis) and/or grass (A. gayanus); repairing existing stock watering points (ponds, wells, dams); and grazing management (deferred grazing, rotational grazing).
Database on pasture resources. There is scanty quantitative data on pasture and forage resources in Liberia. On-station and on-farm research will be needed to collect biological and socio-economic data in the different agro-ecological zones. Research is needed to increase knowledge on the role of the adapted grass (e.g., P. maximum, A. gayanus) and legumes (S. guainensis) species. Information is also required as to their distribution, variability, reaction to grazing intensity, tolerance to fire, seed production potential and nutritive value in relation to stage of growth. The reaction of natural grasslands to burning and the use of fire to maintain grass species and production in the dry season also need careful study.
Development of grazing reserves. Areas in the northern savannah region can be designated for cattle production and group ranching. Grazing reserves should be established in the context of total land use systems. Regulatory control of herd size and distribution to achieve ecological balance and avoid overgrazing will need policy attention.
Bush fire management. Indiscriminate annual bush fires which drastically reduce the available biomass for grazing during the dry season are a big threat to ranching in the country. Enabling policies and appropriate institutions will be needed to control annual fires.
Integration of legumes. Nitrogen deficiency constrains crop and livestock production in the smallholder, low-input, shifting cultivation system. Forage legumes such as Stylosanthes guianensis, Centrosema pubscens, Pueraria phaseoloides, Chamaecrista rotundifolia, and Aschynomene histrix can be integrated to improve soil nitrogen through biological nitrogen fixation. The legumes can also provide protein-rich fodder as supplements to ruminants fed low quality straw diets. Possible entry points for the legumes include: improved fallows, cereal-legume rotations, pasture under tree crop plantations and fodder banks.
Intensive fodder production. Farmers involved in market-oriented peri-urban fattening and (in due course) dairy production systems should be encouraged to establish fodder banks or intensive feed gardens. Fodder banks of forage legumes species such as S. guianensis, C. pubescens, C. rotundifolia and A. histrix can be used to supplement rangeland grazing in the pastoral and ranching systems. Intensive feed gardens of either pure stands of grass species (e.g., P. maximum, Cenchrus ciliaris, Pennisetum purpureum) or grasses in association with legumes (e.g., C. pubescens, S. guianensis, P. phaseoloides) can be used for cut-and-carry feeding.
Forage seed production. Rehabilitation of degraded pasture resources and sustainable integration of forages into the production system as fodder banks and feed gardens require a steady source of forage seeds and planting materials. However, there are no established domestic forage seed industries. Private sector investment in forage seed production should be promoted. Village-based seed systems should be encouraged to make quality forage seeds available at affordable prices.
Tsetse control. An outstanding negative feature of the Derived savannah and some part of the Guinea savannah is the presence of tsetse flies (Glossina spp.) and the constant threat of trypanosomiasis. Selective bush clearing and tsetse control should be undertaken to create tsetse-free zones and allow safer and increased production of N’Dama cattle.
Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI)
Seklau Elizabeth Wiles
Smith E. G.
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This profile was prepared in the period November 2011 to July 2012 by Asamoah Larbi, a consultant Systems Agronomist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Tamale, Ghana since February 2012. Asamoah was a Principal Research Scientist at the Animal Research Institute, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (ARI-CSIR), Accra, Ghana from July 2011-January 2012. He was a Research Scientist in forage agronomy and integrated crop-livestock production with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) [previously known as the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) from 1992-2003] and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) from July 2003-June 2011.
For additional information, please contact the author as below:
[The profile was edited by S.G. Reynolds and J. M. Suttie in December 2011 and further revised in July 2012].
To prepare a Country Pasture Profile for Liberia after a 14 year civil war (1990-2003) has not been an easy task due to the absence or inaccessibility of adequate documentation. Neither was collection of data in the field by the author possible. Therefore, the author is grateful to all those who in one way or the other contributed to the production of this document; in particular Ms Seklau Elizabeth Wiles, National Livestock Program Coordinator, National Livestock Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture, Republic of Liberia for the fruitful discussions and relevant documents on the livestock sub-sector. Also, the author highly appreciated the considerable contribution of Mr. Edmord Greaves, a Sierra Leonean graduate student at the Animal Science Department, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana and a staff member of the Livestock Division of the National Livestock Bureau, Ministry of Agriculture, Republic of Liberia, who assisted with a survey on livestock and forage production in Liberia, and took photographs for the compilation of this document.