Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles


Mauritania

Francais


by

Ahmedou Ould Soule


1. Introduction
2. Soils and Topography
3. Climate and Agro-ecological Zones
4. Ruminant Livestock Production Systems
5. The Pasture Resource
6. Opportunities for Improvement of Fodder Resources
7. Research and Development Organizations and Personnel
8. References
9. Contacts
10. Annex 1

1. INTRODUCTION

Mauritania is a vast Sahelo-Saharan country, predominantly Saharan, covering 1,030,000 km2. It is in the north-west of Africa between 15° and 27°N and 5° and 17° West. In the north it borders with Morocco and Algeria, to the west with Mali, to the south with Senegal, and to the west with the Atlantic Ocean (Figure 1). The latest census found 2, 548, 157 inhabitants (Ould Ekeïbed, 2001) living on less than forty percent of the country (according to the World Factbook the estimated population of July 2006 was 3,177,388 with a growth rate of 2.88%). Three quarters of the country is covered by the Sahara desert, the remainder belongs to the Sahelian zone.

Figure 1a –Map of Mauritania

Figure 1b. Administrative map of Mauritania

The majority of the population are of Arab-Berber origin (White Moors, Black Moors or Haratins) and there are many Negroid Africans: Halpoularen, Sonikés, Wolof and Bambara. The religion is Islam and the official language is Arabic. Mauritania gained its independence on 28 November 1960.

The main national resources come from trade, mining and fisheries. There is also a large potential for stock rearing and to a lesser degree, crop production.


2. SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY

Topography
More than half of the country is part of the African Plain, the rest is a combination of vast plains with, scattered here and there, the plateaux of Adrar, Tagant and Affolé the heights of which vary from 200 to 800 metres with the highest point at 917 metres at Kédia d’Idjil. The lowest altitudes are along the Atlantic Coast at under 50 metres. To the east of the littoral are continental dunes between 50 and 100 metres. Between the dunes and the Plateaux of Assaba, Tagant and Adrar there are ergs with scattered stony buttes, usually under 100 metres. In general the topographic variation affects neither the temperature nor the vegetation.

Soils
The soils of Mauritania are divided, classically, by climatic regions as follows (Wa Nsanga 1982 ):

- Soil Region A. In the extreme south of the country is the best watered zone and receives over 500 mm. It is the northern limit of the dry savanna. This zone has the best potential for rainfed cropping and pastures.

- Soil Region B: takes in those zones with rainfalls between 225 and 500 mm. In order of predominance pastures are on sandy dunes or other wind deposited sands, rocky land, pediments or outcrops in the desert, undifferentiated very high land, coastal dunes, sebkhas (inland areas of salt deposits caused by repeated flooding from the sea) and complex soils. Grazing and agriculture are the main uses of that zone.

- Soil Region C. This comprises all the rest of the country where the rainfall is usually under 225 mm. In this region there are three main land forms: the commonest is sand dunes, followed by rocky land then pediments which are rarer.


3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES

Climate
The climate of Mauritania is governed by three centres of activity (Diagana, 1998):

- The Azores anticyclone, sited at the south-west of the Azores archipelago, the sea wind from this anticyclone blows north-north-west permanently on the Mauritanian littoral.

- The St Helena anticyclone or monsoon: centred in the south Atlantic, blows south or south-west and is responsible for the summer rains.

- The anticyclones which form in the Sahara in winter, moving northwards and create the Saharan depression. The Harmattan coming from these anticyclones is cool and dry in winter and hot and dry in summer.

The activity of these different air currents give rise to great annual variability in precipitation. Taking rainfall and its distribution throughout the year, the following are distinguished in Mauritania:

- a dry tropical Sahelo-Sudanese climate characterised by eight months dry in the extreme south of the country (rainfall of 400 mm or above)

- a sub-desert Sahelo-Saharan climate with a great temperature range and between 200 and 400 mm of rain.

A desert Saharan climate in the centre with under 200 mm of rain annually.

The deterioration of climatic conditions, caused by droughts, have brought about a displacement of the isohyets towards the south and is at the origin of a phenomenon of desertification. All the north of the country (about three quarters of the national territory) is desert (Figure 2). It is sparsely populated (Table 3). The Sahelian zone extends from west to east over a strip 200 km long.

Figure 2 : Isohyets (mm) 1961-1990 (Map based on data from AGRYMET/RIM)

Overall the Mauritanian climate can be subdivided into three seasons:

- A rainy season from June to October
- A dry cold season from October to March
- A hot dry season from March to June

The rainy season varies greatly in both time and space. It extends over a period of four months, from June to September/October, along a gradient north-south and west-east from several millimetres to 450 mm annually (Figure 3). The inter-annual instability of rainfall increases as the total rainfall is less (Nations Unies, 2001).

Figure 3. Rainfall gradients north-south and east-west. (Source: Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Environnement)

a. Rainfall gradients N – S (mean rainfall in mm)

b. Rainfall gradients E – W (mean rainfall in mm)

Ecological zones
Mauritania can be divided into five ecological zones according to climatic characteristics (Figure 4), the main characteristics of which are shown in Table 1.

- The arid zone covers all the land below the 150 mm isohyet, excluding the littoral band. It corresponds to the Saharan climate.
- The eastern Sahelian zone comprises the land between the 150 mm isohyet and the border of the two Hodhs and Mali. This zone contains half the sylvopastoral potential of the country.
- The west Sahelian zone is between the 150 mm isohyet and the Senegal river.
- The riverine zone is where most of Mauritania’s agriculture is concentrated.
- The seafront is a narrow band of 50 metres between Nouadhibou and N'diago

Within these ecological zones there are wetlands which are transit areas for migrating birds, some of which harbour a rich avifauna. The main wetlands are: The Senegal river; lake Rkiz; lake Mâl, Tamourt N’nâj, The Banc d’Arguin national park and the Diawling National Park.

Table 1 Characteristics of Mauritania's ecological zones
Ecological zones  Territories involved  Area Population Density
Km2 % Habitants %
Arid Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Oualata, Magta Lahjar, Boumdeid, Boutilimitt. 810 000 78 300 000 13 0.4
West Sahel Assaba and parts of Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol and Guidimakha. 75 000 7 440 000 19 6
East Sahel The two Hodhs less the Department of Oualata. 100 000 10 420 000 18 4
River Some Departments of Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol and Guidimakha. 22 000 2 450 000 19 20
Sea coast Littoral from Nouadhibou to Keur Macène. 25 000 3 700 000 31 28

Figure 4. The Ecological Zones

Agriculture
In Mauritania crop production is greatly influenced by the geographic situation of the country. It is concentrated in the south, along the Senegal river between 18° N and 20° N. There are five cropping systems depending on regions and irrigation potential; these are: rainfed cropping; irrigated cropping; receding flood crops and oases.

It is estimated that the land suitable for agricultural activities is 500,200 hectares (Table 2), that is about half a percent of the country’s area (Nations Unies, 2001). The agricultural potential can vary considerably from year to year.

Table 2. Mauritania’s agricultural potential

Wilaya

(administrative unit)

Area (km2)

Potential (thousand hectares)

TOTAL

(‘000 ha)

Rainfed

Décrue

Oasis

Irrigated

District Nouakchott

120

-

-

-

-

-

Hodh Chargui

182 700

70

8

0

0

78

Hodh Gharbi

53 400

42

16

0.5

0

58.5

Assaba

36 600

15

8.5

1.5

0

25

Gorgol

13 600

25

25

0

38.3

88.3

Brakna

33 000

13

19.1

0

49.7

81.8

Trarza

67 800

0

18

0

47.3

65.3

Adrar

215 300

0

28

2

0

30

Dakhlet Nouadhibou

17 800

-

-

-

-

-

Tagant

95 200

0

12.5

1.5

0

14

Guidimakha

10 300

55

4

0

2.1

61.1

Tiris Zemmour

258 580

-

-

-

-

-

Inchiri

46 300

-

-

-

-

-

TOTAL

1 030 700

220

139.1

5.5

137.4

502

The agricultural potential is unequally distributed; the four southern districts (Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol and Guidmakha) which cover 12 percent of the country, contain 59 percent of the arable and almost all the irrigable land.

Table 3. Distribution of agricultural land by wilaya (2000) (Nations Unies, 2001 )

Wilaya

Area (ha)

Average cultivated area (ha)

Potential area (ha)

Cultivated as % of potential

District de Nouakchott

12 000

-

-

-

Hodh Chargui

18 270 000

40 205

78 000

54.54

Hodh Gharbi

5 340 000

25 693

58 500

43.92

Assaba

3 660 000

20 426

25 000

81.70

Gorgol

1 360 000

53 030

88 300

60.06

Brakna

3 300 000

14 952

81 800

18.28

Trarza

6 780 000

31 603

65 300

48.40

Adrar

21 530 000

337

30 000

1.12

Dakhlet Nouadhibou

1 780 000

-

-

-

Tagant

9 520 000

3 725

14 000

26.61

Guidimakha

1 030 000

18 516

61 100

30.30

Tiris Zemmour

25 858 000

-

-

-

Inchiri

4 630 000

-

-

-

TOTAL

103 070 000

208 487

502 000

41.53

- Rainfed crops are closely linked to the rainfall regime and can vary considerably from year to year. The main crops, sorghum, millet and maize are grown in mixture with cowpeas, water-melon, groundnuts, Hibiscus sabdariffa etc. Although the main national means of production, rainfed crops only cover, according to the year, 13 to 30 percent of the country’s needs. About 80 percent of the production is consumed domestically. Their contribution to GDP is insignificant and tending to decrease.
- Irrigated crops. The rhythm of development of irrigated areas has increased considerably in the river valley in recent years, thanks to a rapid increase in private irrigation development. This spectacular development of irrigated cropping although raising hopes involves the use of modern technology and the use of polluting products: fertilizers and pesticides. The main crop is rice. In addition some off-season crops, (sorghum, maize and horticultural crops) are grown.
- Falling-flood crops. The system is based on exploiting the floodable areas of the Senegal River and its tributaries; the zones of water held above dams and bunds; topographic depressions. This form of agriculture is now threatened by water management rules which were imposed after the opening of the hydro-electric plant at Manatali. The main crops thus grown are sorghum and maize, traditionally mixed with water-melon and cowpeas.
- Oases. The oases are celebrated for their date palms. The palm groves are mainly in the regions of Adrar, Tagant, Assaba and the two Hodhs. The number of date palms is estimated to be 1,870,780 covering 5,500 hectares. In the palm groves dates are grown in association with vegetables and fodder crops (mainly lucerne). The main oasis products are: dates, horticultural crops, lucerne and, to a lesser degree, wheat, barley, sorghum and cowpea.

4. RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Previously animal husbandry was separate from crop production, but there has been an evolution over recent decades and livestock are now found in all agricultural production systems. Thus, in Mauritania, the main production systems are: nomadic pastoral systems; pastoral and agropastoral transhumant; sedentary agropastoral and stock rearing systems associated with cropping; extensive and semi-intensive urban systems.

In Mauritania stock rearing is the main activity of the rural sector. In most cases it is extensive but, for several years, there has been an evolution towards other forms. Despite years of serious drought which reduced fodder and water resources considerably and decimated the livestock during the nineteen-seventies and eighties, stock rearing remains an important activity. The official contribution of the sector to the national added value for 2000 is around 68 milliards of Oguiya (1 US$ = 258.750 Oguiya (MRO) in 2003), that is about 21 percent of the GDP (FAO 2001). It is mainly practiced in the Sahelian zone which covers the south of the country between 15° and 18° North. The distribution of the livestock is related to the species.

Cattle are essentially limited to that part between the 150 mm isohyet and the south of the country. Small ruminants are found throughout the territory with high densities in the south and south-east. Most of the camels are north of the 400 mm isohyet with greatest densities near the coast since camels are very fond of the salty grazing.

There is a zonal specialisation in types of stock rearing: the Sahel Est is the most important zone with 64 percent of the cattle, 49 percent of small ruminants and 40 percent of camels. The Sahel Ouest is the second livestock zone with 33 percent of the cattle, 44 percent of small stock and 22 percent of the camels. The arid zone is the least important with 3 percent of cattle, 7 percent of the small stock and 38 percent of the camels.

There is different information on stock numbers. Figures for 2000 published by the Ministry of Rural Development and the Environment are: cattle 1,657,000; small ruminants 12,555,000; camels 1,247,000; asses and horses 212,000. FAO data on livestock numbers, cattle exports and meat and milk imports are given in Table 4. By 2004 the small ruminant population approached 15 m head and of the milk production of 348,600 tonnes over 200,000 tonnes was from sheep and goats.

Table 4. Mauritania statistics for livestock numbers, meat and milk production, live animal exports and milk and meat imports for the period 1996-2005 

 

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Cattle
nos.
(,000,000)

1.12

1.35

1.39

1.48

1.52

1.57

1.56

1.60

1.60

1.60

Camel nos. (,000,000)

1.11

1.16

1.19

1.21

1.25

1.27

1.30

1.30

1.30

1.30

Sheep
nos.
(,000,000)

6.20

6.30

6.84

7.69

8.04

8.40

8.77

8.80

8.85

8.85

Goat
nos.
(,000,000)

4.13

4.20

4.56

4.87

5.09

5.32

5.56

5.60

5.60

5.60

Asses nos. (,000)

155.0

155.5

156.0

156.5

157.0

157.5

157.5

158.0

158.0

158.0

Beef and veal prod. (,000 mt.)

10.2

12.5

13.5

14.0

21.0

22.0

22.0

23.0

23.0

23.0

Sheep meat prod. (,000 mt)

15.8

16.5

18.8

20.7

21.8

23.0

24.0

24.0

24.8

24.8

Goat meat prod. (,000 mt.)

9.8

9.9

11.0

11.9

12.5

13.1

13.7

13.8

13.8

13.8

Camel meat prod. (,000)

18.1

18.3

18.3

16.2

19.9

20.9

22.0

22.0

22.0

22.0

Total milk prod. (,000 mt.)
[of which cow]

300.9 [106.8]

303.4 [108.5]

314.4 [110.3]

320.4 [113.8]

322.4 [115.5]

322.4 [115.5]

348.3 [120.4]

348.8* [120.8]

348.8* [120.8]

348.8
[120.8]

Live cattle exports nos. (,000)

70

60

50

50

0

0

0

0

0

n.r.

Live camel exports nos. (,000)

25

25

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

n.r.

Live sheep exports nos. (,000)

206

245

195

250

200

250

280

200

300

n.r.

Live goat exports nos. (,000)

120

120

120

120

120

200

100

100

120

n.r.

Milk equiv. imports (,000 mt)

52.78

58.66

41.28

53.43

35.19

71.90

72.99

75.21

85.21

n.r.

Fresh milk imports (,000 mt)

5.50

8.30

6.20

4.02

5.06

12.05

8.37

10.26

13.68

n.r.

Chicken meat imports (,000 mt)

0.1

0.1

0.1

1.2

2.8

2.8

5.5

6.0

4.2.

n.r.

Source: FAOSTAT 2006; n.r. no record
* In 2004 sheep milk production was 96,025 tonnes, goat milk 109,800 tonnes and camel milk 22,000 tonnes.

Livestock numbers have undergone large variations since 1964 (the first statistics available date from then). The drop in numbers has been caused by various droughts. Small stock and camels have suffered much less from drought than have the cattle (Figure 5). At present herd numbers have been reconstituted and are higher than prior to the cycles of drought which began in 1968. The recent evolution of numbers is due to the good rainfall which the country has enjoyed.

The domestic livestock reared in Mauritania belong to the following species (Table 5) (Kane 1995). Cattle - Moorish Zebu and Peulh Zebu; sheep - Moorish sheep both short and long haired, Peulh sheep; goats – Gouéra, dwarf eastern sheep; camels – Brabiche and Rgueïbi; horses – Barb and Arab; asses – local; poultry.

Cattle (Bos indicus). There are two distinct breeds. The Moorish Zebu accounts for three quarters of the total. It is a hardy animal which can go as far north as the 150 mm isohyet. It is very tough and may drink only every second day. The Peulh Zebu is only found in the south of the country (mainly in Gorgol Assaba and Guidimakha).

Sheep (Ovis aries); there are three breeds. The Moorish short hair (Toubair or Ladem) is greatly appreciated for its meat. The Moorish long-hair is markedly smaller than the preceding breed. Its black hair is long enough to be woven. Peulh sheep or Poulfouli have characteristics similar to the Moorish short-hair. It is only in the south of the country.

Figure 5: Evolution of stock numbers (thousand head)
(Source: Direction de l'élevage)

Goats (Capra hircus). The following breeds occur. The Sahel or Spotted goat is met throughout the country; the Saharan, or Spanish or Gouéra goat; the Dwarf Eastern goat or Djouger.

Camels (Camelus dromedarius). Two breeds occur; the Sahel Camel – Rguebi and the Aftout or Brabiche camel.

Horses (Equus caballus). Two breeds are present; the Barb and the Arab or Breed of the two Hodhs

Asses (Equus asinus) the local breed is found throughout the country.

Poultry. These are mainly local or exotic breeds of Gallus gallus; recent estimates give 3,500,000 local fowls under traditional systems. Traditionally some ducks and Guinea fowl are also reared.

Table 5. The ruminants kept in Mauritania (Kane, 1995)

Species

Breed

Weight

Milk production

Cattle

Moorish

Male of 500 kg
Female of 250 to 300 kg

600 to 1 000 litres per lactation of 6 to 7 months.

Peulh

Male of 350 to 450 kg
Female of 250 to 300 kg

300 to 500 litres per lactation of 6 to 7 months.

Sheep

Moorish short-hair

40 to 50 kg

50 to 100 litres per lactation of 5 to 6 months.

Moorish long-hair

Male of 30 to 45 kg
Female of 25 to 35 kg

30 to 60 litres per lactation of 5 to 6 months.

Peulh

Male of 30 to 50 kg
Female of 25 to 40 kg

30 to 90 litres per lactation of 5 to 6 months.

Goats

Sahel goat

25 to 35 kg

100 to 300 litres per lactation of 5 to 6 months.

Sahara (Gouéra)

30 to 40 kg

300 to 400 litres per lactation of 5 to 6 months.

Dwarf Eastern

15 to 20 kg

200 to 300 litres per lactation of 5 to 7 months.

Camels

Dromedary of l’Aftout

350 to 600 kg

900 to 2000 litres per lactation of 6 to 18 months.

Sahel
Dromedary

350 to 600 kg

900 to 2000 litres per lactation of 6 to 18 months.

Livestock production
Animal production, being largely dependent on the forage available from natural pasture, is characterised by short periods of weight gain and increases of milk production during the wet season (3 – 4 months) followed by long periods of weight loss and falling milk production (8 – 9 months).

The sale of live animals and livestock products such as milk, meat, butter, hides and skins, wool etc. is the main source of income of the stock rearer. The market price of livestock depends on supply and demand. Transactions are made per head of livestock. The animals sold are generally old males and cull females. Young small ruminants, especially goats, are intensively exploited; the females are usually kept.

Milk production. Milk is important in the Mauritanian diet. It is eaten fresh, as curd or as butter. The alternating seasons and feed supply for stock are important factors governing production. In the wet season production is much higher than in the dry season because of forage and water are much more abundant in the rainy season. The variation in the nutritive value of the pastures causes not only variations in milk production but also in milk quality, that of the rainy season being better.

Milk production is estimated at 362 866 tons of which 36 percent is from cattle, 8.5 percent from small ruminants and 55.5 percent from camels (according to FAO statistics 2004 milk production was 348,600 tonnes with 34.7 percent from cattle, 27.5 percent from sheep, 31.5 percent from goats and only6.3 percent from camels). The average consumption of locally produced milk is 56 litres per inhabitant annually. Despite an annual production equivalent to 150 litres per head of population, Mauritania has to import milk powder and sterilised milk. From Table 4 it is noted that in 2003 fresh milk imoprts were 10,180 tonnes and total milk equivalent imports were 75,210 tonnes.

The two pasteurisation units have organised milk collection from semi-intensive and peri-urban (transhumant or sedentary) producers. These collections are organised with modern methods, pick-ups, tankers etc. With a view to rationalising and developing milk production the pasteurisation units have organised producers which has allowed, in addition to an increase in production, improved management of herds which are better fed and cared for.

Meat production. Annual meat production is about 75,426 tonnes of which 16,215 are from cattle, 38,745 from small ruminates, 18,046 from camels and 2,420 from poultry (By 2004 total meat production was 89,349 tonnnes including 23,000 tonnes of beef and veal, 24,750 tonnes of sheep meat, 13,800 tonnes of goat meat and 22,000 tonnes of camel meat - see Table 4). Mauritania is self sufficient in meat and sells excess production (live animals) to neighbouring countries: Senegal, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and the countries of the Maghreb Arab Union. Live exports are of the order of 43,300 cattle and 300,000 sheep (However, in 2003 live cattle exports were estimated at 0 head as well as 280,000 sheep, 100,000 goats and 0 camels - Table 4). The exportable surplus has been estimated at 43,300 cattle, 327,600 small ruminants and 31,600 camels, that is 17,100 tons of carcase equivalent (Marchés Tropicaux et Méditerranéens, 1998).

Other livestock products. The potential exploitable as hides and skins is estimated at 78,000 cattle and 1,800,000 small ruminants. Hides and skins of small ruminants and cattle are used by local artisans but camel hides are not. Export of hides and skins are limited and are mainly sheep skins (according to customs statistics exports are about 20 percent of controlled slaughter and 2.5 percent of total slaughter). (Marchés Tropicaux et Méditerranéens, 1998). Collection of raw skins is mainly done at Nouakchott. Hoofs and horns are little exploited. Sheep’s wool, greatly appreciated, is used to make tents as is camel wool. Cow dung is used as fuel. It is also used in making mud-brick.

Animal traction. In the Saharan and Saharo-Sahelian zones where wells can be tens of metres deep, drawing water is done with the help of camels or less commonly asses. When water is drawn from wells with a delou (a kind of cowhide bucket) its capacity can be over 50 litres. In the valley animal drawn cultivation is used; the most commonly used animals are oxen, horses and asses. Carts pulled by horses or asses are used to carry water and merchandise and sometimes even passengers.

Livestock production systems
Previously stock rearing was separate from agriculture but there has been an evolution in recent decades and livestock are now found in all agricultural production systems. The principal production systems are: nomadic pastoral systems; transhumant pastoral systems; agropastoral and sedentary systems associated with crops; extensive urban systems; semi-extensive urban systems.

Nomadic pastoral systems.
Formerly very important in Mauritanian production systems, nomadism has suffered a serious regression during the past thirty years, principally because of drought. The main animals in this system are goats and camels. This system is characterised by great herd mobility. The herd movements depend on the availability of natural pasture and water points.

During the rainy season the herds go as far north as possible within their territories. During the cool dry season (October - February) the herds move slowly southwards. In the hot dry season (March – July) the nomads are usually camped around water points. In the north the nomads are sometimes obliged to take camel herds very far from water points (sometimes over 30 kilometres) to find grazing. Even if camels are on pasture well supplied with water they may not drink for weeks, even up to one to three months. Nomadic herds are tended by herders who are often old nomads who have lost their own herds during drought years, or their sons. They generally look after herds, on remuneration, owned by urban proprietors. The herders often have their own small herds of goats.

The livestock travel daily over long distances in search of forage which is mainly trees, shrubs and herbs. Only weak animals may get some supplementary feed of wheat or groundnut cake. The nomads are very familiar with the plants and livestock. Their knowledge allows them to use the pasture of one zone or another at the best time. According to surveys carried out among nomads, they carry out reconnaissance trips on camel-back to assess the forage capacity and spatial distribution of pastures, which allows them to manage their grazing lands. Nomadism has the advantage that it allows livestock to explore zones which are outside the reach of other systems. The diversity of palatable species plays an important role in their health and nutrition. During the dry season goats are watered every two days whereas camels are only watered once every four or five days or even more. The camel herd is given salt two or three times monthly.

Camels’ milk is the staple of the nomads’ diet and is the main source of water for their bodies. It is under exploited since most of the camels are not milked, which is a serious loss of milk during the whole of the dry season; on the other hand, during the rainy season the milk is made use of since the urban population take advantage of the school holidays to take “cures de lait”. As to goats milk (small quantities) it is often reserved for butter making. As in other livestock systems camel meat is only eaten by the herders on important occasions. Goat meat is most frequently eaten, especially at festivals and during visits from strangers.

Camels’ wool is used for tent making. Nevertheless it is less well liked than that of sheep. Goat skins are tanned by the women and used for making water-skins, mats and various other uses. Camel hides are not used. Camels are the only kind of transport suited to such an environment and is still used; they are also used for drawing water.

Pastoral and agropastoral transhumant systems
Transhumant stock rearing is characterised by the herd being in transhumance during seven to eight months. These cyclic movements can take the herders out of the country (to Mali or Senegal) and are characterised by a return to a point of origin where the owner of the herd resides. The herds are sometimes looked after by family herders but are often under hired herders accompanied by at least one family member who is in charge of management. The main stock in this system are cattle, sheep and sometimes goats and camels.

There has been a noticeable reduction in mobility of cattle herds during the past few years. Movements are limited to two or three months during the lean season(May – July). During that time the herds move slowly towards the zone, usually to the south, where water and natural grazing is more plentiful. Sheep rearing is important in the south of the country, especially the two Hodhs. Movements are large in both time and space. The motives for that transhumance are found in the need to put the animals on green pasture to be able to intensify the rhythm of reproduction so as to have two lambings per year. Herds in the south-east use Malian pastures throughout the whole of the dry season and come back north during the wet season to avoid biting insects and stay with or near their owners. Goat rearing is secondary.

Camel rearing by urban owners which is close to the nomad system from the point of view of mobility has been developed in recent years. It resembles semi-extensive urban systems in that some females are kept near Nouakchott for milking, at least in the rainy season.

The feeding of transhumant stock is almost entirely based on natural grazing. Nevertheless supplementary feed, usually wheat, is often given to weak or ailing stock during the lean season. Sometimes the herd is accompanied by four wheel drive vehicles which allows: rapid reconnaissance of grazing areas; transport of weak stock; transport of water for domestic use and weak animals; transport of stock feed. Small ruminants are watered daily, cattle every two days and camels once every four or five days.

The food security of the herder and the family which sometimes accompanies him is at least partially assured by the herd which he is in charge of. The urban owners do not get many of the products because the herd is far away. Cow milk is generally reserved for family use or to some poor villagers to whom it is offered through solidarity networks. In zones where commercial outlets for milk have been developed traditional solidarity mechanisms (loan of cows to poor families “mniha) have suffered greatly. Excess milk is made into butter.

Urban owners only drink the milk of their herds during the rainy season. Owners of herds of camels and cattle go to the country during the school holidays for a “cure du lait” which plays a very important sanitary and nutritional role. This practice has increased considerably in recent years and has encouraged merchants and civil servants to buy herds of cattle or camels which they exploit in the rainy season.

Peulh women traditionally exchange cow milk (fresh, curd or butter) for cereals. Ewe milk is little used by herders, being almost entirely used to feed lambs.

The goats in the herd serve mainly to feed the herder and his family. Sheep production is in a great part aimed at producing rams, which are regularly sent to inland towns or marketed in Senegal and Mali.

Sedentary agropastoral systems associated with crop production
The livestock kept in this system are cattle and small ruminants. The stock stay all the year round on the same territory where they eat crop residues as well as natural pasture. The farmer guards his cattle at night. During the rainy season the stock are left on free grazing all day or herded by a shepherd on the village grazing; on the other hand, at night, they are taken far from the crops until a late hour then shut up. In the dry season they are often left to graze at will.

Sedentary cattle keeping is essentially practiced in the south (valley zone, particularly Gorgol and Guidimakha) whereas small ruminants are principally found in all the zones of the south identified as pockets of poverty. In the valley the traditional household sheep fattening is often done. In the past few years a similar fattening of bullocks has begun.

During the rains the stock have only natural grazing. In the dry season they exploit crop residues, mainly straw and stover left on the field, and natural grazing. The crucial period for feed is during the hot dry season when the natural pasture yields little; its length varies from year to year. Supplementation usually starts in March and stops with the onset of the rains in June. When supplementation begins the natural pastures are not completely exhausted; the livestock can often find half of their needs thereon. The contribution of the pasture diminishes as the rainy season approaches; it can drop to a quarter of daily needs.

From May to July the livestock, at least weak ones and milking dams receive straw, bran (from sorghum, maize, millet and rice), cowpeas and cereals. In irrigated areas the animals graze in paddy fields which are irrigated after harvest to encourage ratoon growth and weeds; they receive complementation – crop residues.

Sheep and bullocks being house-fattened get high quality feed composed of stems of Cucumis ficifolia, Merremia pentaphylla, Ipomoea aquatica etc., stems and seed of cowpea, cereal grain, kitchen waste, groundnut cake etc.

Cow and goat milk play a very important role in the nutrition of the population of these areas whereas ewe milk is little used. Milk yields vary seasonally: cow 1 – 4 litres daily; goat 0.5 – 1; ewe 0.25. Agropastoralists often undertake traditional fattening; usually of young lambs which are fattened with a complementary feeding of kitchen waste and agricultural by-products. The main aim of this fattening is consumption or sale for the festival of Tabaski. At the end of the fattening period one ram is sacrificed by the family while the others are sold; this permits the family to buy festive clothes. In the oasis zones complementary feed is crushed date seeds, lucerne, crop residues etc.

Extensive urban system
This system has developed as a corollary of the urbanisation brought about by drought; goats are the main livestock. Sheep fattening is often carried on in parallel with goat keeping in town. The main products are goat milk and fattened sheep. This stock rearing is carried our by low-income families and is done by women.

Animals wandering in the streets are characteristic of this system; they feed on urban waste but always receive a high quality complementation of kitchen waste, wheat flour, groundnut cake, lucerne etc. and are watered daily. Goats are kept for milk which is consumed, by preference, as fermented drink “zrig”. Traditional sheep fattening aims at producing fat ewes for Tabaski.

Semi-intensive systems
The livestock in this system are camels and cattle (Maure); it has been developed in the past decade around the big towns (especially Nouakchott) by merchants and civil servants and extends along the main roads. Throughout the dry season the camel herd, comprising only milking females, leaves in the morning in search of grazing around the periphery of the town. They return very early in the afternoon and receive supplementary feed. Milk cattle are kept penned throughout the dry season and are watered every afternoon. In the rainy season the milk herd is transferred to between fifty and a hundred kilometres from Nouakchott, all along the Nouakchott-Rosso road, for grazing. During that period the herd only gets what it can graze on natural pasture.

During the rainy season feeding is almost entirely based on natural pasture. On the other hand in the dry season the camels get a ration in the morning before going to graze in the surroundings of the town; they return soon after midday and get water and a complementation of groundnut cake, and bran of rice and wheat. The cattle are kept tied up indoors throughout the dry season and are fed a concentrate-based ration.

Milk production is better, quantitatively and qualitatively during the rainy season because their feed is balanced. Yields vary according to the stage of lactation between 3 – 7 litres daily (mean 4.5) for cattle and 3 – 10 (mean 5) for camels. Evening milk is sold to clients in town whereas morning milk is sold to one of the two pasteurisation plants. Excess milk is sold as curd. During the rainy season many families install themselves along the Nouakchott-Rosso road, close to the milch herds in order to take a “cure de lait” – this causes a slight rise in milk prices. Milking females come from the family’s nomadic (or transhumant) herd; after a year of commercial exploitation the females and their offspring are either sold to the butchers of Nouakchott or returned to their original herd. In all cases they are replaced by others.

Animal Health
Assistance to the livestock sector in the past three decades has mainly been in the animal health sector. Notable progress has been made in this field, although diseases still constitute a threat to livestock development.

At present there is no monitoring of livestock diseases because of lack of funds. Only vaccination campaigns are organised regularly on a national scale to control the major epizootics. (FAO 2001)

Cattle enjoy a good prophylactic cover, notably by vaccination against Contagious Bovine Peripneumonia botulism, black quarter, anthrax and nodular dermatitis. Veterinary care also involves internal, and external parasites but is usually only done on weak animals or those with obvious signs of parasites. Other diseases which appear from time to time and can be serious include: foot and mouth disease and Rift Valley fever. Rinderpest has been eradicated.

The diseases of small ruminants are less well studied than those of cattle. The main diseases reported are: peste des petits ruminants, sheep pox, gastro-intestinal parasites and enterotoxaemia. Prophylactic treatments are rare. Stock owners have recourse to traditional cures. Sometimes stock are vaccinated against enterotoxaemia or doses against worms.

For camels, veterinary care is essentially aimed at controlling ectoparasites, ticks and mange, and to a lesser degree controlling gastro-intestinal parasites. Trypanosomaisis (Trypanosoma evansi) transmitted by biting insects (horse-flies and Stomoxys) affects animals which have ventured into southern zones during the rainy season.

Click here to continue