Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles



Asamoah Larbi

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


Sierra Leone is on the west coast of Africa between 6o 55’ N and 10 o00’ N. The Republic of Guinea borders it on the north and northeast, and the Republic of Liberia borders it on the east and southeast. On the west and southwest, the Atlantic Ocean extends approximately 340 km. (Figure 1a). There are four administrative regions: Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area; which are further divided into fourteen districts (Figure 1b). The country covers a total land area of 72 325 km2. Nearly 75% of the total land area is arable. Approximately 56% of the land is below 150 m. above sea level. Upland and lowland ecologies make up 78% and 22% respectively of the arable land area (Table 1). The uplands are composed of forest, savannah woodlands and grasslands while the lowlands comprise 690 000 hectares (ha.) of inland valley swamps, 145 000 ha. of ‘bolilands’ (or large, saucer-shaped basins), 130 000 ha. of riverine grasslands; and 200 000 ha. of mangrove swamps.

Figure 1a. Map of Sierra Leone
(Source: World Factbook)

Figure 1b. Administrative map of Sierra Leone
Source: University of Texas

Table 1. Arable land distribution in Sierra Leone
Ecology Ecosystem Area (1000 ha) Percent of
arable land
Percent of Total
land area



Upland 4 200 78 58
Lowland Inland Valley Swamp 690 13 10
Mangrove Swamp 200 4 3
Bolilands 145 3 2
Riverine grasslands 130 2



Arable Land 5 365 100 75
Non Arable Land 1 870   25
Grand total 7 235   100
Source: Alieu, 2005

Sierra Leone became independent from Britain on April 27, 1961 and attained Republic status on April 19, 1971. Since the mid-1980s, the country has suffered dramatic economic decline and political instability. It went through five military coups (1967-1991), and a 10-year civil conflict from 1991-2002.

The population was 4.8 million in 2004, and was predicted to reach 5.5 million in July 2012 (SSL, 2007; CIA, 2012). There were more females (51.4%) than males (48.4%) in 2004. The estimated population growth rate in 2012 was 2.3% (CIA, 2012). About 62% of the population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for food and income. Seventy percent of the population lives in absolute poverty, especially in Kailahun and Bombali districts (Figure 2). Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 56 years, and adult literacy level was 48% for men and 27% for women in 2007 (SSL, 2007). There are 18 ethnic groups, of which the Teme, Mende and Limba account for 35%, 32% and 8% respectively (Figure 3). Ethnic alien groups include the Lebanese, Indians, French, Germans and Swiss.

Figure 2. Levels of extreme poverty by district in Sierra Leone in 2003/2004. (Source: Woldt et al., 2009).

Figure 3. Ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. (Source: Woldt et al, 2009).

Sierra Leone is well endowed with natural resources (Figure 4). In 2011, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP, purchasing power parity) was estimated at U$ 5.16 billion growing at a rate of 5.3%, with a GDP per capita of US$ 900 (CIA, 2012). Agriculture, services and industry contributed 51.5%, 26.5% and 22% respectively of the national GDP in 2011.

Figure 4. Economic map of Sierra Leone. (Source: University of Texas
[Click for full image]

The agricultural sector (see Figure 4), comprising food crops, tree crops, fishery, livestock, and forestry sub-sectors is the backbone of Sierra Leone’s economy. Nearly two-thirds of the population depends on the sector for its livelihood (Braima et al., 2006; SSL, 2007; SSL, 2009). The crops sub-sector dominates the agricultural GDP with 33% in 2010 (SSL, 2010). Most farmers produce a wide range of rainfed food and tree crops, predominantly using the slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation farming system (SSL, 2007).

The major food crops are rice, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum, sweet potato, and groundnut. They are produced by smallholders with an average land holding averaging from 0.5-2.0 hectares. Rice is the most important crop, cultivated by nearly 85% of farmers, with an estimated annual consumption of 76 kg per person (Catling, 1992; SSL, 2007; IRRI, 2004). Cassava is the second most important crop. The tubers and leaves are consumed by households and cassava products (gari, flour and chips), are in high demand in urban areas. Production of food crops, especially rice and maize increased during 2008-2010 (Table 2). Oil palm is the main tree crop. Other perennial crops are citrus, cocoa, coffee, coconut and sugarcane. Crop yields are generally low due to: limited access to agricultural inputs, low levels of mechanization, pest and disease problems, lack of markets and market information, labour shortages and a weak private sector.

Table 2. Food crop production (1000 metric tons) trends, Sierra Leone, 2008-2010

Annual growth rate (%)


Crop type 2008 2009 2010
Rice 640 785 1 062 33.0
Cassava 4 058 2 516 4 474 5.1
Sweet potato 180 161 187 1.9
Groundnut 133 75 147 5.3
Maize 57 30 79 19.3
Source: IMF, 2011

Rice and cassava contributed 15% and 6% respectively of the agricultural GDP in 2010 (SSL, 2010). Total value of exports from cocoa increased from US$ 15 to US$ 26 million (80%), coffee from US$ 1.5 to 1.7 million (13%), and palm oil from US$ 2 to US$ 4 million (100%) during 2008-2010 (IMF, 2011).
Sierra Leone’s livestock sub-sector is small and underdeveloped, contributing only 3% of the agricultural GDP in 2010 (SSL, 2010). Household-based cattle, sheep, goat, pigs and chicken rearing predominates (FAO, 2005; SSL, 2007). Approximately 90% of the cattle are found in the Northern Province, mainly Koinadugu and Bombali districts. The civil war reduced the Total Livestock Units in the country, although numbers have recovered since 2009 (Table 5). Demand for livestock products greatly outstrips domestic supply, and imports of livestock and livestock products are high. About US$ 8.9 million worth of meat and meat products and US$ 11.6 million worth of live animals were imported in 2009 (FAO, 2012).
Sierra Leone has abundant water resources, with huge growth potentials in fisheries. There are nine major rivers with catchment areas varying from 720 km2 (Peninsular) to 14 140 km2 (Sewa). The fishery industry consists of artisanal, industrial and inland fisheries, and aquaculture. Artisanal fisheries operate in estuaries and coastal waters extending from the shoreline to a depth of 15-45 m. It is a significant source of employment, rural income, and the largest single source of protein for the majority of Sierra Leoneans. Industrial fisheries operate in the open deep waters and are highly capital intensive and foreign-dominated, but constitute the mainstay for revenue generation from fisheries. Inland fisheries and aquaculture operate in rivers, lakes, floodplains and swamps. The fishery sub-sector contributed about 7% of the agricultural GDP in 2010 (SSL, 2010). In 2009, actual revenue from fisheries was recorded at about U$ 2.6 million, and was estimated to increase to US$ 3.2 million in 2010 (IMF, 2011).
Sierra Leone was originally a forested country with over 60% of its land covered by closed high forest or moist evergreen and semi-deciduous types. However, less than 10% of the original primary forest cover remains today, as a result of deforestation attributed to the shifting cultivation practiced by more than 75% of the country’s population, growing populations and shortening fallows. The forest is used for timber, firewood and food and tree crop production. In 2010, the forest sector contributed about 3% of the agricultural GDP (SSL, 2010).

Diamonds, rutile, cocoa and fish are the main export commodities. Revenue from exports was estimated at US$ 363 million in 2010 and US$472 million in 2011 (CIA, 2012). Main export partners in 2011 were Belgium (28.9%), Romania (12.6%), Netherlands (9.2%), China (7.3%), United States of America (6.9%), Turkey (6%) and United Kingdom (5.8%). Import commodities include foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels and lubricants and chemicals. Imports amounted to about US$ 736 million in 2010 and US$ 1 314 in 2011 (CIA, 2012) and came mainly from China (16.2%), South Africa (10.9%), USA (7.4%), United Kingdom (7.2%), India (5.1%) and Malaysia (4.3%) (CIA, 2012).

Land tenure in Sierra Leone is characterized by a dual ownership structure. Land in the Western Area is held under the English freehold concept, while land in the rest of the country (i.e. the Provinces) is held in communal ownership under customary tenure and is controlled by traditional rulers who administer it on behalf of their communities in accordance with customary principles and usage. Women generally cannot inherit land, and their land use options are dictated by their fathers, brothers or husbands and the strength of their lineage family within the community. The land use system makes it difficult for the vulnerable – especially women, youths and outsiders to access land and/or invest in its improvement. Since limits of family owned lands and lands administered by local authorities are not clearly defined, there are frequent land disputes. Also, due to unclear property rights, conflicts frequently arise between herdsmen, landowners, and farmers.



The soil resources of Sierra Leone have been summarized in earlier reports (Dijkerman, 1969; Bationo et al., 2006). The soils belong to five orders (and several series): Oxisols, Inceptisols, Entisols, Ultisols and Spodosols (Table 3). Oxisols are the most widespread followed by Inceptisols and Entisols. Ultisols and Spodosols are also present but are rare. The soils can also be generally classified into three main groups as shown in Figure 5: lithosols, ferrallitic and hydromorphic or swamp soils.

Table 3. Soil types in Sierra Leone.

Order Series
Oxisols Bali, Talia, Njala, Manowa, Nyawama, Kania, York, Taso, Segbwema, Naba, Mamalia, Romankne
Inceptisols Momenga, Vaahun, Moa, Gbesebu, Pujehun, Mokonde, Bonjema, Gbehan, Gbinti, Taiama
Entisols Sahama, Keya, Dowjo, Mani, Rokupr
Spodosols Gbamani
Ultisols Pelewahun

Source: Dijkerman, 1969.

Oxisols (or Ferralsols): are the common soils on the gently undulating uplands and in the inland swamps. They are strongly weathered and leached soils with low ability to supply nutrients to plants and capacity to retain nutrients (cation exchange capacities, CEC; Bationo et al., 2006,). Due to their low CEC, inorganic fertilizers, especially nitrogen is required in small amounts to avoid leaching because the soils occur in high rainfall regions. They contain free iron and aluminium oxides that fix phosphate fertilizers. Other constraints of oxisols include: deficiency in calcium, magnesium and potassium; presence of aluminium which can be toxic to many plant species, and deficiency of molybdenum required for the growth of legumes. They are usually deep, well-drained red or yellow soils with good structure, and deep profile, and uniform properties with depth.

Inceptisols: also widespread and occur on steep slopes where erosion is active and in areas of recent alluvium. They are slightly more developed than the entisols and are less strongly weathered and leached than oxisols. The subsoil contains some weatherable materials. Inceptisols are richer in plant nutrients and have higher CEC than Oxisols. They include some poorly drained gley soils without well-developed horizons.

Entisols: are common on some sandy beach ridges and in poorly drained swamps or lagoons that are waterlogged throughout the year. They are sandy, young soils, limited in minerals in which the horizons are only slightly developed or undeveloped. They include recently deposited alluvial materials and some young soils on inert and resistant parent materials.

Ultisols or acrisols: have a high water holding capacity, but the higher density of the second horizon may limit biological activity and root penetration. Although these soils are less weathered than ferralsols, mineral reserves are low. Leaching is a problem in these soils and boron and manganese are also deficient. High aluminum content may lead to phosphate fixation. The structure of the surface soil is weak and internal drainage may be hampered by the compact texture of the horizon below the surface soil.

Hydromorphic or swamp soils: the most frequent of the swamp soils are the water-logged, gray hydromorphic soils. They are found in the floors of valleys, which are flooded in the rainy season. They are extremely deficient in plant nutrients, and are among the least productive soils in Sierra Leone. However, if drained and fertilized, they can be used for producing rice and other crops.

Figure 5. Soil map of Sierra Leone.
Source: European Soil Portal

[Click to view full picture]


The physical features of Sierra Leone are shown in Figure 6. The four main physical regions are: (i) the Coastal Plains, (ii) the Interior Plains, (iii) the Interior Plateau and (iv) Freetown Peninsula Mountains and hills.

The coastal plain is a strip of about 40 km wide adjoining the coast and running parallel to it. Most of it is less than 15 m above sea level. The topography is nearly flat. It consists of sandy beach ridges and lagoons, mangrove swamps, alluvial grassland flood plains, raised beaches and coastal terraces.

Interior plains or lowlands region makes up about half of the country. It is a strip about 100 km wide adjoining and running parallel to the east of the coastal plain. It rises gently from an elevation of 40 m in the west to 150 m in the northeast. Most of the area is largely swamp.

The interior plateau and hill region covers the north-eastern half of the country, and is part of the Guinean Highlands. It consists mainly of elevated plateau country, between elevations of 300-600 m above sea level. It is the most extensive physical region and includes the greatest variety of land forms. The Interior Plateau is dissected by the main rivers flowing westward towards the sea. In the central area and near the Guinea border, a number of hills and mountains, including the Kambui, Nimini, and Gori hills and the Sula, Kangari, Loma, Tingi, and Wara mountains rise above the general level of this region. Further south-east in the upper Moa river basin, the elevations decrease to only about 150 m and 300 m.

The Freetown peninsula consists of three roughly parallel ranges of highlands that are narrow but extend about 30 km south of Freetown. The hills and mountains in the highlands rise impressively from 200 m to 1 000 m above the low-lying narrow coastal area. The Sugar Loaf and Picket Hills are the highest. They developed from basic and ultra-basic rocks, and hills of acid rock origin.

Figure 6. Topographic map of Sierra Leone.



Sierra Leone has a tropical climate with two pronounced seasons: a wet season from May to October, and a dry season from November to April. Rainfall is highest in the coastal areas, 3 000-5 000 mm per year (Figure 7).This decreases inland and at the eastern boarder of the country the average rainfall is 2 000-2 500 mm per annum. Rainfall decreases to between 2 930 mm to 2 540 mm in the north of the country.
The dry season is characterized by dry weather with high humidity, and a short period of dry weather with low humidity (Harmattan) when cool, dry winds blow in from the Sahara Desert with night-time temperatures as low as 16°C. The average temperature is 26°C and varies from around 26°C to 33°C during the year. The relative humidity is high; the average exceeds 80% for most of the year.

Figure 7. Annual rainfall distribution of Sierra Leone.

Agro-ecological zones

The major agro-ecological zones (AEZs), vegetation types and associated uses are summarized in Table 4. The vegetation zones can be broadly classified into forest, savannah woodland and the swamps or marsh (Figure 8). Sierra Leone was originally a forested country with over 60% of its land covered by closed forest, the rest being woodland savannah of the guinea type. Currently, about 70% of its forest has been lost due to human activities - clearing for use in ‘slash-and-burn’ or shifting cultivation farming, timber and firewood. Patches of rain forest can be found scattered in the northern, eastern and southern provinces (Figure 8).

Table 4. Agro-ecological zones (AEZs) in Sierra Leone.
Ecology AEZS Vegetation type Use1
Uplands Tropical Closed Forest Rain Forestry FRT

Moist Evergreen


Moist Semi-deciduous

Secondary forest TFT
Forest Regrowth FFS
Savannah Woodlands Moist, closed, Guinea Savannah woodland GBA
Mixed-tree, open, Sudan Savannah woodland GBA
Lophira tree savannah GBA
Coastal park savannah woodland GBA
Tall grass savannah (3m) GBA
Lowlands Swamp Forest (Woodlands) Mangrove Swamp PRI
  Inland Valley Swamp PRI
  Fringing forests PRI
  Raphia swamp PRI
  Gallery forests PRI
Seasonally flooded grasslands Riverine grassland (1-3m tall) BRA
  Boliland swamp + grassland (1m tall) BRA
  Lateritic pan grassland (very short) BRA
  Montane grassland (1m short) GRZ

Source: Adapted from DAF, 1995
1Main land-use: FRT: forest reserve and timber; TFT: timber and tree crops; BFA: bush fallow, firewood and arable crops; PRI: paddy rice; GBA: grazing, bush fallow and arable crops; BRA: bush fallow, rice and arable crops; GRZ: grazing.

Forest: 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 forests. 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 which is well distributed throughout the year. The semi-deciduous forest has similar characteristics to the rain forest, but with a greater proportion of deciduous forest trees. Herbaceous layers which may include a few specialized grasses occur over a variable portion of the forest floor. A number of timber trees are present in the rain forest, such as the African mahogany (Khaya ivorensis and K. grandifoliola), the scented sapele wood (Entandrophragma cylindricum) and iroko (Chlorophora excels). There are also economic cash crops such as oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), cocoa (Theobroma cacao) and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis).

Most of the closed forest has been converted into secondary forest and forest regrowth or ‘farmbush’ as a result of clearing for use in ‘slash-and-burn’ or shifting cultivation farming and for firewood. Compared to the savannah zones, the forest zones are of little significance for ruminant production, for two main reasons: 1) most of the forest areas are infested with tsetse-fly. These biting flies (Glossina spp.) carry trypanosomiasis, which is deadly both to man and beast; 2) the area is dominated by food and tree crops farming so ruminant production is of minor importance. The secondary forest has a closed canopy with trees 10-30 m tall, most of it consists of re-growth often from farming. Forest re-growth is by far the largest type of forest in Sierra Leone. The mangrove swamp forests contain mostly stunted shrubs and some trees up to 10-20 m tall. Generally, farming is done in cleared sites for 2-3 years before it is abandoned for a fallow period of less than 10 years. Shortening of the fallow period leads to a decrease in tree species, loss in soil productivity, and increase in the number of herbaceous plants. This leads to a change from the secondary forest or ‘farmbush’ state to predominantly grass/shrub or grass/herb mixture referred to as derived or transitional savannah. With more disturbances from man, the derived savannah gives way to a fire tolerant tree species with closed canopy in a tall grassy cover referred to as the Guinea Savannah. As the amount of rainfall reduces, and frequency of burning and intensity of grazing and cultivation increase, the Guinea Savannah vegetation changes to the Sudan Savannah.

Savannah woodland : is mostly found in the Northern Province towards Guinea, especially in Koinadugu, Bombali and Kono districts. There is also a strip of savannah along the coast of Bonthe and Pujehun districts (Figure 8). It is comprised of the derived Guinea and the Sudan savannah zones. In the northern region where 60% of the cattle and small ruminant population is concentrated, over 9 000 km,2 of land has been left bare due to overgrazing. There are no attempts at any form of range and pasture management; bush fires continue to affect about 200 000 hectares of savannah woodlands annually.

Swamps or marsh : are mostly found along the coast in the Southern Province (Figure 8). The vegetation is mainly mangroves, scattered patches of bushes and savannah woodland. They are divided into: inland valley swamps, mangrove swamps, and bolilands. Several factors, including hydrological conditions, such as the frequency and duration of flooding, depth of the water level, soil type, and physiography determine the vegetation and composition of plant communities.

Figure 8. Sierra Leone vegetation zones.
(Source: University of Texas)
[Click to view full picture]


Livestock population
Cattle, sheep and goats are the main ruminant species in Sierra Leone (FAO, 2005; SSL, 2007). In 2010, the cattle, sheep and goat populations were estimated at 517 000, 682 000 and 803 000 heads respectively (IMF, 2011; FAO 2012). Numbers have increased considerably since the civil war and particularly since 2009. In 2007, about 8.5%, 6.6% and 1.5% of households in the country owed goat, sheep and cattle (SSL, 2007). Also, the percent of rural households rearing sheep (8.7%) and goats (11.3%) was higher than their urban counterparts (sheep, 5.1%; goats, 3.6%). Ownership of cattle, sheep and goats in the country is uneven (Table 6). Most of the animals are owned by households in the Northern Province, especially in Koinadugu, Kambia, Bombali and Port Loko districts.

Table 5. Livestock population (1000 heads) in Sierra Leone, 1985-2010.

Annual growth rate (%)


Species 1985 1995 2005 2010
Cattle 333 350 250 517 21.4
Sheep 300 300 272 682 30.1
Goats 141 180 318 803 30.5
Pigs 44 50 18 47 32.2
Chickens 4 500 6 000 3 329 9 460 36.8
Total LUs 264 293 221 511 26.2

LU: Livestock Unit; conversion factors: cattle (0.50), sheep and goats (0.10), pigs (0.20) and poultry (0.01). (Source: FAO, 2012; accessed on 26 August, 2012).

Table 6. Percent of households owning cattle, sheep and goats in Sierra Leone
Region Cattle Sheep Goats
Northern Region 3.6 14.3 14.9

Bombali District

2.5 19.4 19.9

Kambia District

3.3 20.2 19.4

Koinadugu District

9.9 20.4 19.7

Makeni Town

1.2 4.0 4.3

Port Loko District

2.8 13.9 14.7

Tonkolili District

1.0 3.4 6.0
Southern Region 0.6 3.4 8.5

Bo District

0.7 4.2 5.3

Bo Town

0.6 0.3 1.7

Bonthe District

0.4 4.7 10.4

Bonthe Town

0.0 5.0 5.3

Moyamba District

0.2 4.9 18.3

Pujehun District

0.7 1.2 4.0
Eastern Region 0.6 4.1 6.2

Kailahun District

0.8 6 11

Kenema District

0.4 1.3 2.7

Koidu/New Sembehun Town

0.0 1.2 2.5

Kono District

1.3 6.4 8.2
Western Region 0.3 1.4 1.3

Western Area Urban

0.4 1.4 0.8

Western Rural District

0.0 1.1 3.7
National 1.5 6.6 8.5
Source: SSL, 2007 (Number of households: 7,800)


Cattle production is the main livestock activity in the country. Cattle ownership is concentrated in five percent of the farming population, notably within the Fula and Mandingo ethnic groups. Although some non-Fula ethnic groups own cattle, they often entrust their livestock to the Fula on pay or produce-sharing arrangements. The main sources of cattle are from Guinea and the international cattle market at Gbini (Photo 1).

N’Dama : most cattle are of the trypanotolerant N'Dama breed with uniform pale coats, varying in shade from yellow to fawn (Photo 2). The Ndama breed is hardy but has a low productivity – late age at first calving, long calving interval, and low milk yield. It attains a weight of only 250 – 350 kg at 5 – 6 years of age. Birth rates are low (45%), mortality is high and offtake is only 7% because of parasites, disease and deficiencies of feed. The Musaia Stock Farm, Njala University College and Teko Animal Research station conducted upgrading and multiplication activities with N’Dama before and after the war. Reproductive traits of N’Dama under station and village management in earlier reports are summarized in Table 7.

Table 7. Reproductive traits of N’Dama under station and village management, Sierra Leone.
Trait Management  
  On-station Village
Age at first calving (months) 391 36-482
Calving interval (months) 151 12-161,2
Annual mortality rate from birth to 24 months (%) 71 243
Live weight at birth (kg)    


151 -


171 -
Live weight at 12 months (kg)    


1011, 1383 -


1091, 1363 -
Live weight at 48 months (kg)    


1361, 2193 -


1511, 2773 -
Milk yield (kg/day) 23 -
Source: 1Touchberry, 1967; 2FAO, 1971; 3Holt, 1973

N’Dama crossbreds: a small number of Sahiwals were imported from Kenya in 1974 and bred as pure and crossbred with N’Dama at Teko to improve the milk yield of the N’Dama. The crossbreds calved earlier and had higher calf mortality rates than the pure breeds (Table 8). Birth weight and daily weight gain of the crossbreds were also higher than the pure N’Dama but lower than the Sahiwals. Jersey cattle have recently been introduced for crossbreeding with N’Dama. Reproductive performance of the first generation N’Dama x Jersey crosses is being monitored (Michael Abdullai, personal communication). Sahelian cows were imported from Mali by Njala University Farm and a few farmers after the war. However, most of them died from trypanosomiasis and poor management (including a lack of shelter to protect them from the rains).

Table. 8. Comparative performance of N’Dama, Sahiwal and their crosses at Teko, Sierra Leone.
Trait N'Dama (N) Sahiwal (S) N x S
Age at first calving (months) 47 36 32
Calf mortality, 0-6 months (%) 8.4 30.2 6.7
Birth weight (kg) 15 24 22
Weight at 12 months (kg) 76 152 98
Daily gain, 0-6 months (g/day) 194 411 246

Source: Carew et al. (1986)

Photo 1. N’Dama at the international cattle market, Gbini.

Photo 2. N’Dama cattle herd in a ‘farmbush’.

[Click to view full pictures]

Sheep and goats

Compared to cattle, small ruminants are widely spread, owned by many ethnic groups, and are reared by households in all districts in the country, but the percent of households owning sheep and goats is relatively higher in the Northern Province, especially Koinadgu, Kambi, Bombali and Port Loko districts than the other provinces (Table 6). Generally, households keep only a few sheep and goats for meat, except the Fulani in the north whose flocks tend to be larger. The predominant breeds are the trypanotolerant West African Dwarf (WAD) and Djallonké (Trail et al., 1980; Ngegba, 1988) as shown in Photos 3 and 4. There are a considerable number of the larger Sahelian goat and crosses between the WAD and the Sahelian goats.

Data is limited on the performance of sheep and goats in Sierra Leone. The long-term trend in the sheep population showed that the number of sheep declined during the civil war (Table 5), but has increased sharply in recent years. Age at first lambing of local sheep at the Musaia Stock Farm ranged between 15-18 months FAO (1971). Prolificacy was 141%, with two lambings a year. Mortality rates among lambs ranged from 16-67% per year.

The civil war seems to have had little or no effect on the goat population (Table 5). The number of goats increased slowly during, and sharply after the war. Milk yield potential of local goats was recorded at the Teko station. Average milk production was 25 kg over a lactation period of 56 days, i.e., 0.45 kg per day (Trail et al., 1980). Lactations ranged from 24 to 111 days, with a maximum yield per lactation of 46 kg.

Photo 3. West African Dwarf sheep.

Photo 4. West African Dwarf goats.

[Click to view full pictures]

Ruminant husbandry systems

Management systems for cattle, sheep and goats include the traditional free-roaming or village system, pastoral, agro-pastoral, integrated ruminant-tree crop plantation, and peri-urban/urban more intensive systems (Sumberg and Cassaday, 1984; Hoste, 1992; Ngegba, 1988).

Traditional, village or extensive: Most cattle, sheep and goats are kept in free-roaming flocks in villages and their environs scavenging for feed, and may or may not be tethered during the cropping season. Owners of the free-roaming animals provide little or no supplementary feed, housing, health care and breeding management. Mortalities from pest and diseases are high. For example, Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) can decimate a whole village flock of goats. Tethering is common in communities where the free-roaming system is disruptive to crop production, and where farmers have small number of animals, and limited access to land. It involves seasonal tethering of individual animals in the compound or in areas where forages are available for in situ grazing. Forage may also be cut-and-carried to tethered animals.

Pastoralism: N’Dama herds under Fulani management are common in the Northern Province. The herds of cattle move from place to place in search of better grazing. Cattle are usually tended by the owner or a member of his family. Herding is continuous during the rains but much more casual in the dry season. They tend to graze on the hills and fallow lands during the rains. In the dry season, they are brought back to cultivated areas where they graze in swamps, rice fields and various areas which they cannot access during the wet season. The herds are gathered in the evening, and are either penned or tethered. Cows are milked regularly (Photo 5). The average herd may consist of 20 to 30 cows (FAO, 1971). In the north the herds tend to be larger, with a maximum of 50 to 150 heads. Crop damage from cattle occurs during the dry season resulting in conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herdsmen.

Photo 5. Fulani woman milking N’Dama cow
[Click to view full picture]

Mixed crop-livestock farming: Integrated crop-livestock production is practiced in almost all agro-ecological zones and provinces in Sierra Leone. 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 savannah than the forest zone. Agro-pastoralism and integrated tree crop-ruminant production systems are the main mixed crop-livestock types.

The agro-pastoral system is common in the savannah zones, especially in the Northern Province where Fulani and Mandingo herdsmen settle among the Limba and Koranko ethnic groups – who own most of the arable land. The settled pastoral families combine growing crops with rearing small herds of cattle or flocks of small ruminants.

The integrated tree crop-ruminant production system is common in the tree crop plantation areas. It involves rearing of ruminants, especially cattle or sheep under tree plantations (e.g., oil palm) to manage the vegetation under the plantations. 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. Planted or volunteer vegetation under the plantations provides the main source of feed for the animals (Asiedu et al., 1978). Key species under oil palm plantations include grasses (e.g., Panicum maximum, P. laxum, P. repens, Paspalum conjugatum), legumes (e.g., Calopogonium mucunoides, Centrosema pubescens, Desmodium adscendens, and Pueraria phaseoloides) and forbs (e.g., Aspilia africana, Asystasia gangetica, Commelina nudiflora, and Euphorbia hirta). 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].

Heifer integrated crop-livestock project: Heifer International started a 5-year project to promote integrated crop-livestock farming at Regent, Morthaim, Baoma, Makomba and Crossing in the western rural districts (HI, 2009). Farmers were trained in improved crop and livestock production. They were given seeds of improved rice and groundnuts as well as a number of either sheep or goats. The animals were kept in zero-grazed, raised platforms made of thatch and wood scraps (Photo 6). The sheep and goat manure was used as organic fertilizer for the crops, and the crop residues and by-products were used as feed for the animals in the dry season.

Photo 6. Raised sheep shed[Click to view full picture]

Peri-urban and urban systems: Rearing of cattle, sheep and goats in and around cities in Sierra Leone has become a very popular activity since the civil war. For example, in 2007 about 4-5% of households in Bo and Bonthe cities in the Southern Province, and in Makeni town in the Northern Province reared sheep and goats (Table 6). The peri-urban livestock population has been growing, partly because when people moved into towns during and after the civil war, some moved together with their livestock. Management of animals in the peri-urban and urban production units may be either semi-intensive or intensive. Feeding is based on cut-and-carry forages, household waste, crop residues and agro-industrial by-products. The animals are also grazed freely or tethered to graze by road sides where possible. The peri-urban and urban production units supply fattened rams and bucks for the expanding urban markets, especially during religious festivities.

Challenges of livestock production

Constraints to ruminant production in Sierra Leone have been outlined in various reports (MAFFS, 2004, 2007; Alieu, 2005; Ngegba, 1988). They include:

  • Weak private sector - the private sector is the largest category of stakeholders in the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone and includes, for example, subsistence farmers, farmer associations, traders, wholesalers, processors and service providers. High interest rates, lack of access to credit, poor rural infrastructure (i.e., banks, roads, and communications), and the high cost of doing business have discouraged the private sector.
  • Poor husbandry and management practices – the current systems of livestock management and production are inefficient, uneconomic and unsustainable. There is limited health care, housing and breeding management.
  • Inadequate nutrition - poor feeding is the most important constraint to increasing livestock production, especially during the dry season when both quality and quantity of natural forage are reduced.
  • Poor access to markets and lack of market information - the majority of daily community and periodic markets were destroyed during the war. Though they are slowly being rebuilt, farmers, especially in remote communities, still suffer from poor access to markets for their crops and livestock due to the absence of appropriate and sustainable infrastructure, such as a good road network and processing facilities, and also lack the price information, finances and capacity strengthening in business they need to make their marketing activities more lucrative. Lack of market access hampers livestock sales and also the capacity to acquire needed inputs such as drugs and breeding stock and other materials. Market access is also hampered by lack of an integrated marketing system to collect and disseminate market information for resource-poor farmers.
  • Pests and diseases are widespread – mortalities due to infestation of pests and diseases are high. Endemic infectious diseases (foot and mouth, rinderpest, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia, brucellosis) claim large number of livestock each year. Haemonchus contortus is a major production constraint to small ruminant production (Asanji and Williams, 1987; Asanji, 1988). Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) can decimate a whole village flock of goats.
  • Lack of information and weak research system – precise, up-to-date data and statistics e.g. ruminant population, for planning, monitoring and development of the ruminant industry is lacking. Data on ruminant production is limited and outdated. Little is known about emerging peri-urban and urban fattening systems and markets. Limited research is being conducted on animal production, including health and nutrition.
  • Lack of security – theft of livestock is common and discourages many people from keeping cattle, sheep and goats.
  • Weak extension system – the 11-year civil war completely disrupted Sierra Leone’s agricultural extension delivery and management system. Current constraints in the extension system include inadequate extension staff to farmer ratios; low staff motivation; lack of/poor transport; poor salaries; inadequately trained staff; poor links between extension and research; adoption of different and uncoordinated extension models by agencies, NGOs and programs; and overburdening/conflicted functions and roles of extension staff. The extension system is mostly focused on crop production. Most of the available extension agents have limited knowledge about ruminant and pasture resources.
  • Lack of inputs – e.g., N’Dama breeding stock, drugs etc. etc.
  • Lack of enabling policies and institutions - there is no clearly defined policy on animal production. Ruminant producers associations or interest groups to advocate for the ruminant industry are non-existent or weak.
  • Land tenure – rules and laws governing land ownership makes it difficult for investors interested in ranching to purchase or acquire land. Women and youth lack access to land.
  • Poor access to credit - small scale farmers in Sierra Leone lack access to affordable credit. The only formal financial market source of credit in rural Sierra Leone is the community bank. Informal financial markets include moneylenders, itinerant traders, relatives and friends. Commercial banking is generally urban-oriented and prefers lending to large clients with acceptable collateral. The only sources available to farmers are informal sources with very high rates of interest.
  • Commercial outlook – formal farmer-based organizations are in their infancy and more needs to be done to move away from the traditional non-commercial mindset.
  • Lack of rural labour - labour for herding cattle has been a problem in Sierra Leone for a number of years, especially since the end of the war. This is due primarily to youth remaining in or moving to urban areas in search of opportunities. Labour constraints that affected agricultural income generation were reported highest in Kailahun, Kenema, Bombali, Kambia, Bonthe and Pujehun.
  • Poorly developed livestock value chains - agricultural value chains, which normally include a range of activities from research and input supplies to production, processing and marketing, are short and underdeveloped in Sierra Leone, in part due to the war but also to poor agricultural policy; outdated or poorly enforced rules and regulations; lack of credit, infrastructure (i.e., facilities, equipment, roads), market information and business capacity; high transport costs; unreliable deliveries; and lack of trust among members of the value chain (i.e., farmers, traders, wholesalers, retailers, importers). There are generally few intermediaries between producer and consumer, few market channels, little transformation of products, and few support services.
  • Low productivity of animal breeds – N’Dama and WAD sheep and goat are adapted native species with limited potential for milk production.
  • Limited infrastructure – e.g., veterinary laboratories.

Strategies to improve ruminant production

The Government’s Agricultural Sector Review and Agricultural Development Strategy (2004) and Agricultural Sector Policy (2007) outlined strategies to address constraints facing the ruminant industry. They include:

  • Encourage the production of various classes of livestock in those regions/ecologies of the country with proven comparative advantage.
  • Provide incentives to entrepreneurs in the form of credit guarantees, and technical assistance on production, processing, storage and marketing; waive duty on all imported livestock products in order to enhance local production.
  • Assist private entrepreneurs to develop production capacity to meet the growing demand for livestock production inputs which can be locally produced.
  • Encourage the development of appropriate institutions for the breeding, multiplication and distribution of improved livestock to farmers.
  • Encourage controlled cross breeding of indigenous livestock with improved breeds with a view to improving the performance of the off-spring, while maintaining their trypano-tolerance.
  • Encourage the production of good quality livestock products and ensure that imported livestock inputs are of good quality by developing capacity for quality control and infectious disease monitoring.
  • Alleviate animal health problems through participation in regional/international animal disease control initiatives; and control the prevalent animal diseases locally.
  • Encourage the use of trypano-tolerant breeds of livestock in areas where trypanosomiasis is prevalent.
  • Ensure effective quality control of all animal drugs and vaccines through appropriate institutions.
  • Improve access to adequate and timely investment funds on special terms for livestock development.
  • Promote land tenure system that is acceptable to all stakeholders and will facilitate private sector led development of the livestock sub-sector.
  • Establishment of an appropriate community-based participatory extension programme.
  • Training and continuous education of frontline extension workers who are generalists (i.e. with knowledge of crops, livestock, land and water management, extension methods, etc); as well as subject matter specialists to backstop frontline extension workers in livestock production.
  • Facilitation of effective communication channels and networks among livestock farmers, local councils, researchers, extension agents, and the business sector.
  • Strengthen the capacities of women in livestock production, especially sheep and goat rearing to generate income.
  • Attract private sector involvement in the ruminant industry.
  • Promote the integration of crop and livestock production activities on the same land management unit.
  • Rehabilitate existing infrastructure, and
  • Revamp the cattle (livestock) resettlement schemes to address the chronic conflict between herders and crop farmers.

In a position paper on sheep and goat production in Sierra Leone, Ngegba (1988) recommended the following strategies to increase smallholder sheep and goat production:

  • Strengthen veterinary care to combat major diseases that limit productivity.
  • Improve husbandry and management of sheep and goats at the village level.
  • Promote farmers’ cooperative to market sheep and goats, and
  • Encourage village level sheep and goat production to improve household income.

Finally, a Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) working group on livestock (Woldt et al., 2009) suggested the following “quick wins” in animal services:

  • Annual vaccination of small ruminants against Peste de petits ruminants, a viral disease that is now endemic and the cause of more than 50 percent of deaths among small ruminants, especially goats.
  • De-worming of large and small ruminants with broad-spectrum antihelminths; and
  • Training of community para-vets (the latter a “medium-term win”) to improve healthcare.


There are four major feed resources of importance and relevance to ruminant feeding in Sierra Leone. These are: natural pasture and fallow land, sown pasture, fodder shrubs and trees, and crop residues and stubbles.

Natural pasture

In Sierra Leone, artificially re-vegetated and managed grazing resources are not common. Consequently, ruminant livestock depend on grazing natural pasture resources or savannah woodland comprising mainly of the derived, Guinea and Sudan savannahs (Table 4), for feed.

Derived savannah: is an expanding zone along forest fringes where grassland or savannah woodland is gradually replacing forest as a result of human interference (Rose-Innes, 1977). This zone was originally the drier part of the high forest. However, due to bush burning, overgrazing, and cultivation over a period, the high forest trees were destroyed and the forest is now replaced with a mixture of grasses and scattered trees. 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 – savannah woodland (Photo 7). It contains relic patches of high forest trees including: Antiaris, Elaeis, and Phyllanthus; while Borassus, Lophira, Daniellia, Lonchocarpus, Burkea and Parkia represent the savannah intrusions. Similarly, among the grasses, the humid zone representatives include: Pennisetum purpureum and Panicum maximum, Rottboellia exaltata, Schizachyrium sanguineum, Paspalum and Melinis species;while the subhumid zone species include Andropogon gayanus, A. tectorum, Hyperthelia and Hyparrhenia spp., Beckeropsis uniseta, and Chasmopodium caudatum (Rose-Innes, 1977). Forage legumes, such as Centrosema pubescens and Pueraria phaseolides, and Calopogonium spp. may be seen along the forest-savannah fringes.

Photo 7. Grasses at the fringes of a ‘farm-bush’

Guinea savannah: is the broadest vegetation zone in the north of the country and is 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 may reach a height of 12-15 m. but seldom form a closed canopy except over small areas. The grasses (and trees) associated with the guinea savannah are not uniform but vary according to moisture regime, soil type and the type and degree of disturbance, such as the season and frequency of burning, and intensity of grazing. Most of the tall grasses found in the derived savannah are also found in the Guinea savannah. Commonly occurring grassy species include: Andropogon gayanus with Hyperrhenia and Schizachyrium spp. as co-dominants in some areas. Other significant grass genera are: Beckeropsis uniseta, Brachiaria jubata, Chasomopodium, Ctenium newtonii, Cymbopogon giganteus, Digitaria diagonalis, Panicum maximum, Pennisetum purpureum, Seteria, Tristachya superba, Andropogon pseudapricus, Hyperrhenia and Loudetia spp. The appearance of this zone differs from season to season. During the rainy season the whole zone is green and covered with tall grasses that grow and reach maturity rapidly, thus becoming fibrous and tough. In the dry season they tend to dry and disappear due to several periodical bush-burning events that occur between November and April, carried out either to assist in farm clearance or hunting.

Sudan savannah: this zone stretches north of the Guinea savannah zone, and changes from open woodland savannah in the south to tree savannah in the north. Grasses found in this zone are not generally as tall, coarse or thick on the ground as those found in the Guinea savannah zone. Here there is a continuous grass cover of the short and feathery grasses on a large scale (Photo 8). The grass vegetation is interspersed with thick bush trees such as shea butter tree (Butyrospermum parkii) and Acacia albida. Also found in the zone are locust bean tree (Parkia filicoidea), tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica), Guiera senegalensis, Combretum glutinosum, and Piliostigma reticulatum. Where the fallow period is short and fires are frequent, the trees are often represented by coppice shoots and mature trees of specially preserved species of economic importance. These include Parkia spp., Butyrospermum parkia, Acacia albida, Tamarindus indica, Ceiba pentandra. Generally, the legume composition in the natural pastures is low.

Photo 8. Short grass cover in a savannah woodland at Mekani.

Sown pasture

Artificial pasture use is limited in Sierra Leone, except on government farms and university experimental stations and demonstration farms. This is mostly due to: 1) the vast communally grazed grassland resources, 2) relatively small ruminant population, mostly owned by small-scale farmers, and 3) problems with land acquisition; thus for example, the Foulas ethnic group who own a large proportion of the cattle population in the country find it difficult to acquire land from the Limbas and Korankos who are the land owners and mostly crop producers (Michael Abdullai, personal communication). Improved pastures of Signal grass (Brachiaria brizantha) and P. maximum alone or in association with legumes such as Centrosema pubescens, Pueraria phaseoloides and Calopogonium mucunoides are currently being used on the Njala University Animal Science Department farm for dry season feeding (Michael Abdullai, personal communication). In general, the grass species in both the natural and artificial pastures grow fast during the wet season, leading to an accumulation of biomass deficient in nitrogen and of low digestibility by the end of the growing season.

Fodder trees

Shrubs and trees are particularly valuable as a source of feed in the smallholder crop-livestock farming systems in Sierra Leone because they remain green during the dry season. For example, Leucaena leucocephala is used as cut-and-carry feed in peri-urban sheep and goat production systems in Freetown (Michael Abdullai, personal communication).Other potential browse species are: Spondia mobin, Gliricida sepium, Erythrina spp., Baphia nitida, and Griffonia simplicifolia, Prosopis chilensis, Pithecellobium saman and Albizia flavovirens, Ficus gnaphalocarpa, F. capensis, F. glumosa, F. thonningii, Parinari curatellifolia, Daniellia oliveri, Lophira lanceolata, Adenodolichos paniculatus, Desmodium velutinum and Sphenostylis schweinfurthii (Audru, 1980).

Crop residues

Appreciable quantities of field crops and horticultural residues and agro-industrial by-products are available. However, they are not fully used for ruminant livestock feeding. Limited reports indicate that some farmers graze rice and corn stubble.

Forage seed production

Quality forage seed is scare, because there is no private or governmental institution designated for commercial production of forage seeds. Also, no institution is devoted to forage seed control and certification.

Foula settlement scheme

This scheme was implemented in Koinadugu District from 1953-1968 to settle the Fulani (Trail et al., 1980). It involved granting 7-year renewable leases on tracts of about 259 ha for every 100 cows and their female calves, with the agreement of the local authorities. The Fulani were meant to keep their animals on their rented land most of the year, but were allowed to move elsewhere at the end of the dry season. The scheme was supervised by the Agriculture Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources with the agreement of the local chief who received one-third of the rent. The target was to settle a total of 1 000-2 000 Fulani households. However, only 10% of the target was reached at the end of the project due to several factors, prominent among them were: 1) higher rents than what the Fulani might have been paying for the use of pasture land elsewhere, 2) the tracts of land which were rented were too small, leading to over-grazing, and 3) insufficient government extension and veterinary services. There are recent attempts to revive the settlement scheme (Michael Abdullai, personal communication). The Animal Science Department of Njala University has been contacted by the government to assist with the implementation of the new scheme. Accordingly, about 40 natural grassland sites have been ear-marked.

Challenges to Improving pasture resources

Pasture resources are declining in productivity and show undesirable shifts in floristic composition and distribution. Constraints to increasing the productivity of the pasture resources have been listed in earlier reports (MAFFS, 2004, 2007; Ngegba, 1988). They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Poor management practices – the current systems of pasture resources management are inefficient, uneconomic and unsustainable. There is limited grazing management, control of stock density, and rehabilitation of degraded rangeland sites. In the northern region of the country where 60% of the cattle and small ruminant population is concentrated, over 8,000 sq km of land has been left bare due to overgrazing. Supplementation of livestock grazing on low quality natural pastures during the dry season is limited, so is the use of available crop residues and agro-industrial by-products.
  • Land tenure – rules and laws governing land ownership make it difficult for investors interested in ranching and pasture development to purchase or acquire land. The Fulanis who own the majority of the cattle, sheep and goats do not have title to land and there is no incentive for development of the pasture resources.
  • Limited information on pasture resources - there is an acute shortage of data on the pastoral resources of Sierra Leone. Essential data on the distribution and characteristics of natural pastures, fodder trees and shrubs and the area they cover, estimates of available biomass, and annually produced fodder crops is lacking. Such information is needed for the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of strategies to develop the pasture resources for increased animal production and natural resource management. Land use maps and areas cultivated with forages and other thematic maps rarely exist or are out-of-date. There is no recent comprehensive survey to document pasture condition.
  • Lack of enabling policies and institutions – there is no national grassland policy to guide the use and development of pasture resources. Community or district-based pasture resource use committees to assist with planning, implementation and monitoring of pasture resource projects do not exist. There are no policy guidelines regarding control of annual bush fires.
  • Bush fire – indiscriminate annual burning reduces the amount of biomass available for grazing during the dry season, posing a big threat to ranching. Bush fires continue to affect 200 000 ha of savannah woodland annually causing an apparent ecological change from savannah woodland to grassland in the cattle rearing areas of the Northern Province.
  • Weak extension system – the 10-year civil war completely disrupted Sierra Leone’s agricultural extension delivery and management system. Current constraints in the extension system include inadequate extension staff to farmer ratios; low staff motivation; lack of/poor transport; inadequately trained staff; poor links between extension and research; adoption of different and uncoordinated extension models by agencies, NGOs and programs. The extension system is mostly focused on food crop production, with very little on pasture and fodder management.
  • Poor access to credit - farmers in Sierra Leone lack access to affordable credit. Formal commercial banking is generally urban-oriented and prefers lending to large clients with acceptable collateral. The only sources available to farmers are informal sources (e.g., moneylenders, itinerant traders, relatives and friends) with very high rates of interest.
  • Weak private sector - the private sector including subsistence farmers, farmer associations, traders, wholesalers, processors and service providers is the largest category of stakeholders in the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone. However, high interest rates, lack of access to credit, poor rural infrastructure (i.e., banks, roads, and communications), and the high cost of doing business have discouraged the private sector. Consequently, there is limited public-private sector partnership in livestock and pasture resources development.
  • Commercial outlook – traditional animal husbandry systems based on communal grazing of pasture resources do not promote ranching and pasture resources development. Farmer-based organizations are in their infancy and more needs to be done to move away from the traditional non-commercial mindset.
  • Limited research on pasture and fodder resources – research on feed resources, especially grassland management is limited. Hence, there is limited quantitative data on seasonal changes in yield and quality of the pasture resources and how they affect animal performance. Most ruminant producers lack proper understanding of the economical value of forage resources.
  • Lack of inputs – farmers have limited access to essential inputs such as planting materials, labour and other inputs for pasture resources development.
  • Poorly developed livestock value chains – the livestock value chains, which normally include a range of activities related to pasture resources, from research and input supplies to production, processing and marketing, are short and underdeveloped in Sierra Leone, in part due to the war but also due to poor agricultural policy; outdated or poorly enforced rules and regulations; lack of credit, infrastructure (i.e., facilities, equipment, roads), market information and business capacity; high transport costs; unreliable deliveries; and lack of trust among members of the value chain (i.e., farmers, traders, wholesalers, retailers, importers).
  • Limited use of herbaceous and shrub/tree legumes - limited integration of forages, especially forage legumes into the production systems.


Pasture resources can be improved by removing the constraints to pasture development outlined above. Several strategies and plans have been proposed to improve Sierra Leone’s pasture resources (MAFFS, 2004, 2007). They include, but are not limited to the following:

Promoting enabling policies and institutions

  • National grassland policy - a comprehensive grassland policy should be developed. 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. Focus should be on the Guinea and Derived savannah zones, indigenous grass and legume species, and counties with vast grasslands, and bush fire management.
  • Land tenure – the current land tenure system should be reviewed, and be replaced by one that makes it easier for those who are interested in ranching and pasture resource development to obtain land.
  • Bush fire control - enabling policies and institutions should be promoted to control and manage annual bush fires.
  • Access to credit and loans – Government should assist farmers who are interested in ruminant livestock production to access loans and credits.
  • Pasture resources management committees – grassland management committees should be established at the national, provincial, district and community levels. The committees should comprise of herders and farmers from different ethnic groups (e.g., Fulanis, Limbas and Koranko), research and extension staff, community leaders and policy makers to develop, implement and monitor pasture resource improvement plans for each community or district.
  • Forage seed producers’ association - promote community-based forage seed production and link them to markets to increase the availability of quality forage/pasture seed.
  • Producer incentives – potential entrepreneurs should be given incentives in the form of credit guarantees, and technical assistance on production, processing, storage and marketing, and subsidized inputs.
  • Private-public sector partnership - encourage both governmental and non-governmental organizations to undertake joint activities related to pasture resources development.
  • Extension-research linkages – establish an appropriate community-based participatory extension programme on livestock and pasture resources development. Train frontline extension workers who are generalists (i.e. with knowledge of pasture and livestock production); as well as subject matter specialists to backstop frontline extension workers in livestock production.
  • Facilitate effective communication channels and networks among herders, farmers, local councils, researchers, extension agents, and the business sector.
  • Cattle resettlement schemes and grazing reserves - cattle (livestock) resettlement schemes to address the chronic conflict between herders and crop farmers should be redesigned based on lessons from the earlier Foula settlement schemes.

Facilitating community-based pasture resources management to improve feed resources availability

In consultation with the multi-stakeholder community grassland management committee, government should develop, implement and monitor pasture resources at the community level. This should include:

  • Pasture resources rehabilitation – degraded pastures, especially in the northern province should be rehabilitated using appropriate techniques, such as selective felling of unwanted trees, control of weeds, planting of native browse species, introduction of nutritious legumes into natural grasslands, repair of existing stock watering points (ponds, wells and dams). Both herbaceous (e.g., Stylosanthes guianensis, C. pubescens and P. phaseoloides) and shrubby (e.g., Griffonia simplicifolia) legumes can be integrated into the farming systems to improve soil fertility and provide protein-rich fodder for supplementing low-quality grassland grazing and cereal straw diets.
  • Fodder banks and intensive gardens - promote establishment of fodder banks of either pure legume or grass species to complement natural pasture grazing. Intensive feed gardens can also be promoted for cut-and-carry feeding.
  • Integrated crop-livestock promotion - promote the integration of crop and livestock production activities on the same land management to ensure efficient use of resources, especially crop residues and manure.
  • Improved fallows - promote planting of fallow lands with leguminous fodder crops to improve soil fertility and provide feed for livestock.
  • Adapt proven technologies – test and disseminate on-the-shelf pasture and fodder technologies developed in similar environments in the West African sub-region (e.g., Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire).
  • Genetic biodiversity – research institutions should be encouraged to take advantage of existing large collections of grass and legume species in the Forage Genebank of ILRI to initiate research-for-development on pasture and fodder crops.
  • Grazing management – good grazing management practices such as deferred or rotational grazing should be discussed with herders and jointly implemented to avoid overstocking and overgrazing.

Capacity strengthening

  • Individual capacity - sufficient manpower (research and extension staff) in pasture science and rangeland management, animal science and grazing management should be developed through formal and informal training.
  • Institutional capacity – Government should support research and development institutions working on pasture and fodder research in terms of training, equipment and logistics. Strategic alliances should be built with international research (e.g., ILRI, IITA) and development (e.g., FAO, Heifer International) partners to build the capacities of national research and teaching institutions.

Creating a database on pasture resource

  • Mapping pasture resources – prepare maps of pasture resources at the national, provincial, district and community level. Document extent and status of the savannah woodlands, and indigenous knowledge related to pasture resource management. This information will be used for planning, implementing and monitoring pasture resource development activities.
  • Database on pasture resources - develop a comprehensive database on native and introduced forage species, their distribution, variability, reaction to grazing intensities and burning.


The Teko Livestock Research Centre
Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute
Tower Hill, P. M. B. 1313
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Telephone: +232-22-222-179

Mr. Sorie Kamara
Director of Livestock
Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security
Livestock Division
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Livestock and Forage Extension Specialist

Njala University
Department of Animal Science
Njala Campus, PMB
Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sheku K. Moiforay
Lecturer in ruminant nutrition and grassland science; involved in forage research
Mobile: +232-78-506995

Jesse P. J. Nyandebo
Lecturer in ruminant nutrition and grassland science; involved in forage research

Mobile: +232-33-956800


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This pasture profile was prepared in the period November 2011 to August 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.

To prepare a Country Pasture Profile for Sierra Leone after a 10-year civil war 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 indebted to all those who in one way or another contributed to the production of this document; in particular Dr. Simeon Kathibe, a lecturer at Qatar University, Doha for the introduction to colleagues back home in Sierra Leone to assist with data collection. Also, to all those colleagues, especially Dr. Saidu Kanu, of Njala University, Freetown, Sierra Leone. Dr. Saidu Kanu provided outstanding support and cooperation in completing the survey questionnaire on pasture and forage production in Sierra Leone, and introduced Mr. Michael Abdullai a specialist in livestock health and production in Sierra Leone, who assisted during the preparation of this profile and discussed issues related to livestock production in Sierra Leone during his 6-week training period at the Veterinary Services Division, Accra, Ghana and provided the various photographs used herein.

For additional information, please contact the author as below:
Dr Asamoah Larbi
P. O. Box AN 8345
Accra North, Ghana
Mobile: +233 207 055 952

[The profile was edited by S.G. Reynolds and J. M. Suttie in December 2011 and further revised in August 2012].