R. von Kaufmann and P. Francis
International Livestock Centre for Africa
P.O. Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
La mise en place d'un service d'encadrement efficace pour les éleveurs de moutons et de chèvres dans les zones tropicales humides de l'Afrique Occidentale pose des problèmes du fait que les systèmes de production sont déjà relativement bien développés en termes d'objectifs et de ressources pour le petit éleveur. En plus, les animaux sont gardés en petit nombre et les résultats des innovations de gestion seront faibles par unité familiale. Toutefois, il existe des interventions essayées en matière de santé et de nutrition qui sont des contraintes dans la production des petits ruminants. Il est proposé que de telles innovations qui incluent souvent l'intégration du cheptel avec la production végétale, soient fournies par un service d'encadrement intégré plutôt qu'un encadrement séparé pour le bétail. Des structures appropriées en formation, programmation, supervision, recrutement et carrière seraient essentielles pour assurer un service efficace et motivé. Les coûts pourront être partagés par la suite, par la constitution de groupements d'éleveurs ou par la formation para-professionnelle des éleveurs susceptibles d'être formés. La disponibilité des intrants supplémentaires doit être assurée, quoique le crédit aux fournisseurs puisse être un moyen plus efficace que l'octroi de crédits à un nombre élevé de petits producteurs.
Des recherches en matière d'encadrement doivent être conduits par les institutions nationales sans exclure les centres internationaux de recherche.
Des réticences pour discuter des problèmes d'encadrement empêchent la recherche de solutions et ne se justifient plus car les problèmes sont largement similaires à travers les différents pays et systèmes d'élevage.
The provision of an effective extension service to sheep and goat producers in the humid tropics of West Africa is problematic, as production systems are relatively efficient in terms of the objectives and resources of small farmers. Furthermore, animals are kept in small numbers and the return on management innovations would thus be small on a per household basis. Nevertheless, proven interventions exist in the fields of health and nutrition - the major constraints facing small ruminant production. It is proposed that such innovations, which often involve the integration of livestock with cropping enterprises, be delivered by a single agricultural extension service rather than a separate, livestock, branch of extension. Appropriate training, programming, supervision, recruitment and career structure will be critical to ensuring an efficient and motivated service. Costs may further be spread through bringing farmers together into groups or providing paraprofessional training to suitable farmers. The availability of complementary inputs must be assured, although supplier credit may be a more effective way of doing this than administering credit to numerous small-scale producers.
There should be deliberate research on extension led by national institutions without excluding the international research centres. Reticence in discussing the problems of extension is hindering their resolution and is unwarranted because the problems are largely similar across different countries and livestock systems.
It is widely recognized that the lack of effective extension is a major constraint in the development of sheep and goat production in the humid tropics of West Africa. However, the problems of extension still attract far less attention than the search for technical means of increasing animal productivity. This paper attempts, through the literature, to represent these problems and demonstrate by way of example how remedies might be found. The dearth of direct literature on the topic is itself indicative of a reticence to discuss the difficulties facing the task of providing effective extension services. However, the fact that literature drawn from other regions can be used to illuminate the problems in the humid zone, indicates their universality and it is hoped that this will stimulate more research and discussion than there has been in the past.
In recent years, there has been considerable research interest in small ruminant production. Including the recent seminar at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria alone has had three national conferences on small ruminant production in just six years (Adu et al. 1985; Sumberg and Cassaday, 1985). There have also been a succession of international meetings elsewhere in Africa and abroad concerning small ruminants (SR-CRSP, 1983; 1984; FAO, 1986; CTA, 1986). These conferences have concurred that an effective extension service is of paramount importance to the development of small ruminant production, but they have otherwise virtually ignored the subject. While the national conference hosted by the National Animal Production Research Institute (Adu et al. 1985) did have a session on socio-economics, extension services and marketing, this drew only one paper (Awogbade, 1985) which hardly mentioned extension even under issues of development. Awogbade (1985) nevertheless concludes that “informal lectures and guidance programmes by extension agents should be introduced at the grass roots level to boost ruminant production”. A similar situation is found in the expert consultation, sponsored by FAO (1986), where no-one spoke on the subject of extension yet it was recommended that adequate and effective training and extension programmes be an integral part of all development plans and programmes for small ruminant production. Frequently, the topic is simply ignored. The IBRD (1983) technical paper has over six pages of summarized recommendations without referring to extension. Such literature as there is on extension services to sheep and goats in the humid tropics of West Africa tends to be in report form: quantitative accounts of the personnel and facilities of particular departments and projects. Such accounts are usually neither analytical nor evaluative.
This silence in the literature should not be taken to mean that all is well with livestock extension in the zone. Amogu (in Adu et al, 1985) concludes that the poor performance of extension and training is “a major constraint” to livestock development. Ademosun (1985) concurs with regard to Nigeria, where he states that “livestock extension is sadly lacking”, especially when compared with the achievements of extension in the field of crop production in Nigeria. Because of the lack of literature relating specifically to the humid tropics of West Africa, this review also refers to information from other areas where relevant.
THE ELEMENTS OF AN EXTENSION SYSTEM
Extension may be defined as: “an informal, out-of-school, educational service for training and influencing farmers and their families to adopt improved practices in crop and livestock production, management, conservation and marketing” (United Nations, 1963). The basic constituents of an agricultural extension system are a set of technical recommendations (“the message”), and the means to deliver them (“the medium”). In addition, certain complementary goods and services, the provision of which need not be the direct responsibility of the extension service, should be available for the farmer, so that be can take advantage of the advice being offered. We will consider these three elements in turn. First, however, the general characteristics of small ruminant production in humid West Africa will be outlined.
SHEEP AND GOAT PRODUCTION IN HUMID WEST AFRICA
Sheep and goats are the most important ruminant livestock species in the humid zone. The dominant breeds of both species are the trypanotolerant West African Dwarf. Flocks are usually small, typically numbering two to six animals per household, with goats outnumbering sheep by two or three to one. However, the structure of ownership is very broad, with most rural households keeping small ruminants and a large proportion of the stock being owned and managed by women. Small ruminants are kept as an adjunct to the main business of cropping; management and other inputs are low (Matthewman, 1977; Upton, 1985; Kaufmann et al., 1986). While animals may be confined for all or part of the year, the provision of special purpose housing is the exception rather than the rule. Free roaming animals scavenge around the village, while feed, consisting mainly of browse, is carried for confined animals. Food processing products and kitchen waste (e.g. cassava peels) are important under both systems of management. The use of purchased feed and veterinary inputs is not widespread. Although their productivity is low relative to their genetic potential, the local breeds of sheep and goats are highly efficient in terms of the objectives of farm families, particularly in respect of the critical shortage of labour. They are raised primarily as a source of cash and meat, though they are usually slaughtered only for special occasions such as ceremonies or festivals. They provide a preferred meat in conveniently sized units, a source of cash for emergencies and a degree of food security in the even of crop failure.
Small ruminant production in the humid zone thus involves large numbers of very small flocks kept by farmers who are primarily interested in cropping, but under systems which are relatively efficient in terms of their owners' objectives and resources. The small size, subsidiary nature, and relative efficiency of small ruminant enterprises in the zone pose a considerable challenge to extension from both the technical and administrative points of view.
The literature suggests that the improvement of management and other animal husbandry aspects will not be easy. Matthewman (1977) notes that traditional goat and sheep production is based on an extensive system of free-range foraging and scavenging. It is a low input system and although the level of production is lower than could be obtained under intensive conditions, the efficiency of production is high in terms of returns per unit of input. Change would require a re-orientation of ideas towards livestock which would have to become “active” earners of income, replacing other enterprises in the system, rather than being “passive” earners that convert waste or marginal materials into food or saleable products.
Proposed interventions must address the major constraints on animal production without imposing labour or capital requirements which make them unattractive. The major constraints facing small ruminant production in the zones are:
High incidence of pests and diseases including: trypanosomiasis, peste des petits ruminants, pneumonia and ecto-and endo-parasites.
Fluctuating feed supply, particularly the wet/dry season feed imbalances under extensive management systems. These can be countered by the introduction of appropriate animal health measures; the provision of better feed and the improvement of animal husbandry.
Disease is the most important of these constraints, but considerable improvement in productivity can be achieved by introducing some simple disease control measures. Vaccination can control the endemic and epidemic peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and dipping can control ectoparasitic diseases, particularly sarcoptic manage (caused by Sarcoptes scabiei). The results of ILCA trials with these techniques were impressive. There was a major reduction in reported cases of PPR in goats: from approximately 14 percent to 4 percent in the forest zone. The monthly dipping also had a major impact: reducing cases of manage from 38 percent to 11 percent amongst goats in the zone. Similarly amongst sheep, mange was reduced from 13 percent to zero. The overall disease incidence dropped significantly from 257 to 56 reported cases for goats and from 128 to 43 for sheep. Overall mortality rates of goats fell from 30 percent to 12 percent. The fall from 20 percent to 14 percent was not so great for sheep because PPR and manage affect goats more than sheep (Sempeho, 1985).
The provision of better feed has been discussed by atta-Krah and Francis (1987) in relation to alley farming which exemplifies the possibility of integrating the farmer's primary interest in cropping with improving the feeding of his small ruminants. Alley farming is an agroforestry system in which leguminous trees are intercropped with food crops. The trees are pruned regularly to minimize shade to associated crops and to provide nitrogen-rich foliage which can be used either as green manure for the maintenance of soil fertility or feed for small ruminants. In addition to the nitrogen-fixing ability of the trees, their deep roots recycle nutrients and check soil erosion. The trees may also be managed to provide staking material, poles and fuelwood. In allowing the continuous use of land, alley farming represents an alternative to shifting cultivation. The two most commonly utilized species in this system have been Leucaena and Gliricidia, both fast-growing trees with high coppiceability, a foliage nitrogen content of about 4 percent and crude protein of about 20 percent. Leucaena is not suitable as a sole feed as it contains mimosine, which may be toxic when fed in large quantities. For this reason, Leucaena and Gliricidia are planted in alternate rows of the alley farm and farmers are advised to feed a mixture of the species as a supplement. As a system, alley farming links tree planting and management with crop production, land and soil management and livestock husbandry. The trees may be used in a number of ways. Foliage may serve either as mulch for any arable crop or as feed for livestock. The wood may be used either as staking material or fire-wood. The products of the trees may be allocated among the enterprises in a multiplicity of ways. There is nothing integral to the system which determines, for instance, the respective proportions of the foliage which should go to crops and livestock. Flexibility is inherent in the system and this means that the farmers have continuous choices in the way they use the products from the trees and these choices will be made on the basis of their production objectives and resources.
According to Attah-Krah and Francis (1987), farmers are familiar with the management of trees in the context of a bush fallow system but the adoption of alley farming implies a number of innovations in farming practice and the acquisition of new skills. These include the planting and establishment of trees within arable farms, their management for mulch and fodder production, cut and carry feeding for animals, and the alteration of land use and rotation patterns. Extension advice is therefore essential to the introduction of this technology. Moreover, the issue is not simply one of managerial innovation. In the adoption of the new system, attitudinal, sociological and institutional factors such as the distribution of benefits derived from the technology among household members or the implication of land tenure systems may also intrude and need to be understood by extension staff.
Another example of an intervention linking livestock and cropping systems is the “fodder bank” an enclosed unit of sown forage legumes and grasses that are reserved for dry season supplementary feeding. ILCA's sub-humid zone programme has developed this intervention primarily for cattle owners. However, on the basis of early trials with farmers it appears also to have considerable potential for small ruminants (Kjenstad, 1987).
APPROPRIATE DELIVERY SYSTEMS
It is generally recognized that it is extremely difficult to develop and sustain low-cost delivery systems for agricultural support services to small farmers (Yudelman, 1977). These problems are particularly pertinent to our consideration because of the small flock sizes and widespread ownership of small ruminants in the humid zone of West Africa.
We have noted that the theoretical definition of extension is an educational service. The reality is different. As Benalcazar (1977) points out, in practice extension is “an organization responsible for all Ministry of Agriculture activities at the field level, including regulation, the provision of services, the collection of statistics and with very little attention paid to the educational activity”.
Commenting on sheep and goat extension FAO (1976) noted that over half of the officers in the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture were extension workers who were expected to impart new ideas and technologies to farmers by whatever means available. However, it was almost entirely left to the lower echelon officers to carry out the extension work at farmer level.
The experience of implementing the Training and Visit system of extension, which has met with considerable success in many countries, has demonstrated that to be effective, an extension agent must concentrate on his education and communication functions. This means disburdening him of the multiple functions which he often fulfils in addition - credit supervision, input supply, the collection of statistics, etc. It also means developing a crops of well trained and motivated fieldworkers. The prerequisites for such a system have been widely discussed and are generally agreed. They include: clear and simple messages about techniques leading to demonstrable improvement in technology; concrete, well-defined objectives and a programme for addressing them; and adequate and active supervision and monitoring to ensure that these objectives are being met. At the level of personnel policies, appropriate recruitment policies and a career structure are also necessities.
The establishment of extension systems along such lines will require considerable policy and financial commitment on the part of governments. It is extremely doubtful, however, whether countries in the West African sub-region can support separate extension systems of such a kind directed at livestock and crop improvement. Given the nature of the local farming system and the fact that some of the most promising improvements are those directed at the further integration of the crop and livestock sub-systems, a single system of agricultural extension is the most appropriate.
Extension services usually have insufficient staff or funds to perform the services expected of them. Reynolds et al. (1984) found that field staff in Kenya were able to visit a mean of 23.2 individual households per month. This is small compared to the number of farm families per extension worker in West Africa. Reynolds' et al. (1984) conclusion that some form of group extension is essential, applies to the humid zone of West Africa, as well as to the SR-CRSP project areas in Kenya.
Farmers tend to learn by seeing and doing, but it is difficult to combine the formation of groups with the spread of on-farm livestock interventions. Livestock husbandry demands continuous and close contact with the animals in situ to detect improvements. In contrast, crop interventions are carried out at particular times, when groups can be gathered together, and usually have highly visible results. In some environments, group arrangements such as cooperatives have been effective in the fields of input supply and marketing. Given the minimal use of inputs, the highly commercialized economy even in the most rural areas and the high demand for meat in the densely populated West African coastal states, there appears to be little scope for group activity except in the field of disease control.
Vaccination campaigns are suitable to the community approach because of the dangers of disease transmission from infected animals if coverage is not full. However, they require careful organization including adequate prior publicity of the visit of vaccination teams. The difficulty of capturing and restraining the highly individualistic dwarf animals that are accustomed to roaming freely means that the teams will have to settle for less than 100 percent coverage and depend on the vaccinated animals being able to withstand a certain degree of disease challenge from contact with infected animals. The results of peste des peste des petits ruminants vaccination programmes in Nigeria are encouraging in this respect.
Sempeho (1985) indicates that communal labour is commonly used for projects of public interest in southwestern Nigeria. He suggests that the holding enclosures, watering and other handling facilities should be built communally. However, he realizes that the low level of commitment to small ruminant production makes such communal work unlikely even though there is a common interest in achieving maximum vaccination coverage and reducing the susceptible population to the minimum.
An alternative to reducing costs per farmer by increasing the number of farmers per extension officer through group activities, which have rarely been successful in Africa, is to reduce the cost per extension agent by employing paraprofessionals. These are persons residing within the target community who are trained to set an example and assist their peers in the adoption of new techniques. The concept is relatively simple but has often failed due to lack of appropriate support.
Taylor and Moore (1980) stated that the indigenous, community-based paraprofessional is a necessary extension to agencies charged with delivering services to rural populations. Through their greater cultural affinity, the paraprofessionals are expected to extend acceptable and appropriate services while activating local people to participate in improvement of their own welfare. Taylor and Moore (1980) caution that the cost of developing and realizing the potential of a paraprofessional programme may be considerably higher than expected. Merely tacking them on to an already overburdened extension service and expecting them to function without sufficient referral and support services will not be effective. They are more dependent on the programme's support services than professionals because of their minimal training and prior experience in the range of activities they are expected to perform. Villagers want and need resources and information from outside and the paraprofessionals' credibility often depends upon being able to provide access to them on a reliable basis.
Furthermore, no matter how thorough pre-service training may be, paraprofessionals cannot be expected to absorb enough material in a single training session. This is frequently recognized, but funds are generally not available for follow-up training. Supervision and control are less important than continuous training and encouragement to improve morale and credibility. Visible programme support is essential. Supervisors are often unprepared for the task in terms of personal communication skills and equipment, such as transportation and technical aids to use in the field.
Community input into the selection of the paraprofessional is an important factor in ensuring success, as is community management, not only to augment the infrequent visits by outside supervisors, but also to build a community-based self-sufficient programme. These committees are also usually inadequately prepared to take on this role. The modalities of shared community and agency responsibilities are yet to be worked out in most paraprofessional programmes.
The potential efficacy of paraprofessionals is indicated by the complaint in FAO (1976) that junior technical assistants who were farmers themselves were being replaced by qualified technical assistants, who, although formally trained, did not have the same level of application and efficiency. Most were not farmers and preferred to live in urban areas and they were frequently transferred.
The use of paraprofessionals is not as common as might be expected, considering the potential benefits. This may well be due to unsuccessful experiences which are themselves due to lack of appreciation of the support that the paraprofessionals need. A paraprofessional needs a different set of support measures than the fulltime trained extension agent, and any attempt to by-pass this support will be a false economy. A paraprofessional's effectiveness largely depends on his standing with the community peers. This requires clearly demonstrated support and recognition from professional staff and having access to the farm inputs essential for farmers to carry out their advice. The professional staff entrusted with the management of paraprofessionals need to be adequately prepared for the task, and given the facilities and time to carry them out. Given the small flock and herd sizes, there appears to be no other viable system that can be replicated widely at this time.
The farmer's ability to make use of extension advice is often dependent on his ability to obtain purchased inputs on a timely and reliable basis. Farmers should not be advised of production recommendations involving inputs, unless these are available (Benor and Baxter, 1984).
It is often assumed that the inability to obtain inputs is due to farmers' lack of liquidity or credit. Rural development packages aimed at the small farmer, thus, frequently include a credit element. Credit is attractive from the development planner's point of view: while extension consists of public expenditure aimed at essentially private benefits, the inclusion of credit improves the cost of recovery element in development projects. However, despite the determination evidenced in many projects to provide formal producer credit, it is not clear that it is always, or even usually, required (Kaufmann et al., 1986). Farmers complain more often of the lack of sources of inputs within their financial reach, than of funds with which to buy them. Farmers are understandably shy of credit.
Further, while a credit programme does increase the cost recovery element of a project, this is not to say the administration of the credit programme is not itself subsidized. Yudelman (1977) states that while the cost of loans to large producers is usually in the neighbourhood of 3 to 4 percent of outstanding loans the administrative costs of loans that pass from government through such groups as cooperatives, range from 10 to 20 percent. These costs do not include any charge for use of capital so an interest rate to cover both costs would be as high as 30 percent. Policy makers are naturally loath to charge small farmers such high rates of interest, so they provide credit at subsidized interest rates. Even this, however, does not necessarily lead to an equitable distribution of credit. Financial intermediaries can circumvent interest-rate regulations through non-price mechanisms. Cuevas and Graham (1986) found that transaction costs effectively rationed credit in a regressive way, such that small borrowers paid more per unit of borrowed funds than large borrowers. This applied to development banks as well as private banks, though more to the latter. The authors argue that higher interest rates would lead to reduced transaction costs, which would benefit smaller borrowers more than larger, and thus be more progressive. Another way of seeking to ensure that farmers have access to the inputs which they need has been to enjoin extension staff, who are often posted in areas where the main suppliers do not operate, to encourage shopkeepers, traders and cooperative societies to stock animal feeds and preventive drugs like drenches (Ministry of Agriculture, 1978). Kaufmann et al (1986) argue that supplier credit to village shop-owners and cooperatives rather than to the producer would be much cheaper and more effective in meeting the needs of small farmers. This would also match the borrowers' abilities more closely to the needs of credit institutions. It would follow the example of developed agricultural economies and developed areas of Third World farm economies, which all depend much more on unsecured supplier credit, than on formal producer credit. Without such credit there is no commercial reason for village shopkeepers to stock slow moving bulky farm inputs, and the blandishments of the extension agents are futile.
Here lies a major opportunity for extension which is very much under exploited. If rural suppliers were provided with inventory finance, preferably in kind, they would have a vested interest in moving the goods off their shelves. If they are instructed in the correct use of the inputs they can promote their products and their shops can become venues for advice. Since credit can be tied to the purchase of particular inputs, the supplier has no opportunity charge on that capital and can profit best only by selling as much as possible, and this will encourage him to provide the goods on credit to appropriate customers. Government can easily determine the on-lending rate from banks to suppliers, and so to farmer by altering the proportion and cost (gearing) of the loans it re-finances. Administering credit to a few rural suppliers with fixed addresses and mortagageable properties would be much easier and cheaper to administer than to numerous small farmers. It would also exploit an established infrastructure for transporting, handling and storage. In the highly villagized West African coastal states such a system would take the goods and advice to within reach of the vast majority of farmers. Wherever farm suppliers have access to inventory finance, they are the main source of farm credit, yet planners persist in formulating unviable small-farm credit schemes.
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION, RESEARCH ON EXTENSION
“Farming systems” and related approaches to agricultural research and development have led to two salutary developments in the research process. First there has been increasing recognition on the part of research scientists that farmers are essential contributors to the process of research. Second, the importance of institutional linkages between research and extension has been increasingly acknowledged. Although these realizations have still to be put into practice by many agencies, this constitutes substantial progress.
The incorporation of extension staff into research teams has contributed greatly to the understanding of farmers' problems and ensuring the relevance of research. However, it must be stressed that the mere association of research and extension does not in itself lead either to the understanding of the problems of an extension service or the improvement of its functioning. In fact, most researchers assiduously avoid looking closely at the functioning of extension agencies. They tend rather to circumvent the problems in one of two ways. The first is to work with selected personnel, whose operational difficulties are solved on an ad hoc and individual level in order to ensure continued cooperation. Alternatively, researchers assume responsibility for extension themselves. These strategies, somewhat akin to proving that rice can be grown in the desert, if irrigated, are encouraged by the fact that researchers are increasingly being judged by the level of adoption of the technologies which they develop.
Reynolds et al. (1984) recommend that the development of technologies takes into account existing livestock extension services and the capability of extension officers to support smallholders' efforts by delivering appropriate technical assistance and advice. Benor and Baxter (1984) also point out the need to adapt extension systems; in their case the Training and Visit system, to the farming and administrative structure of the particular country in which it is to operate. To achieve this Benor and Baxter (1984) emphasize that extension and research must be interrelated and are dependent on one another for their success. However, they again concentrate on the role of research at the farm and field agent level and do not indicate in any detail how research can contribute at the institutional level.
In general, then, extension problems do not become research topics even if they are known to be obstacles to the adoption of the interventions. However, extension and input availability are as much a part of the environment in which the intervention will be adopted or rejected, as the rainfall. Researchers should take pains to understand the extension and supply situation, in order to develop more appropriate interventions. They should also do research on extension itself in order to suggest ways of making it more effective. Circumventing the extension system will, in all probability, lead to temporary and misleading impressions of the level of adoptability of the interventions under test. The international research organizations justify the exclusion of extension problems as research topics on the grounds that they are site specific. However, the recurrence of the same problems in all countries suggests that this may not be as true as is assumed, and that there are universal problems that would benefit from crosscountry analysis. However, such work is indisputably most appropriate to national research centres because of their much greater corporate experience of their governments' organizations and the local input supply systems. The pay-off in terms of increased adoptability of research results is likely to be as substantial as from on-farm research.
Government's intention in providing an extension service is to raise the wellbeing of the farmers and increase productivity. Since the government's resources are limited, there should be explicit or at least implicit positive cost-benefit assessments underpinning the organization of support services.
There are three ways around troublesome cost-benefit ratios: (1) underestimate the extension input required; (2) overestimate the adoptability of the intervention; or (3) call it a pilot project. These are not necessarily cynical responses. Most often they are attempts to make the best of a bad set of alternatives.
Despite this, research and development conferences continue to be dominated by exponents of health, breeding, feeding, housing and other technical innovations without heed to the problems of adoptability and inadequate support systems. A reappraisal of the premise of most research and development recommendations is long overdue. It is probable that this would focus attention on the institutional and development problems, as well as on the on-farm problems.
It is surprising that the policy makers, who frequently decide on research as well as extension expenditure, have not yet required researchers to demonstrate that the intervention can be supported pragmatically and economically, as well as proof of the potential increase in animal productivity through the adoption of the intervention. The objective of research on support services should be either to decrease the extension input required to achieve desired levels of adoption by better designed interventions and/or increase the efficacy of the support services.
The general recognition that the lack of adequate extension services is a major constraint to improving sheep and goat productivity in the humid tropics of West Africa, coupled with the dearth of literature on the subject, implies an urgent need for investigation and discussion. Unfortunately, it also indicates that many knowledgeable people are hesitant to air their views, presumably for fear of causing offence to the people concerned, with the examples they would necessarily quote.
Although the trypanotolerant West African Dwarf sheep and goats are the most important livestock species in the humid zone of West Africa they are kept only as secondary enterprises with minimal management and other inputs. Their utility is in their high return to labour, because they require very little work, and any member of the family, including children, can assist. This high efficiency in terms of the owners' objective is the foremost difficulty in increasing productivity in small ruminants in the humid zone of West Africa because it does not predispose the farmers to invest more than the minimum of effort and money in small ruminant production. The owners usually have more pressing priorities on their time and money in their primary business of cropping.
In the financial climate of present day West Africa, the provision of low cost extension to the multitude of small farmers who are sheep and goat owners is problematic. However, in the case of some promising nutritional interventions advice relates to the simultaneous improvement of both crop and animal production. Farmers are likely to be more eager to invest in improvements to the subsidiary enterprise of small ruminant keeping, if they can, at the same time, address problems such as crop yields, soil fertility and erosion. This also presents the possibility of a single, integrated extension system dealing with both crops and livestock. A broad and reliably delivered animal health system will also be required if producers are not to be deterred from intensifying production by the risk of disease (in particular, the epidemic, PPR). Vaccination programmes require coordination, infrastructure and equipment. With regard to other inputs, the constraint may be more one of availability than, as is often assumed, farmers' liquidity. Veterinary drugs and other inputs could be made available through local suppliers, and if necessary, aided by credit.
The appropriateness of proposed technical interventions will depend not only upon its costs and returns relative to the resources and objectives of the farmer, but also on the efficacy and cost of the necessary delivery and support system. Research has hardly begun on the administrative, institutional and logistical issues relating to these questions.
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