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Cattle stall-feeding in the Mandara Mountains Region

5. The Mandara Mountains region of northern Cameroon is one of the more environmentally, agriculturally and ethnically diverse regions of West Africa (Campbell, 1981). It is located in the semi-arid tropics between the latitudes of 10° and 11.5°. This falls within the Sudano-Sahelian belt, a zone which is wetter and more highly vegetated than the Sahelian zone lying to the north. The climate of the region is characterized by a six-month rainy season (May through October) and a six-month dry season (November through April). Figure 1 shows the location of the Mandara Mountains region in northern Cameroon, as well as three geographically distinct zones: the mountains, the plateau, and the plains. The mountainous zone, where stall-feeding of cattle is concentrated, comprises approximately one-third of the land area of the region, which totals 7893 sq. km. Agriculture in the mountains is rainfed, terraced and intensive; holdings are generally less than 2 ha and agricultural and livestock production are highly complementary and well integrated (Holtzman, 1987).

6. The Mandara Mountains are bordered by Nigeria to the west and the Diamare Plains of northern Cameroon to the East. The Diamare Plains are populated by Fulani graziers and their cattle herds. This cattle surplus region supplies the Mandara Mountains region with 30% of its slaughter cattle, which are typically old and infertile cows, as well as over 75% of the bull calves for stall-feeding enterprises. The large cattle markets of northern Cameroon, located in the Diamare Plains, attract cattle from as far away as Chad and traders from other regions of northern Cameroon as well as Nigeria. During the past several decades trade cattle have flowed from east to west, reflecting interregional and international cattle price differentials.

7. Survey research findings show that one in four households (26%) stall-feed cattle in the mountainous zone of the Mandara Mountains region (Holtzman, 1982). There were approximately 13,000 stall-fed cattle in the Mandara Mountains in 1980.1/ Mixed farmers stall-feed cattle for two to three years on cut and carried forage, dried and stored grasses, and agricultural by-products before sale or slaughter (Boulet, 1975; Holtzman, 1987). The long enclosure of cattle relative to intensive, dry season feeding enterprises in other parts of Africa (Serres, 1969; Thomas and Addy, 1977; Wardle, 1979; Thomas-Peterhans, 1982; White, 1986) is based in part on traditional social practice (see paragraph 9), but has also evolved out of practical need. The mountainous areas of the Mandara region are permanently cultivated; the somewhat incohesive soils on hilly and sloping land are prone to erosion and declining fertility. Cattle enclosure during the growing season is necessary in permanently cultivated areas to prevent crop damage. It allows for capture and composting of manure, which is spread on fields in order to improve soil structure and fertility. Stall-fed cattle are also typically enclosed during most of the dry season, particularly during the second year of feeding, in order to minimize exertion and weight loss. Manure is also collected in the stall during the dry season. Economic analysis of returns to stall-feeding demonstrates that about half of the net benefits are in the form of additional grain production resulting from manure application (Holtzman, 1987).

Figure 1: Mandara Mountains Region

8. The human population of the Mandara Mountains region, which was 547,748 in 1980, is predominantly rural (> 90%), although there are several small but rapidly growing towns, particularly Mokolo, Mora, Koza and Bourha. The population of Mokolo, a departmental seat, increased from 5,200 to 10,7000 between 1976 and 1980 - an annual growth rate of nearly 20%.


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