The distribution of grazing pressure in relation to vegetation resources in semi-arid West Africa : The role of herding uri icon

abstract

  • In semi-arid West Africa, livestock are increasingly managed by sedentary producers in close proximity to expanding cropped lands. To evaluate the agricultural and environmental implications of this trend, a study was conducted to investigate the effect of grazing management on the spatial distribution of grazing pressure, the forage provided animals during the grazing period, and local herd-forage ratios across three agropastoral landscapes characterized by varying cultivation pressure. During the 19-month study period, data on herbaceous vegetation, livestock populations, and grazing itineraries were collected. These data were referenced to land units averaging 70 ha in area. Using this approach, each of 3,819 grazing itineraries was characterized as to: 1. the sum of the products of the palatable forage mass of a particular land unit and the time spent grazing by the herd within that unit (FAT, expressed in kg-hours ha(-1)); and 2. the average palatable herbaceous forage mass encountered by livestock across the itinerary weighted by the time spent in the land units crossed (FA, expressed in kg ha(-1)). The spatial dispersion of livestock grazing around human settlements was found to decline with a reduction in herding labor investment (herded > herd-release > free pasture). Multiple regression analyses of itinerary data demonstrate that both FAT and FA also decline with a reduction in herding labor investment. Herded and herd-release managed livestock were offered more palatable forage and grazed areas of higher forage availability than free-pastured animals. This supports arguments that as the investment of time and effort into herding declines, feed supply to livestock will decline and the potential for grazing-induced environmental change will increase.

publication date

  • 2005
  • 2005