Livestock and Pastoralism


Livestock is a major component of the rural economy in West African countries, despite the diversity of national situations highlighting the complementarity between crop and animal production. It remains an essential part of agriculture, with a significant contribution to the agricultural GDP ranging from 5% in coastal countries to 44% in Sahelian countries (ECOWAS, 2010). According to FAOSTAT data (2022), West Africa and the Sahel region are home to an estimated livestock population of 112.54 million cattle, 169.81 million sheep, 224.27 million goats, and 14.62 million camels as of 2019. These figures illustrate the potential of livestock and pastoralism in the sub-region, particularly in terms of their contribution to food and nutritional security as well as poverty alleviation.

Rising temperatures, frequent rainfall deficits or pockets of drought, and the violent actions of armed groups have led pastoralists to adopt a new form of mobility with their livestock. The overall trend shows a kind of displacement/transhumance and/or transfer of domestic ruminant livestock from the northern Sahelian countries to the south and north of coastal countries. This results in a high concentration of livestock in transboundary areas.

Challenges include access to pastoral resources, recurring conflicts among local actors, the prevalence of transboundary animal diseases, intrusion into protected conservation areas, deficits in production infrastructure, and the poor use of products and by-products. These challenges are exacerbated by the effects of climate change and growing insecurity in the sub-region.

Given the importance of the sector, ECOWAS has made "Livestock and Pastoralism" one of the priority themes in the implementation of its regional agricultural policy, ECOWAP.

The aim is to transform and add economic value to the livestock, meat and milk sectors in order to achieve sustainable food and nutritional security, reduce poverty and provide decent incomes for active stakeholders, while preserving natural resources.

The implementation strategy is based on the development and implementation of operational instruments that bring together development actors at the regional and national levels to promote priority animal value chains, including livestock-meat and local milk in West Africa.

Among these instruments are: (i) the ECOWAS regional offensive for local milk value chains promotion, with its operational strategy and priority program documents developed and validated with all regional stakeholders, including member States; (ii) the Support Program for Livestock Marketing in West Africa (PACBAO), which is a contribution from the Swiss Cooperation to the Livestock Investment and Development Program in Coastal Countries (PRIDEC) in the context of ECOWAP implementation; (iii) the Integrated and Secured Livestock and Pastoralism Project in West Africa (PEPISAO); (iv) the Regional Project for Supporting Pastoralism in the Sahel (PRAPS), etc.

The "Livestock and Pastoralism" theme is part of the overall implementation of the regional agricultural policy (ECOWAP) and the ECOWAS conflict prevention framework. It particularly aligns with ECOWAP’s strategic axes 1 and 2. It also refers to food security policy instruments and strategies recently developed by ECOWAS, namely the regional offensive for local milk value chains promotion in West Africa and the Strategy for supporting youth employability in the agro-sylvo-pastoral and fisheries sector in the ECOWAS region.

Stakeholders involved in the implementation include: (i) Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) such as ECOWAS, UEMOA, CILSS, CORAF; (ii) ECOWAS member States through their ministries of agriculture and livestock; (iii) regional producer organizations (RPOs) such as ROPPA, RBM, APESS, COFENABVI, AOCTHA; (iv) technical and financial partners in the region (DDC, USAID, AFD, AECID, EU, the World Bank, etc).