Monday, March 9, 2015

Where do urban sheep go? A reflection from Burkina Faso

Especially in the Western world, there is this understanding that livestock belongs to rural area, and most of the agricultural surveys are limited to rural area, ignoring urban agriculture.
During my last year's trip to Burkina Faso, i had the opportunity to visit an urban farmer. He lives in the city of Ouahigouya in the North of Burkina Faso, and he has about 10 sheep, that he has imported from Mali if i remember correctly, a breed that fits his environment but are stronger and bigger than the local breed.
The farmer presenting his animals
His major challenge is feed. He usually get crop residue and barley water from women in his neigborhood. (Note here that there is an entry point to look at gender relations in this value urban value chain).  This local feed is usually cheaper than commerical feed or crop residue from cotton that has to be brought to town. However, local feed is not sufficient and therefore he has to rely on commercial feed. He thinks that getting a feed processing plant might reduce his production costs.
Cotton crop residue processed in the South of the country, that he bough as feed
He sells his animal to the livestock market for meat. Through the discussion we discovered that there is only one small ruminant value chain in Burkina Faso : both urban and rural livestock (both from pastoralists and sedentary farmers) ends up on the same market. The farmer did not seems to have really understood the market dynamics, as he had failed to sell his animals during the Muslim festival. But he insisted that he would sell his animals for meat as pilgrim will be coming back and buy animals on their way. It did not really convince anyone of our scientific team, and i was pretty astonished that he is targeting a meat market as he is bringing a new breed to the region. I asked him why he does not do breeding and sell off young animals to other farmers to improve their herds. Those animals usually fetch a higher market price. He made big eyes at me and admitted that he had never thought about it.

the urban sheep herd
It was a great encounter with a farmer that had started his business less than year ago and obviously was discovering how to run it. I hope one day i will get a chance to meet him again, and see what he has been learning over time and if he has taken up the breeding idea.

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