Of Burkina Faso’s 19.5 million habitants about 80 percent are living in rural areas and practice mixed farming. This production system is a very important contributor to livelihoods and agriculture and livestock production provide more than one-third of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Cattle are an important cornerstone of the livelihoods of many rural households. They provide meat and milk, are used as working animals, provide manure, and have many cultural functions.

Traditionally zebu cattle are raised by pastoralist groups like Fulani in the Northern part of the country, where rainfall is very scarce. Whereas in the much more fertile region in the Southwestern part of Burkina Faso sedentary ethnic groups like the Lobi people keep the taurine cattle. Zebu cattle are stronger and larger, whereas the taurine cattle are extremely small, but show a very high resistance against African animal trypanosomosis (AAT), transmitted by tsetse flies. AAT is endemic in the South and is the most important parasitic disease causing enormous losses to the cattle population.

Over the last decades Fulani herders moved with their animals to the Southwestern region in search for water and pasture for their herds. This movement led to crossbreeding between taurine and zebu cattle as farmers seek stronger, larger and at the same time more resistant cattle. This practice raised concerns about the conservation of the unique local genetic resources.

Therefore, the objective of this study is to i) describe the current production system and value chains, ii) gain a better understanding of the beliefs and values attached to cattle by different ethnic groups and iii) analyze adoption of crossbreeding as a strategy to improve resilience of the production system.

The study is carried out in the Southwestern region of Burkina Faso, which is located at latitude 10o19`00`N and longitude 3o10`00`W and covers about 16 533km2. It is a mountainous region and is in the South-Sudanese phytogeographical zone characterized by one rainy season from April to October and one dry season from November to March. The annual rainfall oscillates between 900 and 1200 mm and temperature ranges from 21°C to 32°C. Vegetation is dominated by savanna and forest. Rocky soils are main soils in this lowland region. Climatic conditions favor agriculture and livestock production, which constitute the main activities of the population in this region.

A mix of methods such as workshops, focus group discussions, surveys with farmers and individual in-depth interviews with livestock keepers, community leaders and official authorities is applied. During workshops possible topics are: main activities of farmers, main cattle breed, utilization and importance of each breed for farmers, cattle value chain actors and cattle management constrains. Focus Group Discussions are held with male and female farmers to discuss about males and females current roles in livestock management and changes in their production system from the past to the present as well as their opinion for the future. Surveys using a questionnaire to collect data more details on farmers household socio-economics activities, farmers´ livestock data, production inputs and  outputs  and management constrains. In-depth interviews with farmers are applied to understand the underlying concepts, beliefs and values of farmers, which are attached to different cattle breeds. This helps to gain a better understanding on the acceptance and adoption of crossbreeding. Finally, individual interviews with community leaders and official authorities are carried out to  assess current policies about livestock production.

The results of this study will help researchers and policy makers to gain a better understanding of farmers´ concepts and strategies in cattle breeding. Therefore, this study can support the development of tailor-made breeding strategies for local communities.

This doctoral study is conducted within the project “LoCaBreed – Local Cattle Breed: characterization and sustainable utilization”, funded by APPEAR-program of Austrian Development Cooperation.

PhD student interviewed farmer and his herdman

PhD student conducted a focus group discussion with males and females farmers