Livestock production

Large areas of savannah, semi-desert and desert areas in SSA are typified by livestock, rather than crop, production. While cattle tend to dominate the livestock economy, sheep, goats and, especially in deserts or near-desert environments, camels can also play important roles. In general, cattle density is highest in the Sahel region and roughly along the line from Ethiopia along the rift valley to South Africa and Lesotho (Thornton et a/., 2002). Livestock production is also pronounced in the drier areas of southern and eastern Africa, particularly in Botswana and Kenya.

In these arid areas, groundwater plays a critical role in the maintenance of the livestock economy, which is itself the basis of human survival of the poorest segments. In Somalia, for example, the only agricultural use of groundwater is for livestock watering (Ndiritu, 2004, unpublished data). In Botswana, a major livestock-producing country in southern Africa, groundwater is the main source of stock water. For Ghana, it is estimated that 70% of cattle and 40% of other livestock production account for 4.5% of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and all depend entirely on groundwater use (Obuobie and Barry, forthcoming). As a general indication of the role of livestock in rural livelihood and the role of groundwater in sustaining those livelihoods, the FAO (1986, p. 137) states that 'groundwater is more widespread than surface water in the Sahel, although it is at present exploited mainly for domestic and livestock purposes, from traditional wells with yields too low for irrigation'. As with irrigation, quantification of the contribution of groundwater to SSA's total livestock economy, based on published sources, is problematic. The World Bank has estimated that 10% of SSA's population is directly dependent on livestock production (McIntire et a/., 1992). Thornton et a/. (2002) estimated that there are more than 160 million poor in SSA, and roughly one-third of the total population keep livestock. Given that a large share of livestock production is likely groundwater-dependent, the value of groundwater in SSA's overall livestock economy and in the livelihood of its poorest residents is clearly substantial.

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