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Improving food and fodder with dual-purpose cowpea varieties

Improving food and fodder with dual-purpose cowpea varieties

By Scout Nelson

Livestock is an integral part of farming systems in the semi-arid regions of West Africa, particularly in agropastoral communities. Approximately 40% of the ruminant livestock in Sub-Saharan Africa are raised in these agropastoral systems.

A significant challenge in this system is the limited availability of fodder, especially during the dry season when the nutritive value of native rangeland forages is very low. In regions with livestock, cowpea residues are removed as a high-value and tradable commodity in fodder markets to complement cereal crop residues.

Integrating dual-purpose cowpea cultivars for grain and fodder can improve the quality and availability of forage for regional livestock.

Substantial research has been conducted to develop these dual-purpose, nutrient-dense cowpea cultivars, such as Lizard, Leona, Kelle, and Sam.

These new cultivars have “stay green” properties at maturity, which enhances fodder quality, and are tolerant to heat stress, making them ideal for production in the targeted regions.

The project had several key objectives:

Evaluate the dual benefits of cowpea varieties to increase both grain and fodder quantity and quality.

Conduct a tradeoff assessment for cowpea markets, focusing on tradeoffs and synergies between grain and fodder production in traditionally pastoralist areas compared to areas that traditionally grow cowpea.

The project collaborated with scientists from various institutions, including the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Senegal National Agency for Extension and Advising (ANCAR), Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, Faculté des Sciences Economiques et de Gestion (FASEG), and Université Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar.

By developing and integrating these dual-purpose cowpea cultivars, the project aims to address the critical challenge of fodder scarcity in semi-arid regions. This approach improves livestock feed quality and supports the livelihoods of farmers in West Africa.

The collaborative efforts of researchers and agricultural institutions are vital in promoting sustainable farming practices and enhancing food security in the region.

Photo Credit: pexels-jeffrey-czum

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