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Published on October 8th, 2019

Best Practices and Lessons Learned from the Successful Implementation of the USAID/Mali Livestock for Growth Program

About the project: Livestock for Growth (L4G) is a five-year program funded by USAID/Mali under the Feed the Future Initiative that supported and strengthened the competitiveness of the livestock value chain in the Mopti and Timbuktu regions of Mali.

At the end of September, DT Global completed the five-year USAID/Mali Feed the Future Livestock for Growth (L4G) project in Mali. Over the course of project, L4G raised livestock productivity, improved the quality of livestock (i.e. beef cattle, sheep and goats) being bred for the market, expanded access to markets for small-scale livestock producers, and created income-earning opportunities for marginalized members of rural households such as women and youth. We delivered training and technical services to more than 24,000 households in the Mopti and Timbuktu regions of Mali. These trainings targeted livestock owners who otherwise lacked reliable access to modern livestock production practices, technology, and financial services, especially women and youth.


To commemorate the implementation of L4G, we’ve rounded up four key successes from the program.


Success 1: Deploying Farmer Field Schools training grew farmer knowledge on modern farm practices and increased the production of animal fodder

DT Global established 151 Farmer Field School sites over the last three years of the L4G project (2017 to 2019), acting on the recommendation of our Senior Engagement Manager, Dr. Thomas J. Herlehy. Farmer Field Schools (FFS) are training sites at which 1,481 Lead Farmers in local communities (of whom 53% were women) were trained by DT Global staff in modern farm and animal management practices.

Next, our staff encouraged the Lead Farmers to establish their own community-based FFS sites at which they would then train the members of their livestock Producer Organizations (POs)—groups of livestock owners in rural Mali who collaborate to share information and negotiate sales and purchases as a group. In this way, Lead Farmers become trainer of trainers and help their neighbors learn by doing, too. These female and male Lead Farmers established their own FFS sites where they trained more than 32,000 farmers and livestock owners (of whom more than 65% were women) who belonged to 529 livestock POs.

Trainings included information on how to grow animal forage crops that could be harvested and transformed into animal fodder. One of the key ways to do this is by adding nutrients such as molasses and urea to the fodder. In 2019 alone, Malian farmers trained by L4G produced more than 28,556 kgs or 2,855 Metric Tons (MT) of animal fodder. Out of this, producers sold about 15,991 kgs or 1,599 MT of animal fodder (56% of total production), and they retained the remaining 12,564 kgs or 1,256 MT (44%) for feeding and fattening their own cattle, sheep, or goats. They earned USD$6,396.00 in 2019 from the sale of 1,599 MT of animal fodder.

As a direct result of L4G training and technical assistance, farmers put almost 6,100 hectares of land under improved agricultural practices, including animal forage crops production, exceeding our project target by 52%.


Success 2: Using modern livestock feeding and multi-nutritional licking blocks increased animal health and weight, bolstering incomes for female as well as male livestock owners

Our L4G staff introduced modern livestock feeding practices to FFS trainees. An integral aspect of the modern intensive animal production or fattening techniques that were scaled-out through L4G is the production and use multi-nutritional licking blocks (MNLB). We trained farmers, especially women, on the use of MNLBs, and almost 19,000 MNLBs were produced by mostly women during the life of the L4G project. Of these, women sold about 16,000 MNLBs, generating more than 10 million CFAF (USD$17,000) in extra income for these women. The 3,000 MNLBs which were not sold were kept by the women to fatten their own sheep. In the Malian socio-cultural context, sheep are traditionally raised by women.

By combining animal fodder with MNLBs, female livestock owners fattened their sheep for market sale within just 3 months and male livestock owners fattened their beef cattle for market sale within just 4 months, instead of 11 or 12 months using traditional extensive grazing practices. As a result, both sales of live beef cattle and sheep rose dramatically and incomes rose as well.


Success 3: Innovation in livestock veterinary service delivery led to increased access to vaccinations and other veterinary services

DT Global complemented its introduction of improved, intensive animal feeding practices and technology with improved access to animal veterinary services. Through L4G, we pioneered the approach of encouraging private licensed animal vets to collaborate with auxiliary veterinary service providers to deliver animal health services directly to livestock owners in their own communities and at livestock markets, as well as watering points along livestock transport routes.

Our staff trained 76 auxiliary veterinary service providers to collaborate with three private licensed veterinarians in Bankass and Koro cercles in the Mopti region. As a result of these complementary and mutually reinforcing activities, the project vaccinated more than 1 million livestock animals (590,000 beef cattle, 360,000 sheep and 110,000 goats) against crippling animal diseases over the five-year life of project.

Veterinarians also delivered animal de-worming services to livestock-owning households. Indeed, according to a complementary analytical study carried out by an independent research firm, Fraym, for DT Global, vaccination and de-worming service coverage in the L4G area increased from 48% of all livestock-owning households in 2014, to more than 60% of all livestock-owning households in 2017.


Success 4: Training on “Livestock as a Business” stimulated marketing and grew livestock owners’ incomes

As a direct result of improved access to animal health care services and adoption of improved animal production or fattening techniques and practices, livestock owners were able to bring healthy, fattened animals to markets for sale. Indeed, all the new practices and techniques introduced by DT Global through L4G were to transform rural households’ perceptions of their livestock. DT Global encouraged livestock owners and producers to cease thinking about raising livestock as being “a way of life,” and instead, to start thinking about their livestock production activities in a business-like manner.

As part of this “Livestock as a Business” approach, DT Global ensured that rural households improved their rudimentary reading and math skills. This is critical in helping female and male livestock owners to think in a business-like manner, because as businesswomen and businessmen, they have to be able to track their costs to raise healthier, fatter livestock animals while they also calculate their gross revenue and eventually, their net profits and/or incomes. By working with and through Lead Farmers, especially well-respected women and men in the communities of Mopti and Timbuktu regions, DT Global was able to convince many women and men that they had the skills, abilities, and self-confidence to be successful livestock businessmen and women.

Men and women livestock owners generated more than 6 billion CFAF in sales revenue or about USD$11 million. About half of all livestock sales, or 3 billion CFAF (or about USD$5 million), were destined for export (foreign) markets, especially in Dakar, Senegal and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Livestock owners sold the remaining half in domestic (local) markets in Mali. One of the more promising developments that DT Global was able to facilitate was the establishment of a formal forward contract between the Koro district animal fatteners network and a Mali slaughterhouse known as LAHAM. About 10% of all livestock sales, or 600 million CFAF (about USD$1.0 million) were sold to LAHAM and we expect this commercial relationship to endure beyond the end of the L4G project.

Livestock sales and the gross margins (profits) earned by livestock owners, especially for fattened sheep and beef cattle, rose during the five-year life of the project. According to our 2019 L4G survey, beef cattle farmers, who tend to be men (for socio-cultural reasons), sold 3,350 beef cattle for more than USD$5.4 million, earning a net profit of USD$69 per head, an increase of 155% over what they earned before the project began in October 2014. Sheep owners, who tend to be women (for socio-cultural reasons) sold more than 54,000 sheep for more than USD$8 million, earning a net profit of USD$56 per head, an increase of 155% over what they earned before the project started.