Livestock are the major consumers of water but also sustain millions of pastoralist and farming families. In regions where water is a scarce commodity, such as the Nile basin, there is a need for strategies to improve livestock water productivity (LWP). This study seeks to contribute to this need through a better understanding of livestock water use and productivity within the Nile basin and how this varies across the basin. We developed a spatial framework combining dynamic models of digestion in ruminants, crop water requirements (CWRs), and animal drinking water requirements to estimate spatial distribution of livestock water requirements in different livestock production systems (LPSs). We compared this with livestock production and water availability estimates within the basin. The results show that in most areas LWP is less than 0.1 USD/m3, with only few areas showing a LWP of 0.5 USD/m3 and higher. This is largely related to very low livestock meat and milk production on one hand and very variable, but, in general, low feed water productivity (fWP). Total water need for feed production was estimated to be roughly 94 billion m3, which amounts to approximately 5% of the total annual rainfall (68 billion m3 or 3.6% of total annual rainfall when excluding water for residues). Differences in LWP between systems and regions are large, suggesting considerable scope for improvements. We discuss the main factors influencing observed patterns of LWP and livestock water use and how this information can be used for developing strategies for increasing the water productivity of agricultural systems at the basin level.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ahmed AGM, Azeze A, Babiker M, Tsegaye D. 2003. Post-drought recovery strategies among the pastoral households in the horn of Africa: a review. Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA). Development Research Report Series 3. 70 pp.
Ahn CH, Tateishi R. 1994. Development of a global 30-minute grid potential evapotranspiration data set. Journal of the Japan Society Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 33(2):12–21.
Allen RG, Pereira LS, Raes D, Smith M. 1998. Crop evapotranspiration—guidelines for computing crop water requirements. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Allison CD. 1985. Factors affecting forage intake by range ruminants: a review. Journal of Range Management 38(4):305–11.
Blümmel M, Samad M, Singh O, Amede T. 2009. Opportunities and limitations of food–feed crops for livestock feeding and implications for livestock–water productivity. Rangeland Journal. 31:207–12.
Bouman BAM. 2007. A conceptual framework for the improvement of crop water productivity at different spatial scales. Agricultural Systems 93(1–3):43–60.
Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Columbia University; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); The World Bank; and Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT). 2004. Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project (GRUMP), Alpha Version: Mean Geographic Unit Area Grids. Palisades, NY: Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), Columbia University. http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/gpw.
CGIAR-CSI. 2004. CGIAR-CSI SRTM 90 m Digital Elevation Data version 4. http://srtm.csi.cgiar.org/.
Chapagain AK, Hoekstra A. 2003. Virtual water flows between nations in relation to trade in livestock and livestock products. Delft: UNESCO-IHE. 197 pp.
de Fraiture C, Wichelns D, Rockstrom J, Kemp-Benedict E, Eriyagama N, Gordon LJ, Hanjra MA, Hoogeveen J, Huber-Lee A, Karlberg L. 2007. Looking ahead to 2050: scenarios of alternative investment approaches. In: Molden D, Ed. Water for food, water for life: a comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. London, Colombo: Earthscan, International Water Management Institute. p 91–145.
Debaeke P, Aboudrare A. 2004. Adaptation of crop management to water-limited environments. European Journal of Agronomy 21(4):433–46.
Elzaki RMA. 2005. The feasibility of integration of livestock production in irrigated agriculture in sudan (case study: the gezira scheme). PhD in Agricultural Sciences (Agricultural Economics), University of Khartoum, Sudan. 196 pp.
de Leeuw PN. 1997. Crop Residues in Tropical Africa: Trends in Supply, Demand and Use. In: Renard C, Ed. Crop Residues in Sustainable Mixed Crop/Livestock Farming Systems. Wallingford: CAB International.
de Leeuw PN, Rey B. 1995. Analysis of current trends in the distribution patterns of ruminant livestock in tropical Africa. World animal review 83:47–59.
de Leeuw PN, Tothill JC. 1990. The Concept of Rangeland Carrying Capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Myth Or Reality. London: Overseas Development Institute, Pastoral Development Network.
Faki H, I El-Dukheri, M Mekki, Peden D. 2008. Opportunities for increasing livestock water productivity in Sudan. In: Humphreys E, Bayot RS, van Brake M, Gichuki F, Svendsen M, Wester P, Huber-Lee A, Cook S, Douthwaite B, Hoanh CT, Johnson N, Nguyen-Khoa S, Vidal A, MacIntyre I, MacIntyre R, Eds. Fighting poverty through sustainable water use: volume II. Proceedings of the CGIAR Challenge program on water and food 2nd international forum on water and food, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 10–14, 2008. The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, Colombo. p. 57. http://www.ifwf2.org/.
FAO. 2001. Atlas of water resources and irrigation in Africa. CD-ROM, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Rome. http://www.fao.org/icatalog/search/dett.asp?aries_id=101947.
FAO. 2002. Estimated meat and milk offtake (kg) per kmq in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/geonetwork/.
FAO. 2004. Global map of monthly reference evapotranspiration—10 arc minutes. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/geonetwork/.
FAO. 2008. FAOSTAT. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. http://faostat.fao.org/.
FAO. 2009. Harmonized World Soil Database version 1.1. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Fratkin EM, Roth EA. 2005. As pastoralists settle. Social, health, and economic consequences of the pastoral sedentarization in Marsabit district, Kenya. Berlin: Springer. 296 pp.
Goodland R, Pimental D. 2000. Environmental sustainability and integrity in the agriculture sector. In: Pimentel D, Westra L, Noss RF, Eds. Ecological integrity: integrating environment. Conservation and health. Washington, DC: Island Press. p 121–38.
Gryseels G. 1988. Role of livestock on mixed smallholders farms in the Ethiopian highlands. PhD thesis, Agricultural University, Wageningen. 249 pp.
Herrero M, Thornton PK, Kruska R, Reid RS. 2008. Systems dynamics and the spatial distribution of methane emissions from African domestic ruminants to 2030. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 126(1–2):122–37.
Herrero M, Thornton PK, Notenbaert A, Msangi S, Wood S, Kruska R, Dixon J, Bossio D, van de Steeg JA, Freeman HA, Li X, Parthasarathy Rao P. 2009. Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030. A study commissioned by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme. Nairobi, Kenya: International Livestock Research Institute.
Herrero M, Croucher M, van Breugel P, Peden D. In press. The water productivity of two tropical livestock-based systems differing in intensification level. ILRI Discussion Paper. Nairobi, Kenya: International Livestock Research Institute.
Holechek JL, Gomez H, Molinar F, Galt D. 1999. Grazing studies: what we’ve learned. Rangelands 21(2):12–16.
Hui D, Jackson RB. 2005. Geographical and interannual variability in biomass partitioning in grassland ecosystems: a synthesis of field data. New Phytologist 169:85–93.
Illius A, Gordon I. 1991. Prediction of intake and digestion in ruminants by a model of rumen kinetics integrating animal size and plant characteristics. Journal of Agricultural Science 116(1):145–57.
Illius AW, O’Connor TG. 1999. On the relevance of nonequilibrium concepts to arid and semiarid grazing systems. Ecological Applications 9(3):798–813.
Jones PG, Thornton PK, Diaz W, Wilkens PW. 2002. MarkSim. A computer tool that generates simulated weather data for crop modeling and risk assessment. Version 1, Cali, Colombia: CIAT. http://gisweb.ciat.cgiar.org/marksim/.
JRC. 2005. Global 2000 Landcover. http://www-gvm.jrc.it/glc2000/.
King JM. 1983. Livestock water needs in pastoral Africa in relation to climate and forage. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Center for Africa.
Kossila V. 1988. Plant breeding and the nutritive value of crop residues. In: Reed JD, Capper BS, Neate PJH, Eds. Plant breeding and the nutritive value of crop residues. Proceedings of a workshop, ILCA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7–10 December, 1987, International Livestock Centre for Africa, Addis Ababa. pp 29–39.
Kruska RL, Reid RS, Thornton PK, Henninger N, Kristjanson PM. 2003. Mapping livestock-oriented agricultural production systems for the developing world. Agricultural Systems 77(1):39–63.
Le Houérou HL, Ed. 1980. Browse in Africa. Papers presented at the international symposium on browse in Africa, Addis Ababa, April 8–12 1980. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Center for Africa. http://www.ilri.org/InfoServ/Webpub/Fulldocs/Browse_in_Africa/toc.htm#TopOfPage.
Le Houérou HN. 1985. Pastoralism. In: Kates R, Ausubel J, Berberian M, Eds. Climate impact assessment scope 27. Paris, France: Scientific committee on problems of the environment (Scope). http://www.icsu-scope.org/downloadpubs/scope27/chapter07.html.
Le Houérou HN. 2006. Environmental constraints and limits to livestock husbandry in arid lands. Science et changements planétaires/Sécheresse 17(1–2):10–18.
Le Houérou HN, Hoste CH. 1977. Rangeland production and annual rainfall relations in the Mediterranean Basin and in the African Sahelo-Sudanian zone. Journal of Rangeland Management 30:181–9.
Maehl JHH. 1997. The national perspective: a synthesis of country reports presented at the workshop. In: Renard C, Ed. crop residues in sustainable mixed crop/livestock farming systems. Wallingford, UK: CABI. pp 269–310.
Manger L. 2006. Resource conflict as a factor in the Darfur crisis in Sudan. Paper for the international symposium “At the frontier of land issues: social embeddedness of rights and public policy”, Montpellier, France, May 17–19. Montpellier: Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique. 27 pp.
Mitchell TD, Jones PD. 2005. An improved method of constructing a database of monthly climate observations and associated high-resolution grids. International Journal of Climatology 25:693–712.
Molden D, Oweis TY, Steduto P, Kijne JW, Hanjra MA, Bindraban, PS, Bouman BAM, Cook S, Erenstein O, Farahani H, Hachum A, Hoogeveen J, Mahoo H, Nangia V, Peden D, Sikka A, Silva P, Turral H, Upadhyaya A, Zwart S. 2007. Pathways for increasing agricultural water productivity. In: Molden D, Ed. Water for food, water for life: A comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. London, Colombo: Earthscan, International Water Management Institute. pp 279–310.
Molden D, Murray-Rust H, Sakthivadivel R, Makin I, Kijne W, Barker R. 2003. A water-productivity framework for understanding and action. In: Molden D, Ed. Water productivity in agriculture: limits and opportunities for improvements. Wallingford, UK/Colombo, Sri Lanka: CABI/IWMI. p 1–18.
Murphy MR. 1992. Water metabolism of dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science 75(1):326–33.
Nell AJ. 2006. Quick scan of the livestock and meat sector in Ethiopia, Issues and opportunities. Background information for a Trade Mission to Ethiopia collected on request of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Food Quality of the Netherlands. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wageningen University. p 38.
Nelson A. 2006. Market accessibility surfaces for Africa. Asia: LAC. Unpublished data.
New M, Lister D, Hulme M, Makin I. 2002. A high-resolution data set of surface climate over global land areas. Climate Research 21(1):1–25.
Nordblom TL. 1988. The importance of crop residues as feed resources in West Asia and North Africa. In: Reed JD, Capper BS, Neate PJH, Eds. Plant breeding and the nutritive value of crop residues. Proceedings of a workshop, ILCA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7–10 December, 1987, International Livestock Centre for Africa, Addis Ababa. pp 41–63.
Otte MJ, Chilonda P. 2002. Cattle and small ruminant production systems in sub-Saharan Africa—a systematic review. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/005/Y4176E/Y4176E00.HTM.
Peden D, Tadesse G, Mammo M. 2003. Improving the water productivity of livestock: an opportunity for poverty reduction. Paper for the workshop “Integrated water and land management research and capacity building priorities for Ethiopia”, Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, 2–4 December 2002. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Research Institute. http://www.ilri.org/Infoserv/webpub/Fulldocs/IntegratedWater/default.htm.
Peden D, Tadesse G, Misra AK, Ahmed FA, Astatke A, Ayalneh W, Herrero M, Kiwuwa G, Kumsa T, Mati B, Mpairwe D, Wassenaar T, Yimegnuhal A. 2007. Water and livestock for human development. Comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Water for food, water for life. In: Molden D, Ed. Water for food, water for life: a comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. London, Colombo: Earthscan, International Water Management Institute. p 485–514.
Powell JM, Williams TO. 1995. An overview of mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. In: Powell JM, Fernández-Rivera S, Williams TO, Renard C, Eds. Livestock and sustainable nutrient cycling in mixed farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa. Volume II: Technical papers. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Centre for Africa. 568 pp.
Prince SD, Brown de Colstoun E, Kravitz LL. 1998. Evidence from rain-use efficiencies does not indicate extensive Sahelian desertification. Global Change Biology 4:359–74.
Renault D, Wallender WW. 2000. Nutritional water productivity and diets. Agricultural Water Management 45(3):275–96.
Rockström J, Falkenmark M. 2000. Semiarid crop production from a hydrological perspective: gap between potential and actual yields. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 19(4):319–46.
Rockström J, Hatibu N, Oweis TY, Wani S, Barron J, Bruggeman A, Farahani J, Karlberg L, Qiang Z. 2007. Managing water in rainfed agriculture. In: Molden D, Ed. water for food, water for life: a comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. London, UK, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Earthscan/International Water Management Institute. pp 315–352.
Seré C, Steinfeld H. 1996. World livestock production systems: current status, issues and trends. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
Sniffen CJ, O’Connor JD, Van Soest PJ, Fox DG, Russell JB. 1992. A net carbohydrate and protein system for evaluating cattle diets: II. Carbohydrate and protein availability. Journal of Animal Science 70(11):3562–77.
Sonder K, Astatke A, El Wakeel A, Molden D, Peden D. 2005. Strategies for increasing livestock water productivity in water stressed agricultural systems. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Research Institute.
Steinfeld H, Gerber P, Wassenaar T, Castel V, Rosales M, de Haan C. 2006. Livestock’s long shadow: environmental issues and options. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative.
The World Bank. 2007. International Comparison Program - Poverty PPPs. http://go.worldbank.org/OPQO6VS750.
Thornthwaite CW, Mather JR. 1955. The water balance. Publications in Climatology 8(1):1–104.
Thornton PK, Jones PG, Owiyo TM, Kruska RL, Herrero M, Kristjanson P, Notenbaert A, Bekele N,Omolo A, with contributions from Orindi V, Otiende B, Ochieng A, Bhadwal S, Anantram K, Nair S, Kumar V, Kulkar U. 2006. Mapping climate vulnerability and poverty in Africa. Report to the Department for International Development, Nairobi, Kenya: International Livestock Research Institute. 200 pp.
UN World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision. 2008 Population division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. http://esa.un.org/unpp/.
UNEP. 2007 Sudan post-conflict environmental assessment report. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme. 355 pp.
Urga B, Abayneh T. 2007. Study on management practices and work-associated health problems of draught oxen around Debre Berhan, Central Ethiopia. Livestock Research for Rural Development 19:Article #7. http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd19/1/urga19007.htm.
Vetter S. 2005. Rangelands at equilibrium and non-equilibrium: recent developments in the debate. Journal of Arid Environments 62(2):321–41.
VITO. 2005a. Ten day LAI data layers for the years 1999–2003. Global Earth observation in Support of climate change and environmental security studies. http://geofront.vgt.vito.be/geosuccess/.
VITO. 2005b. Ten day dry matter production (DMP) data layers for the years 1999–2006. Global Earth observation in Support of climate change and environmental security studies. http://geofront.vgt.vito.be/geosuccess/.
Wint GRW, Robinson TP. 2007. Gridded livestock of the world 2007. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. 131 pp.
You L, Wood S, Wood-Sichra U. 2009. Generating plausible crop distribution maps for Sub-Saharan Africa using spatially disaggregated data fusion and optimization approach. Agricultural Systems 99:126–40.
Zerbini E, Shapiro B, Chirgwin JC. 1998. Technology transfer: multi-purpose cows for milk, meat and traction in smallholder farming systems. In: Proceedings of an expert consultation, ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 11–14 September 19, Nairobi, Kenya
This article presents findings from PN37, “Nile Basin livestock water productivity,” a part of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.
PVB: Designed the study, performed research, analyzed data and wrote the paper; MH: Contributed to new methods and wrote the paper, JVDS wrote the paper, DP conceived of the study concept and wrote the paper.
About this article
Cite this article
van Breugel, P., Herrero, M., van de Steeg, J. et al. Livestock Water Use and Productivity in the Nile Basin. Ecosystems 13, 205–221 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-009-9311-z
- livestock water productivity
- livestock water use
- feed requirements
- livestock systems
- crop and range water requirements
- Nile basin