Some crops or crop residues can be used as animal feed. Livestock provides draft power and organic manure that boosts soil fertility, thus increasing crop yields.
Livestock improves smallholder farmers' livelihoods, generating incomes by providing both food and non-food products that the household can sell in formal or informal markets. For the poor and under-nourished, particularly children, the addition of modest amounts of meat, milk or fish to their diets can have substantial benefits on their health.
The multiple interactions between crop - livestock and the natural resources, soil and water in particular, should be carefully analyzed in a systems perspective to understand the potential impact and trade-offs of a particular change in the crop-livestock system. For instance the SystemWide Livestock Programme looks at the use of crop residues and competition between feed, renewal of soil fertility and other purposes. Other aspects determining the crop-livestock interactions the cropping patterns (eg should the farmer allocate surface for grain or fodder crop ?), mulching practices and soil fertility, feeding strategies and livestock productivity, or the access to information and extension services.
Localized and market-oriented approach to facilitate uptake of innovations
Livestock development should lead to better incomes and nutrition. Yet, mixed crop-livestock small-scale farms in developing countries do not have often enough incentives to invest in their husbandry, as the markets they have access to are often informal with poor infrastructure, inputs and services, resulting in high risk and low return of investment.
One major constraint for these farms is availability of feed sources and rising animal feeding costs. Various innovations could help like sorghum or millet varieties with crop residues of greater fodder quality [see for instance "Sida-funded Bio-Innovate program, new sorghum and millets varieties for better food and animal feed security and improving livelihoods in Eastern Africa" or "Improving post rainy sorghum varieties to meet the growing grain and fodder demand in India" ACIAR-funded project, “Improving post rainy sorghum varieties to meet the growing grain and fodder demand in India”], using nitrogen-rich grain legumes residues, mixing sorghum stover with urea or promoting interesting fodder sources such as bana grass (read the Crop-livestock intensification in Zimbabwe case study).
Innovation platforms gathering farmers, traders and other stakeholders along the livestock supply chain can drive the necessary changes in the way crops and livestock are managed, leading to intensification, better value for the farmer and more efficient and profitable value chain for smallholder farmers .