Applying circular economy principles to intensification of livestock production in sub-Saharan Africa


In the context of sustainable agricultural development, much has been made of the need to apply agroecology or regenerative principles to improve rural livelihoods and to align the sector with critical planetary health boundaries. This movement is a reaction to the perceived private and social costs arising from both production and consumption associated with industrialised agriculture, mostly in upper-income countries, with several default assumptions being apparent about applicability elsewhere. The notion of circularity, or the circular economy, is frequently conflated with agro ecological rhetoric, often overlooking a longer tradition of circular resource use efficiency in traditional mixed crop–livestock farming in low-income settings. This paper examines the concept and origins of circularity and reviews some examples of historic circular economy research within the international agricultural research system as applied to smallholder agriculture. These include (i) studies focusing on the impact of crop residue retention, (ii) work on residue incorporation and/or mulching and their effects on crop yields and soil fertility, (iii) research on the effects of manure use on crop yields and soil fertility and (iv) work on the feeding of crop residues to livestock. We consider some promising innovations or practices adhering to circular economy principles. Candidate innovations focus on the improvement of livestock feeding practices including the breeding of dual-purpose crops to enhance livestock nutrition, conversion of cereal straw residues to high-quality feed, use of cassava waste as livestock feed and use of insects as livestock feed. We conclude by considering how circular bio-economy principles might be maintained in the future evolution of food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Duncan, A.J., Ayantunde, A., Blummel, M., Amole, T., Varijakshapanicker, P. and Moran, D. 2023. Applying circular economy principles to intensification of livestock production in sub-Saharan Africa. Outlook on Agriculture 52(3):327-338.


  • Duncan, Alan J.
  • Ayantunde, Augustine A.
  • Blümmel, Michael
  • Amole, Tunde A.
  • Varijakshapanicker, Padmakumar
  • Moran, Dominic