Beyond livestock carrying capacity in the Sahelian and Sudanian zones of West Africa


We applied the process-based model, LandscapeDNDC, to estimate feed availability in the Sahelian and Sudanian agro-ecological zones of West Africa as a basis for calculating the regional Livestock Carrying Capacity (LCC). Comparison of the energy supply (S) from feed resources, including natural pasture, browse, and crop residues, with energy demand (D) of the livestock population for the period 1981–2020 allowed us to assess regional surpluses (S > D) or deficits (S < D) in feed availability. We show that in the last 40 years a large-scale shift from surplus to deficit has occurred. While during 1981–1990 only 27% of the area exceeded the LCC, it was 72% for the period 2011–2020. This was caused by a reduction in the total feed supply of ~ 8% and an increase in feed demand of ~ 37% per-decade, driven by climate change and increased livestock population, respectively. Overall, the S/D decreased from ~ 2.6 (surplus) in 1981 to ~ 0.5 (deficit) in 2019, with a north–south gradient of increasing S/D. As climate change continues and feed availability may likely further shrink, pastoralists either need to source external feed or significantly reduce livestock numbers to avoid overgrazing, land degradation, and any further conflicts for resources.


Rahimi, J., Haas, E., Grote, R., Kraus, D., Smerald, A., Laux, P., Goopy, J. and Butterbach-Bahl, K. 2021. Beyond livestock carrying capacity in the Sahelian and Sudanian zones of West Africa. Scientific Reports 11:22094.


  • Rahimi, J.
  • Haas, E.
  • Grote, R.
  • Kraus, D.
  • Smerald, A.
  • Laux, P.
  • Goopy, John P.
  • Butterbach-Bahl, Klaus