Pearl millet is a staple cereal cultivated mainly by subsistence farmers on 14 million ha of the West African semi-arid tropics. Increasing pressure on the land has reduced the length of the fallow periods, which are necessary to restore soil fertility, resulting in declining yields. To investigate ways of reversing this decline, three systems combining phosphorus fertilizer application, improved varieties of millet and cowpea, and improved agronomic practices were compared with the traditional millet–cowpea intercrop system in a three year experiment. The most productive system involved the rotation of fertilized millet and cowpea. Pre-sowing tillage increased hay and fodder yields in all the improved systems. The application of fertilizer increased the amount of available phosphorus in the soil. Soil pH declined somewhat in all treatments, although the initially low soil organic matter did not change.