The Africa RISING QuickFeed ‘early win’ project held its synthesis meeting on 3 and 4 September 2012. The project was led by ILRI and ICARDA with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the Oromia Regional Agricultural Research Institute (OARI).
At the meeting, project partners from Kulumsa, Sinana and Bako Agricultural Research Centers presented the results of their rapid, participatory diagnoses of opportunities for livestock intensification in mixed-crop livestock farming systems in seven kebele in three districts in Arsi, Bale and Horo Gudru Welega. To do this they used rapid, diagnostic tools developed by ILRI and partners that allowed them to stratify farm households on the basis of livelihood endowment, conduct a participatory analysis of constraints of livestock production and feeding systems using the FEAST tool, identify a shortlist of feed interventions for action research using the TechFit tool, and conduct a Value Chain Assessment (VCA) for dairy and sheep.
At all research sites, the crop-livestock systems were highly diversified and traditional. Farmers grew a wide range of field crops such as wheat and barley and raised a variety of livestock including dairy cattle, sheep and goats, draught and beef cattle, horses, donkeys and poultry. Livestock contributed 25 – 59% to household income. Some sites had access to grazing areas while others relied mostly on crop residues and fodder crops for feeding their livestock.
Despite these differences in resources and production systems, the three most serious constraints identified by farmers were a lack of: feed, knowledge on how to improved production, clean water, animal health support, credit and artificial insemination.
Feed constraints ranked high at all sites and potential solutions were identified. Among others, these included improving the conservation and utilization of crop residues, growing of additional annual fodder crops, introducing forage crops, improving feed formulation and limiting the number of animals raised. The study showed the high level of interdependence of crop and livestock production in the highly diverse Ethiopian farming systems, and any intervention needs to be carefully analyzed in terms of its effect on other parts of the farming system.
The VCA results showed that there is a strong unmet demand for fattened sheep, both for domestic markets and export, and for milk and milk products in domestic markets. Together with the results of FEAST the project identified opportunities for feed, management and marketing interventions that would allow smallholders to intensify their sheep production and take advantage of the strong market demand. Opportunities for feed interventions were also identified for dairy cattle but these would need to be addressed concurrently with a broad range of animal breeding, health and management interventions.
Overall, project partners found the diagnostic tools very useful and will use them in their future research. The tools facilitated interaction with farmers and other actors along the market chain with whom researchers would not normally come in contact and so built understanding and relationships that will be invaluable for intensification of smallholder livestock production. They also appreciated the emphasis of the project on capacity building and training, and the back-stopping provided by ILRI and ICARDA scientists and consultants.
Beyond feed assessment tools …
The project showed that the combination of FEAST and Value Chain Assessment (VCA) results were very useful in identifying opportunities for livestock intensification. FEAST is a rapid, participatory tool designed to characterize livestock and feeding systems and identify constraints and opportunities for feed interventions on a whole-farm basis. The VCA methodology used in QuickFeed was a slightly more time-demanding tool designed to gain an understanding of the livestock value chain from production to the final consumer. It provided a clear picture of constraints in the selected value chain and identified opportunities for interventions along the production to market chain. Together with the FEAST output, VCA provided a sound basis for selecting particular livestock production systems, such as sheep fattening, for intensification and identifying opportunities for interventions.
The interactive and participatory nature of FEAST and VCA also had the advantage of bringing researchers into contact and facilitating interaction with a broad range of actors in the value chain with whom researchers would not normally come in contact. Apart from better understanding the point of view of different actors, this interaction built relationships that will be invaluable for developing innovation platforms for livestock intensification.
Story by Werner Stur
The Africa RISING program comprises three linked research-for-development projects, funded by the USAID Feed the Future Initiative, and aiming to sustainably intensify mixed farming systems in West Africa (Southern Mali and Northern Ghana), the Ethiopian Highlands and East and Southern Africa (Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi).
To produce some short-term outputs and to support the longer term objectives of the projects, in 2012 Africa RISING funded several small, short-term projects in each of the regions. More information.