Often called a pathway out of poverty, livestock rearing enables people to survive in harsh environments, earn extra income from sales of meat, milk or eggs, and may provide a financial safety net during tough times.
Napier grass, also known as elephant grass, is the most important type of ‘cut and carry’ grass used to feed dairy cattle in sub Saharan Africa. But in the central highlands of Kenya, an area where dairying is vital for farming incomes, Napier grass is being attacked by a harmful disease – head smut – which makes the leaves thin and tough, greatly reducing its feed value. In recent years, plant breeders from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) have developed a variety of Napier known as Kakamega 1, which is not affected by head smut. Around ten thousand farmers are now planting Kakamega 1, ensuring they have good supplies of feed for their cattle. Winnie Onyimbo visits the International Livestock Research Institute genebank in Ethiopia, which provided smut-tolerant Napier samples to the KARI breeders.
published: December 2012
Moses Amai, a smallholder dairy farmer from Kenya, has increased his year-round milk production by storing grass and crop residues for use as feed during the dry months. Instead of burning crop residues like maize and bean stalks, he stores them in his barn, which can hold up to 100 tonnes of feed. Another farmer, Jennifer Kilach, grinds green maize stalks, Napier grass and desmodium, to make a nutritious cattle feed for the dry season. With good availability of drinking water for their cattle, both farmers are managing to cope with more frequent periods of drought associated with climate change.
published: September 2012
In June 2011, a new information service for farmers was launched in Kenya. Called iCow, the service works by sending information in the form of SMS messages to mobile phones. Types of information the system can send include: prompts for dairy farmers, to ensure they are correctly managing their cattle during pregnancy; information on veterinary and insemination services in the farmer’s local area; and market information to enable trade of livestock and livestock products between users of the service. The iCow system was a winner of the 2010 Apps4Africa award, and a finalist in the 2012 Innovation Prize for Africa. Creator of iCow, Su Kahumbu, explains to Eric Kadenge more about how the service works and the importance of mobile phones for delivering information to farmers.
published: May 2012
In Malawi’s northern district of Karonga, cattle farmers have struggled to get a good price for their animals. But in 2007, work began to construct a modern abattoir in the district, with funding from the EU’s Farm Income Diversification Programme. Livestock farmers formed a committee to run the abattoir and staff from the local community were recruited, trained and employed. The abattoir follows rigorous standards and pays a fair price for animals. Local consumers are also benefitting from high quality, clean meat, available on a daily basis. Excello Zidana visits the abattoir to learn about the difference it has made to livestock farmers and their customers.
published: March 2012
In February 2012, representatives of governments, NGOs and civil society organisations from Africa, Europe, and Asia set off from Nairobi on a learning journey across Kenya and Tanzania. They travelled for 12 days in harsh, dry conditions, staying in community-run lodges and tented camps and holding discussions with pastoralist communities. The purpose of the journey was to understand the problems faced by pastoralists (and other rangeland users) in accessing resources, and to learn about successful strategies in improving community ownership and management of land. At the beginning of the journey, four participants from Sudan, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan and India described the challenges pastoralists face in their home countries, and what they hoped to learn from the journey ahead.
published: March 2012
In February 2012, 23 participants from Africa, Europe and Asia undertook a learning journey in the pastoral lands of Kenya and Tanzania. Over 12 days they visited pastoralist communities, and learned about land use systems, natural resource management and the challenges local rangeland users face in maintaining their livelihoods and their culture. At the end of the journey, four participants reflect on what they have learned, including messages for policymakers, their favourite moments, and how their thinking has been changed by the learning journey.
published: March 2012
Many diseases common to cows, sheep and goats are spread by ticks, and protecting livestock from tick bites is an important element in animal health. Dipping or spraying animals with an acaricide is the standard method of protection. For some farmers, however, accessing or affording the correct chemical can be difficult. An alternative being promoted by the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF) is to spray animals with a liquid extracted from a locally available plant. Tephrosia vogelli grows wild across much of sub-Saharan Africa. Boiling the leaves in water produces a natural pesticide which can be diluted and used as an effective protection against ticks. KIOF centre manager, Samuel Koputa, explains more to Geoffrey Onditi.
published: September 2011
In Kapamangama community, to the east of Lusaka, a neglected livestock dip tank has been rehabilitated in order to provide dipping services, at cost, to farmers. Farmers now pay around 10 US cents per animal to protect their livestock against ticks and tick-borne diseases, and livestock health in the area has improved. The community has also arranged to have communal disease prevention and treatment services provided by a private veterinary doctor, which again makes animal health an affordable option. As a result, herd sizes are increasing, and greater use of animal draft power is increasing crop yields and incomes.
published: August 2011
In dryland Kenya, farmers are using pods from the invasive weed, Prosopis juliflora, to make a high energy livestock feed. The plant can survive intensely dry weather, potentially providing a supplementary feed source, rich in carbohydrate and protein, when other grazing is limited. Communities are now mobilising on a large scale to collect and process the pods and market them. Geoffrey Onditi sees the feed-block making process in action and talks to some of those involved.
published: June 2011
Since 2007, the Engiteng Dairy Products company has set up five milk processing factories in Tanzania's Maasai land. Each sources hundreds of litres of milk every day from individual local suppliers, milk which is processed using modern equipment and sold to supermarkets and tourist lodges in Arusha, as well as to local customers. Having a reliable market for milk is making a big difference to Maasai women. Some are even increasing their herd sizes in order to make more profits. Lazarus Laiser reports from Terrat, where the oldest of the five dairies is located, speaking to unit manager Nasinyari Marko and pastoralism expert John Kuluo.
published: February 2011
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