Africa / Animal Feeding / Asia / Fodder / Forages / India / Innovation Systems / Insurance / Livestock Systems / Nigeria / South Asia / West Africa

Improving smallholder fodder through better knowledge as well as technologies

Fodder market in India

Busy fodder market in Hyderabad, India; farmers transport their fodder to this market, where it is bought by urban dairies (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

The magazine Farming Matters ran a feature on a Fodder Innovation Project funded by the UK Department for International Development and conducted since 2003 by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with partners in Nigeria and India. The aim of the project is to improve the availability of good fodder for small-scale livestock keepers in those countries.

The partners in this project, says the article, discovered that the problems related to fodder availability have just as much to do with access to knowledge as with access to appropriate technology.

‘The innovation-focused approach of the Fodder Innovation Project led to some very interesting results. These are some of the outcomes:
‘In India, village dairy co-operatives that had gone out of business were revived when surplus milk became available. Some farmers collaborated with these co-operatives for fodder supply and payment recovery.
‘New and unusual partnerships emerged in both India and Nigeria. In Ikire, Nigeria, representatives of the Goat Sellers Association gave tips on feeding and rearing to goat farmers. The Justice Development and Peace Commission collaborated with the Nigerian Veterinary Research Institute to provide training to local service-providers and vaccination services to goat farmers.
‘Community-based organisations took the initiative of organising health camps in collaboration with the government to extend vaccination coverage.
‘A demand emerged for research into improved goat breeds suitable for Southern Nigeria –an example of farmers helping to set research agenda.
‘Closer and more efficient networks were set up in Rogo, Nigeria.
‘In India, new fodder production initiatives emerged, bringing together governmental departments and academics.
‘New responsibilities were shouldered at the level of policy-making, from organising trainings to liaising and co-ordinating on many fodderrelated issues.
‘India’s Foundation for Ecological Security was so impressed with the project results that it extended the use of networking and the creation of multi-stakeholder platforms to all its other programmes.
‘On learning of the project, India’s Planning Commission invited a representative to take part in national livestock planning discussions.

‘. . . As an action research project, the Fodder Innovation Project was successful in setting up networks and turning them into effective learning laboratories, but further improvements can still be made. Innovation platforms could be created around crop-livestock value chainsand strategies put in place to ensure that innovations are pro-women and pro-poor. The lessons must be sustained and expanded before they have currency in policy debates, but the fact that an apex organisationlike India’s National Dairy Development Board agreed to host the Fodder Innovation Policy Working Group is encouraging. The shift in perspectivefrom a technology-driven to an innovation-focused approach is well underway, but we need to gather more evidence before policy-makers take it on board wholeheartedly.’

The article gives the following example of how communities were encouraged to scale up their livestock enterprises.

‘In the Ikire area of southern Nigeria, farmers kept goats mostly as a saving and/or insurance against crises. While rearing goats at a subsistence level, fodder was a non-issue. They were mostly being managed by women alongside their domestic chores who preferred to let them browse freely on available feeding resources, irrespective of the season. Traditionally goat farmers do not access markets directly–they depend upon middlemen (who work independently within pre-determined boundaries) who tend to be exploitative. In discussions with farmers, it was found that the farmers recognise the potential of goat rearing as a supplementary livelihood option, as a chance to make extra money during festivals. However, as the right network was not in place, they never took scaling up of the activity seriously. Continued discussions revealed that farmers who were keen to move from subsistence to more systematic rearing of goats (on a commercial scale) would require not only an assured, adequate and year-round supply of the right kind of fodder, but would also have to confine their animals, and build appropriate networks. In turn, each of these factors would require a combination of technology-related and institutional interventions to be carried out by relevant individuals and/or organizations.’

Read the whole feature at Farming Matters: Reassessing the fodder problem, March 2010.

Watch a video interview with the project leader – Ranjitha Puskur

Or visit the Fodder Innovations Project website.

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