Locally rooted: Ideas and initiatives form the field
All over the world, farmers, and the organisations they work with, are showing the many benefits which livestock brings, and are also showing ways to increase these benefits. These are only a few examples of the many interesting ideas and practices seen in the field.
Feeding our cows: dairy farm development
Farmers wishing to earn money from livestock production in Albania face a number of difficulties. Those working with Heifer Netherlands in Lushnje, in the western part of the country, decided that the two main things in need of improvement were their stables and their livestock feeding regimes. First, they made sure their stables were ventilated, with proper lighting, pens, water and troughs. But the main change was in animal feeding. They decided to grow alfalfa, maize and ryegrass, as this would provide high quality hay, fresh grass, silage and concentrate. Each farmer calculated the amount of feed they needed for the whole year, and some rented land. Water pumps were provided to guarantee water supply. As a group, they learned how to make hay and silage, and were able to considerably improve their animals’ diets. The results of these changes were evident. Milk yield per cow increased, and so did profits. Farmers are healthier and their incomes are increasing; they now want more animals on their farms. One of farmers, Mariana Kristo, described how “seven years ago we had one cow, barely providing for our family of six. Today I have 12 Holstein cows, producing an average of 5,800 litres per cow. This is mainly due to the way we feed them.”
Want to know more? Write to Neeltje Suikerbuijk of Heifer Netherlands: neeltje[at]heifer.nl
Local option for land use planning
The uncertainties resulting from climate change have convinced many people about the importance of building water reservoirs.
The uncertainties resulting from climate change have convinced many people about the importance of building water reservoirs. Large scale dams can also provide electricity, making them even more appealing. But these projects may also lead to unwanted changes for the local communities, especially in terms of land use. The work of ASOGADI, the organisation of small scale livestock producers of Ituango, in the Colombian province of Antioquia, shows that drastic changes in existing land use patterns are not always necessary when trying to improve local livelihoods. Building on local traditions, this group has been able to increase the number of animals each household can support (from an average of 1.3 to 6), and thus increase the overall yields and incomes. Local production of biogas has helped reduce firewood consumption by 80 percent. And at least 78 hectares of forest are now carefully protected. These are the main arguments they are presenting in protest against the government’s decision of building a large hydroelectric site in Ituango. ASOGADI favours infrastructure, energy and water availability, but as a complement to local production – not as a replacement.
Want to know more? Write to Nubia Ciro: nubici[at]yahoo.com
More benefits with trees
Livestock production is considered to be a serious contributor to climate change. At the same time, animal rearing in countries like Mexico is being seriously affected by it: irregular rainfall and temperatures are already having an effect on the availability of water and forage. The establishment of silvopastoril systems (or systems that combine forests and animals) has proved to be beneficial, contributing to a farm’s resilience and even helping raise production levels. These results are even better if the systems are designed by the farmers themselves, on the basis of their own resources, needs and interests. This is the main objective of a project known as Scolel-te’ (the Maya word for “growing trees”), implemented in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Tabasco. Ambio, a local organisation, has been supporting farmers in these states with a series of projects, all of them focusing on building local capacities and developing local plans. Adding trees to pastures has helped improve the quality of the soil, and thus improve the quality and quantity of the forage produced. Trees have also become an additional source of income – farmers are able to use and sell wood, and even secure an income from the voluntary carbon markets.
Want to know more? Write to Guillermo Jimenez Ferrer: gjimenez[at]ecosur.mx
Meeting the demand for protein
One of the many different advantages of rearing animals is that they are a supply of protein for local diets. Improving local nutrition levels, while at the same time improving local incomes, was the main objective of Link-Up Afric, an organisation made up of youngsters living near Buea, in the South- West region of Cameroon. With two hundred birds and a locally-made incubator, they started a “quail development project”, where they have been breeding these small birds, producing eggs, and promoting the consumption of both the meat and eggs. In less than ten months they have sold more than 1,700 eggs, meeting a demand that recognises their nutritional and medicinal properties. Meat demand is not as high, as many villagers are not willing to pay a relatively high price. But they are willing to rear the birds themselves, so they buy fertilized eggs. Both the Ministry of Livestock and Animal Industries, and local NGOs, are producing training manuals and organising courses, and thus supporting these initiatives. Link-Up Afric has shown that low production costs and high outputs make quail rearing a very interesting option.
Want to know more? Write to INAPA, the Institute for Agro Pastoral Activities: awudungutte[at]yahoo.com