Livestock grass, a weapon against poverty and drought

 

Photo credit: CIATCIAT

An unlikely weapon against poverty and drought

Silas Mdoe has a weapon against poverty and drought. It’s so unassuming that most farmers completely overlook it: livestock grass.

As this recent study shows, keeping livestock can help farmers like Silas earn more money and put more food on the table, especially during unpredictable weather. In Tanzania, drought has decimated many farmers’ harvests, including Silas’ maize, which he relies on for an income.

In his village of Mbuzii in Lushoto, in the east of the country, one-fifth of farmers generate around 40 percent of their income from milk. “Cows give manure for crops and provide milk all year, which we can sell to buy sugar or pay school fees. Banks will lend money if you have a cow,” explained Mdoe.

But investing in higher quality varieties of grass for livestock like Napier or Brachiaria hybrids like Mulato II, which improve livestock health and the amount of milk produced by up to two liters per cow a day, is not that simple for many farmers.

Long drought, no feed

That’s because it’s not a priority for most farmers in Tanzania or across East Africa to grow feed for animals when crops for their families naturally come first. This is compounded by the fact that with population growth, grazing land disappears and farm plots become smaller. Forages – quality grasses grown specifically to feed animals – are therefore in short supply.

Read the full story: CIAT

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.