Livestock to Markets

Photo credit: Treehugger

© Livestock is the primary measure of wealth among herding communities of northern Kenya. CREDIT: Ron Geatz

A key tool in driving the better management of the rangelands is access to markets.

By Charlotte Kaiser, Deputy Managing Director at NatureVest, The Nature Conservancy.

For thousands of years the pastoralist communities of northern Kenya have herded their cattle alongside elephants and zebras, the grass of the rangelands shared between livestock and wildlife in relative balance. In recent decades, climate change, habitat loss, and human population growth have combined to erode that balance, leading to overgrazing and the degradation of the grasslands that both humans and wildlife need to survive.

For over a decade, the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) has worked with the communities of Northern Kenya to develop community conservancies that support better management of cattle and grass. Through rotational grazing, grass banking, and other practices, the NRT Conservancies have seen habitat improve and human-wildlife interactions decrease.

A key tool in driving the better management of the rangelands is access to markets. Historically, the pastoralist communities lacked easy access to a market for their cattle. While cows are capital for these communities, families do need cash for school fees and other expenses, and without access to markets are forced to trek animals long distances to sell them for a poor price to a middleman trader. Without ready access to markets, pastoralists amass overly large herds. During droughts, fear of mass cattle starvation drives pastoralists to sell animals at low prices in a buyers’ market, or risk losing most of their herd to starvation.

Rice into biofuel and fodder

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Image credit: Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos

  • On-farm system turns rice plants into biofuel and fodder

    Speed read

    • Rice plants are wrapped in plastic bales with yeast, enzymes and bacteria
    • By using rice grown for livestock, the method avoids competing with food crops
    • But it could lead to competition for farmland, and roll out may be a challenge
    Rice paddies in Asia -
    Rice paddies in Asia –


    A technology to create biofuel and animal feed at the same time without any off-site processing has been developed by Japanese researchers.

    The solid-state fermentation (SSF) system involves wrapping rice plants grown to feed livestock along with yeast, enzymes and bacteria into a bale covered with a plastic film, and capturing the ethanol produced by the resulting fermentation.

    This technology builds on traditional processes used by farmers around the world to create silage to feed livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep, according to a report published on 30 January in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.

    According to Horita, the biggest challenge to implementing SSF on a larger scale is the cost of rolling out the technology. Researchers would have to present the advantages of using the system to farmers, who would also need access to power stations that can buy and use the resulting ethanol, he says.

    Read the full article: SciDevNet

Research: More productive Sorghum

Photo credit: Phys Org

Scientists develop higher yielding sorghum plants

by Dennis O’brien and Sharon Durham


When it comes to versatile crop plants, sorghum might be considered “the little engine that could.”

It is drought tolerant, can thrive in poor soils, requires little or no fertilizer, and will grow in a wide range of temperatures and altitudes. Sorghum grain is used in breakfast cereals, in ethanol production, as feed for livestock, as a source of sugar for syrup and molasses, and in construction and packaging materials. It also produces large amounts of plant material, making it potentially useful for cellulosic .

The photograph above shows sorghum growing in a breeder’s field in Lubbock, Texas. The panicle on the left, with orange-yellow seeds, is an elite inbred line, while the panicle on the right is the same elite line with an induced mutation. This new sorghum variety, developed by ARS scientists, yields 30 to 40 percent more seeds. Credit: Zhanguo Xin -
The photograph above shows sorghum growing in a breeder’s field in Lubbock, Texas. The panicle on the left, with orange-yellow seeds, is an elite inbred line, while the panicle on the right is the same elite line with an induced mutation. This new sorghum variety, developed by ARS scientists, yields 30 to 40 percent more seeds. Credit: Zhanguo Xin –

“We developed the productive sorghum line by inducing a mutation of sorghum plants that allowed infertile spikelets to grow and produce seed,” says Xin. An induced mutation is produced by treatment with a mutagen, like radiation or a chemical agent such as ethyl methane sulfonate. The mutation resulted in an overall increase in size and volume (length, width, and thickness) of the sorghum panicle.

“All of the spikelets of the new sorghum plant develop into flowers and produce mature seeds, thereby significantly increasing seed production and yield in comparison to conventional sorghum. The mutants may be crossed with other sorghum lines, particularly elite large-seeded lines, to improve grain yield in sorghum and other related species,” says Xin. “The mutation in the sorghum line we developed is stable and can be passed on to other sorghum lines through breeding.”

Read more at:

Read the full article: Phys Org

Opuntia ficus-indica: one of the best plants for revegetation of arid areas

Photo credit: WVC 2006-12

Spineless Opuntia used as a fence in Staoueli, Algiers

Cactus as a Tool to Mitigate Drought and to Combat Desertification



Land degradation occurs in all continents and affects the livelihoods of millions of people, including a large proportion of
the poor in the drylands. Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. is a xerophytic cactus species, widely cultivated in arid and semi-arid regions worldwide.

As most of species of the Cactaceae family, O. ficus-indica exhibits Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM), with nocturnal stomata opening and CO2 uptake occurring, typically, from dusk to dawn. Many reasons may account for the great interest
devoted to cacti. The multipurpose use of this plant species and their ability to grow in harsh environments are the main reasons.

Their root characteristics ameliorate wind and rain eroded soils so their growth in degraded areas should be encouraged.

The establishment of sustainable production systems based on cactus may contribute to the food security of populations in agriculturally marginalized areas and to soil improvement. Cacti are some of the best plants for the revegetation of arid and semi-arid areas because they are tolerant of scarce and erratic rainfall and high temperatures.

The reasons behind the inclusion of cacti include

(i) simple cultivation practices required to grow the crop,

(ii) its quick establishment soon after the introduction in a new area,

(iii) ability to grow in harsh conditions characterized by high temperature, lack of water and poor soil,

(iv) generation of income from the selling of much valued and appreciated fruits,

(v) use of its stems in the human diet and as fodder for livestock and

(vi) many industrial derivatives are produced from the fruits.


Read the full article: nodalweb

Booming spineless Opuntia to combat desertification

Photo credit: Elquiglobalenergy

Photo credit: Elquiglobalenergy

Opuntia spp: an efficient tool to combat desertification

Reasons for the increased importance of cacti in arid zones

The increased importance of cacti, such as Opuntia species, in arid zones is because of their ability to (i) grow in “deserts” and their drought tolerance; (ii) produce forage, fruit, and other useful products; and (iii) mitigate long-term degradation of ecologically fragile environments.

Photo credit: IFAD
Photo credit: IFAD

In central and south Tunisia, cactus plantations provide a large amount of fodder for livestock and play a key role in natural resources conservation. Land terraces are easily damaged by water runoff, but use of cactus helps to stabilize them, with its deep and strong rooting system. Two rows of cactus pads are planted on the inner side of the terraces (Figure 1).

The various Opuntia species have developed phenological, physiological and structural adaptations favouring survival in arid environments, in which water is the main factor limiting the development of most plant species. Pre-eminent among these adaptations are asynchronous reproduction and its crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which combine with structural adaptations, such as succulence, to allow this plant to continue the assimilation of carbon dioxide during long periods of drought. In this way, acceptable productivity levels are attained even in years of severe drought.

Photo credit: IFAD
Photo credit: IFAD

Cactus can be used in combination with cement barriers or cut palm leaves to stop wind erosion and sand movement. It will fix the soil and enhance the restoration of the vegetative plant cover (Figure 2).

They can develop in severely degraded soils, which are inadequate for other crops. Opuntia spp. have a great capacity for adaptation and are ideal for responding to global environmental changes. Their root characteristics avoid wind and rain erosion, encouraging their growth in degraded areas.

Marginal lands are fragile ecosystems, and when subjected to ploughing and indiscriminate vegetation removal the result has been large-scale degradation and destruction of vegetative cover. The increasing scarcity, if not disappearance, of several plant species indicates the magnitude of genetic and edaphic losses.

Photo credit: IFAD
Photo credit: IFAD

Rangeland areas and productivity in WANA countries are decreasing dramatically and can currently provide only a small portion of livestock needs (Figure 3).

Significant achievements in desertification control using cactus
To reverse the desertification trend and restore the vegetative cover in marginal arid and semi-arid areas, appropriate integrated packages can be applied for rangeland monitoring, livestock husbandry, and natural resources conservation. Spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), a drought- and erosion-tolerant plant, is being used advantageously in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco to slow and direct sand movement, enhance the restoration of vegetative cover, and avoid the destruction by water of the land terraces built to reduce runoff.

Read the full article: IFAD

Photo credit: WVC 2000-06 - Opuntia plantation in the N. E. Brazil
Photo credit: WVC 2000-06 – Opuntia plantation in the N. E. Brazil

To graze or not to graze ?

Photo credit: Pixabay





It almost seems counter intuitive. One of the primary causes of desertification is over-grazing, so how could holistic grazing reverse it? That’s where Allan Savory’s talk comes in. Allan is the president and co-founder of the Savory Institute, an organization whose mission is to heal the land through large-scale restoration of grasslands. Their goal is to empower others by teaching them about holistic management and helping them implement on the ground changes within their community to reverse desertification. The talk is so powerful, I wanted to share it with you all.

Read the full article: Food Renegade

Dryland farmers like Opuntia and other drought-tolerant fodder plants (Google / New Era)

Read at : Google Alerts – Opuntia ficus-indica

Production of pear cladode stirs the interests of farmers

The spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis), a very promising plant to feed animals in the drylands and to combat desertification (Photo New Era).
The spineless prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica var. inermis), a very promising plant to feed animals in the drylands, to combat desertification and to produce fruits that can be marketed (Photo New Era).

WINDHOEK – Namibian Farmers have responded in big numbers to last week’s article in Farmers’ Forum on cactus (prickly) pear cladode production as a good enterprise for farmers in semi-arid and arid parts of South Africa and especially Namibia.

It has, once again, raised the issue of how to produce extra fodder and the prickly pear is highly sought- after as animal feed. One of the country’s foremost experts on the topic is independent consultant, Dr Axel Rothauge, who says in the drier southern, western and north-western parts of Namibia, the best option for extra fodder is to establish plantations of drought-tolerant fodder shrubs such as the well-known exotic oldman saltbush (Atriplex nummularia), Australian bluebush (Kochia brevifolia), spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica, and Mexican aloe (Agave mexicana).

He says the spineless cactus also produces a delicious fruit, which can be sold for a cash income that more than pays for the establishment of the plantation. “If you think big, cactus pear can even be exported. Spineless cactus used to be a common drought fodder grown on huge plantations in southern Namibia, but its popularity has waned recently as 15 years of good rains lulled us to sleep,” he is quoted. Dr Axel Rothauge says several indigenous shrubs with fodder production potential can be tried out as well like the Salvadora persica or mustard bush, which is a slow-growing but highly palatable shrub that prefers to grow in loamy soils and on river banks. It is one of the principal fodder species of the Topnaar’s goats along the Kuiseb River and used to grow all over the many small streams and rivulets that criss-cross southern, western and north-western Namibia.


2.6 million children at risk of deadly hunger in Sahel (ACF)

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Pastoral Populations Face Food, Fodder Shortages Across the Sahel

A major food crisis looms over the Sahel, a zone that extends across the African continent, separating Sahara and savanna. Some 2.6 million children are at risk of deadly malnutrition as pastoralist populations, largely dependent on biomass-rich pastures for grazing livestock, face widespread shortages of food and fodder. With a lack of rainfall and the early arrival of this year’s “hunger gap”—the period of seasonal scarcity between harvests—substantial biomass losses have been documented across the region, imposing food shortages on human and animal populations alike across Africa’s Sahel.

Struggling Pastoralist & Farming Families

The number of families facing food insecurity has increased dramatically—tripling in the past year in Mauritania alone—with nomadic herders and subsistence farmers particularly affected. For crop farmers, the “hunger gap” typically occurs between June and September. But for livestock herders, a segment that comprises some 20% of the Sahel’s population, it comes earlier, in April and June. Families typically resort to coping methods to get through the season, such as reducing daily meals or migrating to areas of better pasture.


Biosaline agriculture for forage and livestock production (Science Direct)

Biosaline agriculture for forage and livestock production

David G. Masters a,*, Sharon E. Benes b, Hayley C. Norman a

a CSIRO Livestock Industries and Cooperative Research Centre for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity,
Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia

b Department of Plant Science, California State University, Fresno, CA 93740, USA

Crown Copyright # 2006 Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


There are a range of plants that are capable of growing under conditions of saline soil and water. Many of these plants represent a feed resource for livestock. At the lower levels of salinity (<15 dS m1) both legumes and grasses with moderate salt tolerance are capable of providing 5–10 t of edible dry matter (DM) year1, particularly when the availability of water is high. At high salt concentrations (>25 dS m1), production levels drop and the plant options decrease significantly. However, even at these high salinities there are a range of halophytic grasses and shrubs that will produce between 0.5 and 5 t of edible DM year1. The crude protein and digestible fibre content of these plants is variable but is probably not directly influenced by the salinity level. Importantly though, the mineral composition of the plants may be significantly altered by the concentration and type of salts in the soil and water.

For plants with moderate salt tolerance, accumulation of sulfur and selenium has been reported. For the halophytic plants, particularly the chenopod shrubs, sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium may all accumulate to be above the maximum tolerable levels for livestock. The high concentrations of sodium chloride in particular will cause depressed feed intake and under some conditions will compromise animal health. It is also not unusual to find that plants growing in saline environments accumulate a range of secondary compounds. These may have beneficial effects on grazing livestock (e.g., vitamin E and betaine) or be may be toxic (e.g., oxalate, coumarin and nitrate). Importantly, these plants can be managed so as to provide a significant contribution to a feeding system for ruminants. Prospects for the future are good, as to date, there has been little effort to improve the feeding value of salt tolerant plants through breeding or selection, or to select livestock that are more capable of tolerating high salt intakes.




Locally developed, yet cost effective technology (silos) for storing fodder for livestock (New Agriculturist)

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Fodder storage to help livestock keepers endure drought

Written by: Geoffrey Kamadi

Tube silos occupy less space and are much cheaper than conventional techniques

Kenyan smallholder farmers are turning to a simple, locally developed, yet cost effective technology for storing fodder for their livestock in order to adapt to increasingly frequent periods of drought. They are using tube silos, developed by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), which are made of polythene; with a diameter of approximately 0.5 metres and a height of one metre, each can hold up to 900 kgs of fodder for up to two years.

Given that one animal consumes 20 kgs of fodder a day, a single silo is able to sustain an animal for 45 days. “One of the major constraints facing the smallholder farmer is providing enough feed to their animals throughout the year,” explains Teresioru Riungu, the KARI centre director at Muguga South. “When the dry season comes these farmers do not have fodder for their animals.” Water is mixed with molasses in the ratio of 1:2 and this mixture is then sprinkled on silage made from either maize at milk stage or napier grass. “After this is done, the mixture is placed into the polythene then compacted to displace oxygen, before the silo is then sealed tightly,” Riungu adds.


Grass has become an alternative source of income (New Agriculturist)

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Grass becomes source of income for pastoralists

Written by: James Karuga

Grass has become an alternative source of income for 100 pastoralist families in Kalacha, in the Chalbi Desert in Northern Kenya. The pastoralists, whose core income has traditionally come from selling livestock, are now making US$1 for a 3kg grass bundle and buyers are even coming from neighboring Ethiopia.

For 14 years, the pastoralists used non-lined furrow irrigation, resulting in water drawn from their well only reaching a quarter of their land. “The rest was wasted through seapage or run off,” says Dr David Miano of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and National Coordinator of the Kenya Arid and Semi Arid Lands Programme (KASAL). To counter this problem the uneven plots were leveled and the furrows lined, allowing irrigation water to flow without stagnating yet to flow slow enough to allow soil blocks to absorb the water. This system allows each family to produce sufficient grass to feed their livestock and have enough left over to sell.


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