The following excerpts are taken from an opinion piece published by An Notenbaert, a former scientist with ILRI for 11 years who now serves as the tropical forages coordinator for Africa at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
‘With the onset of the rains, livestock farmers around Kenya might breathe a sigh of relief. But they have come too late for the thousands of cattle that have already died, hit by the drought that led President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare a national disaster in February this year. . . .
Yet this phenomenon is one which will not be solved by rain alone. It is down to a few, fundamental challenges which go deeper than drought.
Across east and southern Africa, livestock farmers routinely face the same hurdles in increasing meat and milk production: low availability of good quality livestock feed, especially during the dry season.
Our research shows that new, high-quality, drought-tolerant forage grasses could boost milk production by up to 40 percent, generating millions of dollars in economic benefits for struggling East African dairy farmers.
‘Some of these new varieties of a grass called Brachiaria, are high-yielding, nutritious and, because they are easier for cows to digest, animals produce far less of the greenhouse gas methane per liter of milk produced.
‘These benefits make it the most extensively used tropical forage in the world, with seed production already commercialized in big cattle-producing countries like Brazil. Yet Brachiariagrass originates in Africa. . . .
Humans have never been healthier, wealthier or more numerous. Yet, present success may be at the cost of future prosperity and in some places, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, poverty persists. Livestock keepers, especially pastoralists, are over-represented among the poor. Poverty has been mainly attributed to a lack of access, whether to goods, education or enabling institutions. More recent insights suggest ecosystems may influence poverty and the self-reinforcing mechanisms that constitute poverty traps in more subtle ways. The plausibility of zoonoses as poverty traps is strengthened by landmark studies on disease burden in recent years. While in theory, endemic zoonoses are best controlled in the animal host, in practice, communities are often left to manage disease themselves, with the focus on treatment rather than prevention. We illustrate this with results from a survey on health costs in a pastoral ecosystem. Epidemic zoonoses are more likely to elicit official responses, but these can have unintended consequences that deepen poverty traps. In this context, a systems understanding of disease control can lead to more effective and pro-poor disease management. We illustrate this with an example of how a system dynamics model can help optimize responses to Rift Valley fever outbreaks in Kenya by giving decision makers real-time access to the costs of the delay in vaccinating. In conclusion, a broader, more ecological understanding of poverty and of the appropriate responses to the diseases of poverty can contribute to improved livelihoods for livestock keepers in Africa. This article is part of the themed issue ‘One Health for a changing world: zoonoses, ecosystems and human well-being’.
In some Africa RISING sites, tree lucerne is a key supplementary feed for ruminant animals particularly in dry seasons when other feeds are in short supply. The plant is an important source of protein for animal fattening and milk production and can be mixed with other livestock feeds including those based on crop residues or hay.
In Ethiopia, most farmers do not fully know the importance of the plant or how to best use it as livestock feed and a clear understanding of how to manage it is needed.
The project has tackled the awareness challenge in various ways – including through training and demonstration.
Farmers in the Horn of Africa need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years.
With continued drought, Horn of Africa braces for another hunger season
Agricultural support critical now to protect livestock, equip families to plant in rainy season
Countries in the Horn of Africa are likely to see a rise in hunger and further decline of local livelihoods in the coming months, as farming families struggle with the knock-on effects of multiple droughts that hit the region this year, FAO warned today. Growing numbers of refugees in East Africa, meanwhile, are expected to place even more burden on already strained food and nutrition security.
Currently, close to 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of food assistance, as families in the region face limited access to food and income, together with rising debt, low cereal and seed stocks, and low milk and meat production. Terms of trade are particularly bad for livestock farmers, as food prices are increasing at the same time that market prices for livestock are low.
“We’re dealing with a cyclical phenomenon in the Horn of Africa,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division. “But we also know from experience that timely support to farming families can significantly boost their ability to withstand the impacts of these droughts and soften the blow to their livelihoods,” he stressed.
For this reason, FAO has already begun disbursing emergency funds for rapid interventions in Kenya and Somalia.
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.
The word ‘Defaunation‘ is a merely new term used by scientists in a recent article published in the Journal Nature Communications. According to the team of scientists ” large animals important for the carbon storage in tropical forests. Defaunation is used for the declination of the fauna from the forests.
In short ‘global decline in the population of several wild animal species is among the most widespread drivers of Earth’s biodiversity crisis. The study highlights the importance of conserving large wild animals in the tropical forests as part of forest protection strategy for storing carbon and reducing emissions. This will ultimately help us to mitigate climate change.
Among the camel’s world subcontinent is the region where the day starts first. It is 22nd June in the subcontinent, so I can safely say Happy Camel’s Day. At the occasion of WCD, I started the series of articles based on the documents/material sent from different corners of the world. As my own share, I want to express my views on the role of the camel as a farm animal in NENA region.
Near East and North Africa (NENA) is one of the driest and challenging landscape on the face of the earth. The major percentage of the global deserted lands fall in this region, making it a hostile ecosystem for many other livestock species. Nature blessed the region with the highly adapted and unique livestock species “the Camel”, well said as Ataullah in Arabic.
As mentioned in the holy book Quran “do they do not look at camel; how strange it is created?” camel is the animal of unique characteristics’ making it the most valuable creature of the drylands. The people living in this region, especially the camel herders and pastoralists depend on the camels for food, accessibility, and other livelihoods. Camel produces milk in very high ambient temperatures and other climatic challenges, in the same environment, other livestock species are hard to survive. Camel is not in competition with any other livestock as camel browse on very woody and bushy vegetation.
In the climate change scenario and fragile security (in some parts of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria) camel is the animal of choice to provide precious food items as milk (primary product) and meat to ensure the survival of the people. Camel farming needs very low input making it a sustainable profession.
Based on my experience and scientific findings, I can say that camel is the most sustainable farm animal for the region. The cow model (cow dairies) is not sustainable in such a hostile ecosystem and the milk produced is very expensive if calculated in the ecosystem model as the cow needs many times more water to produce one liter of milk. The camel tolerates very high ambient temperatures, on a contrary, the cow needs a cooling system (using fossil oil) to produce milk in the same situation.
In much of west Texas, the iconic Prickly Pear cactus — with its plum-like fruit and forbidding spiked pads — is at best considered a nuisance, and at worst a downright hazard to livestock. But in most of the rest of the semi-arid world — from Mexico and Chile, large swaths of India and South Africa, as well as Spain and Morocco — Opuntia ficus-indica (Prickly Pear) is used in dye-making, as feed for livestock, and, little by little, as feedstock for anaerobic biogas production.
The beauty of this hardy, drought-resistant cactus, which can tolerate surprising bouts of cold weather, is that it can be grown on veritable desert-like wastelands, where conventional crops would wither and die.
“Opuntia pads have 8 to 12 percent dry matter which is ideal for anaerobic digestion,” said Axel Tarrisse, managing partner in Zoe Biotech, a two year-old Marseille, France-based agricultural and environmental tech company.
Tarrisse notes that with a rainfed climate, there’s no need for extra irrigation or extra water to facilitate the anaerobic digestion process. In fact, with only 300 millimeters of precipitation per year, he says, Opuntia can produce 12,000 kilograms of dry matter feedstock and still retain enough moisture to facilitate biogas production.
By some estimates, Prickly Pear cactus pads degrade five to ten times faster than manure. Thus, only 4 hectares of the Opuntia crop can produce an estimated 800 cubic meters of biogas per day. Although the cactus is native to semi-arid regions with stifling hot temperatures, it can also survive and even thrive in mountainous areas that can have temperatures as low as minus 15 degrees Celsius.
“The world has millions of hectares of land prone to drought and desertification,” said Tarrisse. “Opuntia helps create a vegetative cover, which enhances soil regeneration and improves the infiltration of rainfall back into the soil.”
The idea of using Opuntia feedstock to generate methane-based biogas first took root in Chile. Although the process had been observed as early as 1984 in the lab, its commercial application was actually first realized by environmental engineer Rodrigo Wayland Morales, the owner and current manager of Elqui Global Energy in La Serena, Chile.
Ecological Basis of Livestock Grazing in Mediterranean Ecosystems 1997
Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
Ghent University – Belgium
Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.
Sourcing fodder poses a big headache to many dairy farmers. Brachiaria, a grass repatriated to Africa from Brazil, is good for grazing, can be baled as hay, and increases milk production.
Brachiaria grass is indigenous to Africa, but has been growing wild until recently. It was taken to other parts of the world, including Australia and South America, where it was improved to get superior varieties, some of which arc now being promoted in Kenya.
To paraphrase Luigi Guarino in his new and lively Science Blog series for the Crop Trust, with food demand estimated to increase by anywhere from 50–70% by 2050 (read Guarino for why the great spread in estimations), and with climate change bearing down upon us, manifested in more unpredictable and extreme climates, crop breeders will have to work faster and smarter, using all the tools at their disposal, to keep the world fed. And they will need all the diversity they can get their hands on. That’s the raw material of crop improvement, Guarino reminds us.
The same goes for livestock improvement, only, unlike the case for crop varieties, we have no similar genebanks storing the diversity of animals that would allow us to pull out of the freezer a whole goat or camel, say, the breed of which had disappeared from the world’s fields. Once gone, these animals are gone for good.
That’s one of the reasons that livestock genetics is such an important area of study. The world is losing its diverse livestock breeds at a rapid clip (estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at an average loss of two breeds every week). If we want to understand the genetics underlying the ability of some animals to withstand great heat or cold, or to resist some diseases, or to thrive on scarce water or poor fodder, we need to be conducting those investigations today, while we still have a diversity of farm animals to investigate. And most of those diverse animals are being raised in developing countries.
Among the scientists focusing on the developing world’s remaining rich farmyard diversity is Han Jianlin, who is based in Beijing. Jianlin is a livestock geneticist on joint appointment at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)-ILRI Joint Laboratory on Livestock and Forage Genetic Resources (JLLFGR), which is housed in CAAS’ Institute of Animal Science. Jianlin is one of 22 Chinese authors of a new paper published in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution (7 Jul 2016, advance access).
In this paper, the authors say, ‘Through comparisons of the genomes of sheep from extreme environments with those from contrasting environments, we aimed to identify the candidate genes, functional Gene Ontology (GO) categories and signaling pathways responsible for the rapid adaptations (i.e., over thousands of years) of sheep to plateau and desert environments. Additionally, to elucidate the evolutionary history of Chinese native sheep, a comprehensive analysis of the genomic diversity, population structure and demographic history of these animals was performed based on genomic data.’
Rural households in Uzbekistan customarily invest into livestock as a secure way of savings. Surroundings of settlements and accessible watering points are normally used as grazing areas. However, unsystematic and excessive load on rangelands has led to strong processes of land degradation and put pressure on rangeland resources.
Rangelands in Uzbekistan are one of the most important life-supporting natural ecosystems. They occupy about half the country, nearly 25 million hectares, the bulk of which is located in the north – large parts of Karakalpakstan, Navoi and Bukhara regions, as well as south – Kashkadarya region. 80% of rangelands are located in deserts, with average annual precipitation of 100 mm, mainly used for karakul sheep, camel and goat breeding. Karakul sheep, the most well-suited for desert rangelands, make up about 4.5 to 5 million heads, mainly bred by ‘shirkats’ (collective farms) and households.
Like the entire region of Central Asia, Uzbekistan’s livestock production faces a number of challenges, despite support from the government and attention paid to improving production of livestock. Constraining factors are mainly limited resources of pasture and arable land for fodder production, whose state is further exacerbated by erratic rainfall and increasing summer temperatures in recent years. Increased demand for meat products due to population growth and income of urban residents indicate the need to consider a more environmentally conservationist approach for feed and livestock systems.
To address challenges like climate change and land degradation, ICARDA-led Knowledge Management in CACILM II project organized a round table on 18 March 2016, wherein rangelands experts, officials, members of parliament, farmers and local populations attended to discuss the state and prospects of rangelands development in Uzbekistan.