September 2011

SLP has now formally released the sub-Saharan Africa Feeds database – a user friendly searchable database containing information on the nutritive values of 20,913 samples of 566 of the major feeds used in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The database is available both on the web or on CD. This is the first time that such large amount of data on common feeds has been made publically available in this way. The purpose of putting both the database and the software to access it in the public domain is to enable extension, development and research agents to design scientifically-based and best-cost rations for meat, dairy and draught animals of small-scale African farmers. As their livestock assets are healthier and better nourished, these farmers become more food-secure and are able to increase their income from animal products.

This useful information tool was created as a joint effort of the SLP, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the Ethiopian Sanitary & Phytosanitary Standards and Livestock & Meat Marketing Program (SPS-LMM) with funding from USAID. The information can now be used to improve the feed analytical capacity to support livestock development in Ethiopia and throughout SSA. A poster has also been compiled on the nutritive values of the most commonly used feeds in Ethiopia to disseminate the information widely in Ethiopia.

The SSA Feeds database was described by Dr Alan Duncan as ‘a valuable resource for livestock research and development professionals in Ethiopia and beyond. It makes available a wealth of information about the nutritive value of feeds commonly used in Ethiopia. This will help in designing feeding strategies for livestock that are based on sound scientific principles. This is important as livestock production moves from subsistence to a more market-oriented mode of operation in certain areas.’ Developing “SSA Feeds” and making it available to the general public, its target users and ultimately, to its beneficiaries -small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa- is the result of the combined efforts of many individuals. The project was coordinated by Dr Salvador Fernandez-Rivera, whose dedication to feeds research in sub-Saharan Africa resulted in the development and design of this searchable web-published database. Since 2009 the project has been coordinated by Dr Bruno Gerard with support on animal nutrition and data quality from Dr Alan Duncan. Scientists and staff working over the years at the Animal Nutrition/Analytical Services Laboratories of ILRI in Addis Ababa and the feed labs of EIAR in Holetta, Ethiopia, provided and analyzed thousands of samples of feedstuffs and provided the basic data for the tool. David O. Anindo, Abdullah N. Said, A. Lahlou-Kassi, Jean Hanson, Markos Tibbo, Abate Tedla and Asebe Abdena contributed scientific expertise, Ephrem Getahun developed the computer programme and the ILRI web and graphics teams designed and manage the website.

The database is available from the SLP website

Kindu Mekonnen, SLP associate researcher of the East Africa team writes:

“Biomass is a crucial resource for smallholder farmers. Crop residues form an important source of biomass but there are competing demands for its use. The key trade-off is between use of crop residue for feeding of livestock and retaining residues on the field to sustain soil fertility. This issue has formed the basis of a global research project on trade-offs in residue use in smallholder systems. In East Africa, the research has focused on two sites in Ethiopia and one in Kenya.

As part of this research a village survey was conducted each site with the objective understanding diversified and competing uses of crop residues; analyze past trends of uses of crop residues; and identify production and utilization constraints of crop residues. A total of 8 villages per site were surveyed in two sites in Ethiopia (Kobo and Nekemte) and one site in western Kenya (Kakamega).

The most important findings from the research so far are (1) The use of crop residues for animal feed (stall feeding and direct grazing) surpassed the other competing uses in all the sites; (2) The practice of mulching crop fields using crop residues has declined in the last 10 years in the three sites because of competing use of the resources for various services and products; (3) Soil/land related problems, weed, insect and pests, high input/low output prices, poor distribution of rainfall/drought and lack of information/services are some of the constraints associated with low crop productivity and production of crop residues; and (4) Lack of modern crop residue processing technologies limited the efficient utilization of crop residues in the three sites.

The pressure on residue use and the decline in its use as a mulch raise serious concerns for system sustainability. Our next task will be to look at policy, institutional and technical options for reducing pressure on biomass in smallholder systems for the long term benefit of poor smallholders.

We will present this work at the International Congress: Water 2011– Integrated water resources management in tropical and subtropical dry-lands. The congress will be held from 19 to 26 September 2011 in Mekele, Ethiopia. The title of our presentation is “Competing uses, dynamics, and production and utilization constraints of crop residues in East Africa: Implications for conservation agriculture”.

This presentation is available from Slideshare

The Volta Basin Development Challenge (VBDC) aims “to strengthen integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs so that they can be used equitably for multiple uses.”.

One way by which to do this is to increase crop and livestock productivity through Rainwater Management Strategies (RMS) and improve water productivity at the farm level.

Another solution is to implement Innovation Platforms (IPs) that are multi-actor systems. These platforms provide a mechanism to facilitate learning, sharing and communication amongst value chain actors, including farmers, to promote joint action and stimulate innovation. IPs also create common ground for different actors with varied interests and challenges to identify opportunities to enhance their benefits in a given value chain. Membership is based upon peoples’ interest and need to improve the value chain for their own benefit.

The IP approach involves dynamic and fluid platforms of multiple actors at various levels that support action learning and strategies for scaling up and out. Through the Volta BDC project on integrated management of rainwater (V2), the CPWF is working with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) in Burkina Faso and Ghana to develop appropriate innovation platforms around identified crop-livestock value chains.

The complete document is available from the CPWF website

The Quesungual Slash and Mulch Agroforestry System (QSMAS) is a smallholder production system with a group of techniques for the sustainable management of vegetation, soil, and water resources in drought-prone hillsides.

QSMAS’ improved management is based on four key principles:
1. No slash and burn—partial, selective, and progressive management (“slash and prune”) of natural vegetation.
2. Permanent soil cover—continual deposition and distribution of mulch from biomass of trees, shrubs, weeds, and crop residues.
3. Minimal disturbance of soil—“no tillage” throughout the growing season; direct seeding.
4. Efficient use of fertilizers—appropriate application (timing, type, amount, location).

Pdf document available from CIAT website

These proceedings are an important source of information for animal and crop scientists working on the challenges of feeding the developing world’s rapidly rising livestock population and improving the productivity of its agriculture. It is hoped that, by collaborating more closely, these scientists will be able to develop the innovative approaches and new technologies needed in the next century

Pdf book available from ICRISAT website

The co-location of WCCA and FSD, with input from Landcare, provides a great opportunity to explore the application of conservation agriculture practices and principles in a systems context with broader environmental awareness. The common objective is the design of more productive, economic, and sustainable farming systems to meet the challenges of expanding population, global change, and environmental degradation.

Our objective in program design has been to provide a stimulating Congress for all, regardless of participant’s background – high or low resource, scientist or farmer, and regardless of speciality –Conservation Agriculture, Farming Systems Design or Landcare. By mixing traditional oral/poster paper presentations, with workshops, “so what” sessions and the field day we have tried to balance specialist requirements with opportunities for broader discussion between people with different backgrounds and disciplinary perspectives.

Pdf document available from the WCCA website

SLP has been strengthening links with different academic institutions. The result of these links has been a small set of internships, BSc or MSc thesis with various universities. Research topics are diverse trying to investigate the complexity of mixed crop-livestock farming systems from different but complementary disciplines, tools and scales. Topics include: biomass production and management; chronosequences, land-use/cover and soils evolution; and remote sensing,  NDVI analyses and R scripting.

Crop residue management and farm productivity in smallholder crop-livestock system of dry land North Wollo, Ethiopia (Hailu Terefe, Wageningen University, The Netherlands).

The objective of this study is to explore and analyze crop residue and manure management practices and their influence on farm productivity. Data collection and analyses include farmer resource allocation and socio-economic by semi-structured questionnaire; biomass production, N content and digestibility of crop residues and soil nutrients; and crop-growth simulations to explore the influence of crop residue management use on farm production. The results show that nutrient contents and physical structures of arable plots are declining. Modelling results suggest that to reverse this situation, farmers should retain about 70% of crop residues in the field; but retention should ensure incorporation into the soil. To achieve this strong interventions are needed.

Pdf document available from ILRI website

Development of an open source tool to analyze Vegetation Index from Remote Sensing data (Romain Frelat, INSA, France).

During this internship, I have developed a free package in R to conduct automated analysis of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from different optical satellite instruments (AVHRR and Spot Vegetation). Land Surface Phenology metrics can be easily computed from points or polygons generated either in GIS software (shp) or Google Earth (kml). Metrics and vegetation anomaly maps are calculated for every cropping season to support the study vegetation dynamics in agricultural landscapes.

Pdf document available from ILRI website

R package available from CRAN

Evolution de l’occupation des terres en lien avec les caractéristiques physico-chimiques du sol dans un village pres de Nekemte, Ethiopie (Matthieu Crespin, UCL, Belgium).

C’est dans ce but que ce travail, réalisé à l’échelle du village, devrait permettre de quantifier et de comparer la qualité des sols pour des occupations et des situations topographiques différentes : cultures, pâturages, forêts d’une part et vallées, pentes et sommets d’autre part. Il devrait également permettre de tracer l’évolution de la fertilité pour des sols de forêt jusqu’à des sols convertis à la culture et ce pour trois groupes d’âges différents.

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