Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) analysed potential trade-offs in maize residue use as soil mulch and livestock feed in mixed crop-livestock systems in Kenya. Based on survey data, researchers found that both the proportion and quantity of maize residue used for soil mulch and livestock feed are strongly affected by agro-ecology and livestock holding. Farmer knowledge about alternative use of crop residues and farmer perception of soil erosion risk positively affect the amount of residue farmers retain on maize plots. Results imply that crop residue use as soil mulch in conservation agriculture is challenged in mixed crop-livestock systems and particularly by smallholder farmers owning cross-bred and exotic dairy animals. In general, reducing the demand for crop residues as livestock feed through the introduction of alternative feed sources, better extension services on the use of crop residue as soil mulch and designing agro-ecology specific strategies and interventions could facilitate the adoption and expansion of CA-based practices in mixed crop-livestock systems.

The whole document is available from the AgEcon website

The FAO has published the paper: Crop residue based densified total mixed ration: A user-friendly approach to utilise food crop by-products. In this publication, the authors argue that “crop residues are valuable resources since they form a bulk of ruminant feed in many tropical countries. Due to lack of effective management of these resources, unfortunately they are being burnt in some countries, causing environmental pollution. The digestibility of crop residues and other low quality forages can be increased through the action of rumen microbes by strategically mixing nitrogen and minerals that are deficient in these feed resources. The increase in digestibility of crop residues and low quality forages, in turn also increases their intake. Both these phenomena enhance the efficiency of nutrient utilization from these feed resources in animal food chains.

To achieve this, the present paper discusses a technology based on the formation of a complete diet in the form of densified feed blocks or pellets from straws mixed with minerals, oil seed cakes and other agroindustrial by-products. The methods for preparation of such total mixed rations, their use and impact have been presented. It is hoped that this technology will enhance income of farmers, decrease environmental pollution and help alleviate shortage of good quality feeds in tropical countries. In addition, the feed produced in the densified form as blocks or pellets could also provide complete feed to livestock in emergency situations. Public-private partnership is expected to enhance the application and impact of this technology”.

This publication is available from the FAO website

Last month the Montpellier Panel presented the report on ‘Growth with Resilience: Opportunities in African Agriculture’. The report’s vision states:

“The challenge is to generate agricultural growth that produces enough food, ensures it is accessible to all, is inclusive of the most vulnerable and is resilient, and hence able to withstand the increasing multiple stresses and shocks that afflict the world.

To this end, we believe the priority should be supporting the creation of:

  • Resilient markets that enable farmers to increase production and generate income through innovation and taking risks, while ensuring food is available at an affordable price.
  • Resilient agriculture that creates agricultural growth out of knowledge and innovation, while simultaneously building the capacity of smallholder farmers to counter environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Resilient people who are able to generate diverse livelihoods that provide stable incomes, adequate nutrition and good health in the face of recurrent stresses and shocks.

To achieve these goals we will also need political leadership that demonstrates the necessary vision and will”.

The report is available from the Imperial College London website 

The first peer-reviewed publication of the Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP) crop residue project is now on-line in Field Crops Research. This paper describes the options and challenges of Conservation Agriculture (CA) in mixed systems by comparing 12 study sites in 9 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Results illustrate that “despite its potential benefit for smallholder farmers across the density gradient, the introduction of CA-based mulching practices appears potentially easier in sites where biomass production is high enough to fulfil existing demands for feed and fuel. In sites with relatively high feed and fuel pressure, the eventual introduction of CA needs complementary research and development efforts to increase biomass production and/or develop alternative sources to alleviate the opportunity costs of leaving some crop residues as mulch”.

This is the result of collaborative research of different CGIAR centers and other institutions: SLP, ILRI, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, IITA, CIP and Wageningen University.

The article is available from Field Crops Research

End of last year IIED and IUCN published a book in which the authors explain that our current way of providing food and other basic needs involves industrialised systems that are linear, centralised and globalised. In the linear approach, it is assumed that at one end of a system there is an unlimited supply of energy and raw materials (which there isn’t), while at the other the environment has an infinite capacity to absorb pollution and waste (which it hasn’t). The inevitable result is resource shortages on the one hand and solid waste, climate change, biodiversity loss, and air pollution problems on the other.

An alternative to the current linear paradigm is to develop productive systems that minimise external inputs, pollution and waste (as well as risk, dependency and costs) by adopting a circular metabolism. There are two principles here, both reflecting the natural world. The first is that natural systems are based on cycles, for example water, nitrogen and carbon. Secondly, there is very little waste in natural systems. The ‘waste’ from one species is food for another, or is converted into a useful form by natural processes and cycles.

This book shows how these principles can be used to create systems and settlements that provide food, energy and water without consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and other finite resources. In the process, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution are minimised whilst human well being, food and livelihood security, and democratic control are enhanced.

This book/report is available from the IIED website

Last couple of years the Livestock Policy Initiative of IGAD (IGAD-LPI) in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development of Ethiopia (MoFED), has revisited estimates of livestock’s contribution to the Ethiopian economy, through three studies, which conclude that the contribution of livestock in the Ethiopian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and to the wider economy is much higher than previous estimates.

The whole post and study reports are available from the IGAD-LPI blog

The book provides a stocktaking of where we are with livestock system classification. It presents the most up to date maps of global livestock production systems and provides revised estimates of the number of poor livestock keepers, globally, within the different production systems. It proposes alternative approaches to mapping production systems that are explicitly linked to livelihoods, and reviews the ways in which intensive production can be accounted for. Several examples are presented of how systems’ information can be of value. It also underscores the areas that need further development. The FAO and ILRI continue to work jointly on several of these.

Download the pdf of this FAO/ILRI book

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