Tougher, more productive livestock in Ethiopia through community-based breeding
ICARDA’s community-based breeding programs (CBBP) supported by the CGIAR research program (CRP) on Livestock, International Livestock Research Institute, the World Bank, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, continued in 2020 to increase the productivity and profitability of indigenous breeds across Ethiopia. Led by Dr. Aynalem Haile, CBBP pools community flocks to enlarge the genepool and identify prime rams and ewes for selective breeding.
In 2020, the program expanded to three major regions of Ethiopia (Amhara, Oromia, and South) with a total of more than 60 legal breeders’ cooperatives now leading day-to-day operations of the breeding program. An upscaling operation, undertaken with financial support from The United States Department of Agriculture in one zone of southern Ethiopia-Konso, involved more than 2,000 households, the purchasing and dissemination of 479 goat bucks from existing CBBPs, and mass synchronization and artificial insemination to disseminate improved genetics.
Farmers were also linked with one of the biggest export slaughterhouses in Ethiopia (Allana), and the purchase of 100 goats was facilitated, which were slaughtered and exported to Dubai. Results on meat quality and consumer evaluations were very positive. The program is now being replicated in Burkina Faso, Iran, Liberia, Malawi, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
As well as being an income-generating fodder for livestock, which requires minimal agronomic inputs, cactus pear is also an ideal fruit for human consumption packed with nutrition. In 2020, ICARDA, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CactusNet, the Jordanian National Agricultural Research Center (NARC), CRP Livestock, and with the financial support of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, and led by Dr. Mounir Louhaichi, facilitated the foundation of a cactus nursery at the Mushaqqar research station in Jordan where over 100 different cactus pear accessions are now well established.
Funded by CRP Livestock and led by Dr. Mounir Louhaichi and Dr. Mouldi Gamoun, the indigenous rangelands plants research in Tataouine, Tunisia investigates indigenous rangelands plants in Tataouine, Tunisia for their human health benefits and their attributes as feed for livestock and wildlife. Tataouine rangelands accommodate 27% of the country’s total rangelands making it the top region for pastureland for an estimated 1.3 million head of sheep, goats, and camels. Despite all the restoration and protective efforts, overgrazing, overharvesting, and recurrent droughts continue to degrade these rangelands. In addition to their pastoral value, Tataouine’s rangelands are home to countless valuable medicinal and aromatic plants.
In Ethiopia, a team led by ICARDA’s Dr. Jane Wamatu, under the Sheep Fattening Project, and with the support of CRP Livestock, the Southern Agricultural Research Institute, and the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute in Ethiopia, has been expanding opportunities in agribusiness to youth as a means to advance rural livelihoods and economic development across three regional states in Ethiopia.
In 2020, a survey on forage options and perceptions of forage utilization revealed that farmers select forages based on biomass yield and acceptability by animals. ICARDA also researched sweet lupin, a multi-purpose forage with immense potential for feed, food, and soil fertility maintenance. The study revealed varying effects of different processing procedures of the alkaloid-laden sweet lupin grain on ram fattening. Participant farmers were later champions in the demonstration and promotion of processing techniques of sweet lupin grain before supplementation, to enhance the performance of Doyogena rams, in a farmer exposure and learning field day.
Meanwhile, youth members continue to undertake sheep fattening, with Doyogena and Bonga successfully registering five youth cooperatives; each cooperative is an amalgamation of several youth groups. An entrepreneurial skills development training manual was also translated into Amharic and Keficho for use across rural areas.
ICARDA’s Stefan Strohmeier, alongside the US Forest Service, NARC, Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, and WADI (local Jordanian non-governmental organization) developed a community-based watershed rehabilitation approach that effectively restores degraded rangelands in Badia, Jordan. This approach will decrease the fodder shortage of local livestock keepers who will, in turn, rely less on external aid to feed their animals. In 2020, despite COVID-19 restricted access to the Badia Research Site watershed, the local community kept close communication with the scientists through digital media and took over some of the field monitoring works.
In addition, ICARDA joined an inter-regional FAO-Technical Cooperation Program project on combatting sand and dust storms. Moreover, the research investigated considerable on-site benefits (less soil and carbon loss) and off-site impacts (less dust transported to urban areas) through mechanized micro-water harvesting and plantation of native shrubs in Badia.
ICARDA’s Crop Livestock under Conservation Agriculture (CLCA) Initiative in North Africa (Algeria and Tunisia), led by Drs. Mourad Rekik and Aymen Frija, promoted innovative practices to optimize climate resilience and integrated CLCA in the fragile livestock-cereal belt of semi-arid Algeria and Tunisia. The project is supported by IFAD in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, the Institution of Agricultural Research and Higher Education in Tunisia, and the Technical Institute of Field Crops (ITGC) in Algeria.
Key to the project is the development of Crop-Livestock Integration Options (CLIOs) that encompass forage inclusion, such as stubble management for mulching, feed, and soil cover crops, and herd health management, among others, in dryland crop and livestock farming approaches. Another important aspect of the project has been the introduction of community ‘knowledge hubs’ which, in 2020, led to self-sustained scaling of CLIOs in Tunisia and Algeria.
During Phase III of the project in Tunisia in October-December 2020, CLCA was implemented across 2,000 ha with 117 farmers, a 40% increase compared to the year before. A total of 57 pioneering women farmers were involved in the CLCA on-farm trials and demonstration plots. Further, in addition to the districts of Beja, Jendouba, Kef, Kasserine, Siliana, and Zaghouan (the focus of Year II), the project activities were extended to the districts of Bizerte and Gafsa.
In Algeria, Phase III CLCA project activities expanded from six to eleven target districts, and during the third cropping season, directly facilitated the establishment of 1,732 ha by almost 430 smallholder farmers (compared to 982 ha and 241 farmers in Year II). This was possible by involving five additional ITGC regional stations and two new ITELV regional stations.