Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (3) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Agro-ecologic mapping of livestock system in smallholder crop-livestock mixed farming of Wolaita and Dawuro districts, Southern Ethiopia

Tsedeke Kocho* and Endrias Geta**

Areka Agricultural Research Center, P.O.Box 79, Areka, Ethiopia
* Current Address: Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University
P.O.Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
Tel: (0317) 482335, Fax: (0317) 483929
** Southern Agricultural Research Institute, P.O.Box 06, Awassa, Ethiopia
Haramaya University, P.O.Box 138, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia


This study was conducted to map and describe the smallholder livestock production and marketing systems in Woliata and Dawuro districts of southern Ethiopia using agro-ecologic and environmental variables. The study was aimed at generating basic information for designing interventions that improve livestock productivity and rural livelihoods. Data were generated through group discussion, household survey and repaid market appraisal tools. The districts were clustered into highland, midland and lowland agro-ecologies and representative sites were selected purposively. Total household of 117 in Woliata and 117 in Dawuro district were randomly selected to participate in the household survey conducted between October 2007 to September 2008. Household survey data was analyzed using SPSS.

Characteristics of management practices and marketing, socio-economic features of the households, constraints encounter and intervention areas were similar across agro-ecologies of both districts. Livestock husbandry practice is predominantly backwarded and subsistence with low productivity per head of animals and low use of inputs and improved technologies in both districts. Highland agro-ecologies of both districts are densely populated with scarce grazing lands and livestock highly suffer from inadequate supply and poor quality feed during most parts of the year. Livestock and livelihood of the lowland areas are critically affected by drought, warm climate and high prevalence of diseases and parasites. Midland areas lie between the other two and confess a moderate challenge of both feed shortage and diseases and parasites losses. Strengthening institutions mandated to deliver appropriate input and technology, education, credit, incentive market to smallholder farmers with due consideration of the agro-ecologic variable and natural environments could improve livestock and livelihood of the smallholder in crop-livestock mixed farming systems of Woliata and Dawuro districts, southern Ethiopia.  

Key Words: Constraints, ecological variables, husbandry practices, improvement strategies, marketing system


 Livestock play a vital role in the agricultural system of Ethiopia (Benin et al 2003) contribute about 13–16% of total gross domestic product (GDP), 30–35% of agricultural GDP and more than 85% of farm cash income (Degefe and Nega 2000). Livestock play multiple roles in the smallholder systems of Ethiopia providing draught power, food (milk, meat, egg, and blood), manure, cash income and cultural and social functions (Ehui et al 1998). Although the country has the largest livestock population in Africa, performance in the production of main food commodities of livestock origin has been poor compared to other African countries, including neighbouring Kenya mainly due to failure to understand the smallholder systems and deliver appropriate supports and interventions that address the problems confronted and expand opportunities of rural household (Benin et al 2003).

Livestock production details including husbandry practices, feed resources, purposes of keeping, production systems and environments interacting under smallholder settings required for improving productivity and profitability of the livestock systems were not properly studied in different parts of the country (Alemayehu et al 2000). Similarly, livestock and livestock product markets and marketing situations crucial for enhancing incomes and livelihood of the smallholder livestock keepers were also not described in various parts of the country (Solomon et al 2003). Livestock production systems differs markedly due to differences in resource endowments, climate, human population, disease incidences, level of economic development, research support and government economic policies (Devendra and Thomas 2002). Thus, efforts to improve livestock systems necessitate a detailed analysis and understanding of farmers’ circumstances and practices, components of production systems and its operations, constraints and feasible improvement strategies and opportunities to develop more productive system. This, unlike the one-size-fits-all strategy, identifies target populations, priorities and development opportunities for a particular production system, agro-ecology and natural environment (Ehui et al 2002).

Wolaita and Dawuro districts of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional (SNNPR) state of Ethiopia have huge and diverse livestock populations providing enormous contribution to the livelihood of smallholder farmers. The districts are known for their potential livestock resources and quality animal and animal products preferred by consumers in big cities of the country. SNNPR state including the studied districts encounter food shortage security problems and 13% of its 15 million total population are food insecure (SARI 2007). Low agricultural productivity, food insecurity and poverty are major phenomenon of the studied districts. Livestock are potential component of the farming system key for intensifying and improving productivity of smallholder systems. However, information on livestock production and marketing situations, constraints, opportunities and improvement options required for appropriate intervention that enhance productivity, profitability and livelihood of smallholder livestock keepers are not available. Thus, this study was conducted to map and describe the smallholder livestock production and marketing systems and identify intervention areas, duly considering the agro-climatic variables and natural environments of the districts.  


Description of study areas

The study was conducted in the neighboring Wolaita and Dawuro districts/zones of the SNNPR located in southwest part of Ethiopia (Figure). The districts are separated by gorge of Omo River and closely linked socially, culturally and economically (unpublished socio-economic report of both districts). Woliata zone is located 350 km south west of Addis Ababa with altitude between 700 and 2950 meters. Rainfall is bi-modal with an annual average of 1200-1300mm.

Map of the study districts

Mean monthly temperatures (0C) varies from 11 to 26. Soils are mainly Vertisols and Nitosols with pH of 5-6. The district has 4471.3km2 total land area comprised of highland (9%), midland (56%) and lowland (35%) agro-ecologies. On the other hand, Dawuro district is located at 512km south west of Addis Ababa. Total land area of the district is 4436.7km2 lies between 6.59-7.34 latitude and 36.68-37.52 longitude. Altitude of the district is 501-3000 meters with mean monthly temperature (0C) ranges from 15.1 to 27.5 and annual rainfall of 1201-1800mm. The district is comprised of 21% highland, 41% midland and 38% lowland agro-ecologies. Human population of Wolaita and Dawuro districts was 1.6 and 0.6 million, respectively (PCC 2008). Both districts practice a crop-livestock mixed farming and keep combination of livestock species integrated with a wide range of cereals, pulses, root and tubers and cash crops grown for household consumption and marketing. Both districts receives a bimodal rainfall in short (February to March) and long (May to September) seasons. Agriculture is the main stay of rural livelihoods in the districts. Wolaita district has a livestock population of 808,211 cattle, 177,702 sheep, 121,849 goats, 1,153 mules, 26,894 donkeys, 643,049 poultry and 20,466 traditional bee hives while Dawuro district has 313,094 cattle, 113,554 sheep, 45,703 goats, 7,081 horses, 1,934 mules, 5,064 donkey, 157,996 chicken and 28,557 traditional hives (CSA 2006). 

Sampling and data collection

A three-stage sampling technique was employed to select the study sites and households. Two sites per district and three Kebeles (lowest administrative units in Ethiopia) per sites were purposively selected based on dry road accessibility and represent major agro-ecologies and livestock production systems in the districts. Major agro-ecologies in Ethiopia are traditionally grouped as highland, midland and lowland (Table 5). Equal number of about 20 households per Kebeles were selected randomly making a total of 117 and 119 household heads from Wolaita and Dawuro district, respectively by giving equal chance to those owning livestock. Both formal and informal surveys were conducted from October 2008 to September 2009 covering rainy and dry seasons. Secondary data from published and institutional documents were reviewed to generate baseline information on livestock production, marketing and institutional supports. A focused group discussion with group of farmers and key informants interview with farmers, extension workers and traders were held in respective agro-ecologies of the studied districts to gather detailed information on livestock husbandry practices and marketing situation. Rapid Market Appraisal (RMA) as outlined by Holtzman (2004) was employed to describe marketing details in selected market channels within and outside the studied districts involving producers, traders, transporters and consumers. Formal household survey was conducted using structured questionnaire administered to a total of 236 household heads in six Kebeles of the two districts.

Statistical analysis

The household survey data were analyzed using SPSS statistical package (SPSS 12.0 2003). Descriptive, chi-square and t-test were analyzed to present the results.


Socio-economic characteristics of sample households

The average family size of Wolaita district was 6.74 ranging from 1-16 and this was not significantly different from  Dawuro district (7.41) with range from 1-20 (Table 1). Polygamous marriage is common among rural households of both district and contributed to higher family size. The average number of household from 15-50 years was not different (P>0.05) between Woliata (3.55) and Dawuro (3.44) districts. The family member provides labour for farming and livestock management. In both districts, fathers and boys are responsible for farming, herding, looking after oxen and watering animals whereas mothers and girls cut and carry grasses, clean barns, milk cows and manage young stocks. However, about 63 and 58 percent of sample farmers from Wolaita and Dawuro districts, respectively, indicated that they have labour shortage particularly during the time of crop planting and harvesting. They overcome labour shortage by acquire additional labour through exchange, hiring and shared cropping.

The average size of total land holding was significantly higher (p<0.01) in Dawuro (1.91 ha) than Wolaita (0.81 ha) district. Likewise, land allocated to different purposes was also significantly higher in Dawuro district. Larger proportion of land was allocated for crop cultivation in both districts. In both districts, only 18% of the total land were allotted for livestock grazing which makes major proportion of feed particularly during seasons when land are covered with crops.

Table 1: Socio-economic characteristics of the sample households


Wolaita district (N=117)

Mean (SD)

Dawuro district (N=119)

Mean (SD)



Number of family size

6.74 (2.89)

7.41 (2.99)


Household members age <10

2.15 (1.56)

2.66 (1.74)


Household members age 10-14

1.06 (1.07)

0.98 (1.05)


Household members age 15-50

3.55 (1.36)

3.44 (1.01)


Household members age >50

0.15 (0.41)

0.55 (2.61)


Age of household head,years

40.2 (13.50)

42.4 (13.79)


Education in years of schooling

4.17 (4.02)

2.19 (3.10)


Total land holding, ha

0.81 (0.44)

1.91 (1.22)


Cultivated land, ha

0.56 (0.33)

1.12 (0.72)


Grazing land, ha

0.14 (0.12)

0.35 (0.38)


Fallow land, ha

0.04 (0.10)

0.18 (0.41)


Land covered with tree, ha

0.07 (0.11)

0.17 (0.24)


Barren land, ha

0.00 (0.00)

0.06 (0.24)


***, **, and * show significance at 1%, 5% and 10% levels, respectively
SD, standard deviation; N, total number of households in the districts; ha, hectare

Livestock holding

Livestock production practices and species composition are similar in both districts. Smallholder farmers in both districts keep a mix of cattle, sheep, goats, equines, chicken and bee hive (Table 2). Average livestock ownership in terms of Tropical Livestock Unit (TLU) was significantly higher (P<0.01) in Dawuro (5.57) than Wolaita (3.63) district. This is attributed to high land and feed availability in Dawuro district. Oxen are major source of draft power for crop cultivation and their ownership was not different in both districts. Ownership of donkey was higher (P<0.05) in Wolaita district (0.15) and they are more important in transporting goods for petty trading. Livestock holding varied similarly across the highland, midland and lowland agro-ecologies of both districts. Average livestock holding of sample farmers in terms of TLU was significantly (P<0.01) higher in highland (5.40) and lowland (5.23) agro-ecologies of both districts. This holds true for all species and structure of animals across the agro-ecologies of the districts. The total households of about 73.4% in Wolaita and 54.4% in Dawuro districts reported that there is a declining trend of livestock holding, species composition and productivity over the past five years.

Table 2: Average livestock holding of sample households in districts


Wolaita district (N=117)

Mean (SD)

Dawuro district (N=119)




3.63 (2.13)

5.57 (3.06)



0.99 (0.71)

0.96 ()0.92


Other cattle1

3.20 (0.87)

5.29 (1.09)



0.56 (1.09)

1.52 ()1.91



0.39 (0.87)

0.57 (1.11)



0.15 (0.39)

0.00 (0.22)



0.00 (0.00)

0.13 (0.37)



0.03 (0.22)

0.19 (0.39)



2.56 (3.20)

1.92 (2.89)


Honey bee hives

0.16 (0.81)

0.43 (1.26)


1Other cattle includes cows, bulls, heifers and calves

Similarly, about 71.4, 64.7 and 50.9 percent of sample farmers in highland, midland and lowland agro-ecologies respectively, reported a similar declining trend. Highland areas encounter land shortage and feed scarcity but own considerable livestock integrated with crop production. Land holding of midland ranges between the other two agro-ecologies and confess modest problem of feed shortage and diseases and parasites loss. Lowland areas have larger lands and livestock than the other agro-ecologies because they are accessible to extensive communal grazing lands that are not cultivated due to shortage of rainfall and serious problem of both human and livestock diseases. However, high prevalence of diseases and parasites and particularly trypanosomosis critically affect both livestock and smallholder livelihoods in lowland areas.

Table 3: Average livestock holding of sample households in agro-ecologies


Highland (N=60)


Midland (N=115)

Mean (SD)

Lowland (N=61)

Mean (SD)




5.40 (2.82)

3.87 (1.92)

5.23 (3.74)



0.95 (0.91)

0.82 (0.60)

1.30 (0.99)


Other cattle

4.89 (0.98)

3.59 (0.90)

4.87 (1.17)



1.70 (1.63)

1.04 ()1.74

0.40 ()1.07



0.22 (0.83)

0.43 (0.89)

0.92 (1.22)



0.10 (0.30)

0.01 ()0.30

0.11 (0.37)



0.17 (0.38)

0.00 (0.26)

0.00 (0.00)



0.22 (0.42)

0.01 (0.31)

0.00 (0.25)



1.82 (2.66)

2.31 (2.87)

2.55 (3.73)


*** show significance at 0.01 level

Feed and water resources

Feedstuffs, seasonal availability and feeding practices are similar in both districts. Grazing on private and communal lands, crop residues (maize and sorghum stovers and straws from barley, tef, wheat), parts of root and tuber crops (cassava, sweet potato), sugar cane, grains, parts of enset and banana plants, weeds and tillers from crop fields and leaves and browses from local trees are major feed resources in different seasons of the year. Feed leftovers, local minerals and by-products from local beverages are supplemented to improve utilization of crop residues and roughages. After crops harvested, livestock freely graze on grazing and crop lands and afterwards either graze tethered or kept by herdsmen. Cut–and–carry feeding is more common during dry season when land is covered with crop. Feed supply is adequate from December to April while period from May to November represent critical feed shortage. Majority of sample households, 99% in Wolaita and 81% in Dawuro district responded that feed supply was inadequate between December and April. As the result, sample farmers of 34.2% in Wolaita and 35.3% in Dawuro reported mortality loss of animals mainly due to feed shortage. Farmers cope feed shortage through purchase of grasses and crop residues from neighbor farms or local markets and conserved fodder. Fodder conserved by cutting, drying and pooling in protected place or leaving it uncut on the fenced fields. Feed conserving practice for dry season was significantly higher (P<0.01) among sample households of Woliata (64.7%) than Dawuro district (21.0%). Similarly, higher (P<0.01) sample households in Wolaita (17.9%) than Dawuro district (2.5%) produce and use improved forages during seasons of critical feed shortage. Major sources of livestock water are rivers, springs and pipe in that order of importance. Household particularly in lowlands of both districts sometime walk more than 10 km to find water for livestock and household.

Health management

Major animal diseases and parasites were identified through group discussion involving key informant farmers, local development agents and veterinary technicians. They reported that trypanosomosis, anthrax, blackleg and foot and mouth disease (FMD) are major diseases of cattle. Chicken are severely affected by fowl cholera, Newcastle disease and predators whereas skin diseases severely affected equines. Sheep and goat pox, contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), FMD are major challenge in sheep and goats. Trypanosomosis infect sheep, goat, cattle and equines in both directs. Ticks, mites and flies are reported to be major external parasites while gastrointestinal nematodes and liver fluke are major internal parasites causing considerable loss of animals in both districts. The extent these diseases affected animals has similar feature in both districts. Total respondents of 70.9% in Wolaita and 73.9% in Dawuro districts have access to veterinary service but the services are either costly, inadequate or have shortage of veterinarians and veterinary supplies. Thus, sample farmers of 71% in Wolaita and 58% in Dawuro districts use an alternative measure of ethno-veterinary treatments and indigenous knowledge. Extracts from leaves and roots local vegetation and other ingredients were applied against various diseases and parasites. Majority of the respondents, about 65.4% in Wolaita and 75% in Dawuro perceived ethno-veterinary treatments either reduce pathogenic effects or cure completely.

Performance level

A productive and reproductive performance of animals is generally low.  Age at first mating (months) for cattle, sheep, goat and donkey was 46, 12.3, 13.8 and 46, respectively in Woliata and 53, 10, 12.4 and 36, respectively in Dawuro district. The average parturition intervals (months) of cattle, sheep and goat, respectively was 21.8, 7.3 and 7.9 in Wolaita and 24.4, 8.9, and 10.4 months in Dawuro district. The average lactation length (months) of cow was about 10 in Wolaita and 8.6 in Dawuro district. The frequency of cow milking varies from one to three times per day and it is usually higher during earlier months of calving and adequate supply of feed and water. The average frequency of milking cow per day was three times in Wolaita and twice in Dawuro. Sample household estimated that the average milk yield (liters) per milking was 0.75 and 0.65 for Wolaita and Dawuro districts, respectively. Total number of eggs per lying cycle from local chickens was 12 and 11, respectively in Wolaita and Dawuro districts.

Extension service and credit

There is no organized and supervised credit provision system in both districts. Sample farmers of only 25.6% in Wolaita and 23.5% in Dawuro district received credit from various sources including government, non-governmental organizations, local institutions, friends and relatives. Households in the studied districts highly demand exotic or crossbred livestock to improve productivity. These animals can be obtained mainly through credit from governmental extension service and a sample household of only 0.8% in Dawuro and 22.1% (P<0.01) in Wolaita district able to receive the crossbred heifers. Total sample households of 13.7% in Wolaita and 2.5% in Dawuro districts received fertilizer and improved seed in credit from extension service of ministry of agriculture. Sample households (percent) of only 3.4, 1.7, 1.7 and 0.9, respectively received credit for food purchase, petty trade, loan payment and house construction in Wolaita district. Similarly, few household (percent) of 1.7, 3.4, 1.7, and 1.7, respectively received credit for food purchase, petty trade, loan payment and house construction in Dawuro district. Credits for these purposes were mainly from relatives and friends. Total sample households of only 6% in Dawuro district received credit from extension service for purchasing ruminants (cattle, sheep or goat) to fatten.

Marketing of livestock and livestock products

Sample households of both district market animals of all species, ages and sex throughout the year. They also market hides and skins, butter, cheese and milk at local markets. They sale animals and products mainly for generating cash to pay land tax, purchase farm inputs and acquire fattening stocks. At all markets of the districts, there is neither price information nor marketing infrastructure. There is remarkable seasonal variation in demand, supply and price of livestock and livestock products depending on times of holidays, crop planting and harvesting, drought and feed supply. During Ethiopian New Year (September), Christmas and Ester holidays, both demand and price of animals and their products increases but during short and long rain planting seasons, drought and feed scarcity prices decline. Boditi market, located in Wolaita district is the largest livestock and livestock products market in the studied districts. Dawuro district is remote from big cities and incentive markets but produces specialized livestock and livestock products. For example, fattened oxen, sheep and butter are highly preferred among consumers in big cities. The district has relatively better grazing areas and animals graze on natural pasture gives unique quality and texture of products. Similarly, fatten oxen, sheep, goat and butter from Woliata district are also preferred. There is a long held tradition of cattle, sheep and goat raw meat consumption in Ethiopia and fatten oxen, sheep and goat from both districts has high demand and preference among consumers in big cities between the districts and national capital, Addis Ababa.

Production and marketing constraints

Livestock plays a critical role in the livelihood of smallholder farmers in the studied districts. However, sample households reported that productivity and contribution of their animals is low. Sample households of 69.2% in Wolaita and 30.8% in Dawuro districts indicated that shortage of feed and grazing area is the most acute constraint to livestock production. Importantly, sample farmers of 45.5% in Wolaita and 54.5% in Dawuro districts reported animal disease and parasites as major threat of their livestock. Prioritization of major constraints in agro-ecologies has shown similar ranks in both districts. In highland areas of both districts, a total of 59.1% respondents in both districts reported feed shortage is an overriding constraint (Table 4).

Table 4: Major production constraints in agro-ecologies


Major constraints




N (%)


N (%)


N (%)


N (%)

Feed shortage

13 (59.1)

14 (35.9)

1 (3.6)

28 (32.9)

Diseases and parasites

4 (18.2)

4 (10.3)

14 (50.0)

22 (26.1)

Both feed shortage and disease & parasites

5 (22.7)

21 (53.8)

13 (46.4)

39 (41.0)


22 (100.0)

39 (100.0)

28 (100.0)

89 (100.0)

 Half of total sample farmers in lowland areas of both district reported that disease and parasite are the primary problem of livestock production. Sample households in midland areas of both districts equally consider both shortages of feed and diseases and parasites as a major challenge in their locality. Across the agro-ecologies, higher proportion of overall farmers (41%) reported that disease and parasite are major threat of livestock sector in both districts. On the other hand, lack of price information, formal transaction and marketing infrastructure are major challenge of getting proper incentives from livestock and livestock products in both districts. Traders and farmers in both districts reported that incentive markets for animals and products exist only during seasonal holiday markets. Farmers in Dawuro district area are remote located and lack access to incentive markets. Traders from this district trek animals to markets in Wolaita district and other surrounding areas over a couple of days. Traders in both district reported mortality, weight loss during transportation, theft problem and absence of feeding and watering infrastructures as a major problem in livestock trade. Most of transaction at markets usually takes place involving brokers. Brokers are not legally allowed to involve but receive considerable commissions from both traders and farmers. Farmers in both districts seriously complained their higher charges and turbulence. Transaction of livestock takes place at markets under control of local authorities and farmers and traders complained their higher rates of service charge and tax. 


Agro-ecologic mapping of livestock systems

Agro-ecologic variables are commonly used in classifying and describing livestock production systems and setting development priorities (Seré and Steinfeld 1996; Kruska et al 2003; Thornton et al 2006). Similarly, livestock production systems is commonly classified using ‘traditional’ agro-ecologic classification system in Ethiopia vis-ŕ-vis highland (Dega) (20.3% of total national land area), midland (Wainadega) (44.7%) and lowland (Kolla) (35%) (Hurni 1998; MoA 2000) (Table 5). The growing demand for livestock products in developing countries provides unique opportunities for smallholder livestock keepers (McDermott et al 2010). Thus, it is essential to increase productivity of smallholder livestock to satisfy the growing demand and benefit producers (Devendra and Thomas 2002). However, one of the major limitations in this regard is that interventions aimed at improving livestock productivity not fully recognize the distinct production situations in different agro-ecologic variables (Cecchi et al 2010).

Table 5. Traditional classification of land uses and livestock systems in Ethiopia



Traditional Classifications




Altitude (meters)




Rainfall (mm/year)




Average annual temperature (0C)




Length of growing periods (days)




Moisture regimes

Arid to semi-arid

Sub-moist to moist

Sub-humid to per-humid

Total land area (million hectares)




This study has identified that agro-ecologic variables are important criteria in describing livestock production system and setting appropriate development strategies in the studied districts

Improvement interventions

Livestock play an important role in improving food security and puberty alleviation in Ethiopian smallholder farming systems (Ehui et al 2002). Despite the significance roles of livestock, productivity remain very low due to inadequate feed and nutrition, widespread diseases, poor veterinary services and inadequate supports with respect to credit, extension and marketing in the studied districts in particular and in the country in general (Degefe and Nega 2000). This study identified that livestock production systems, major constraints and improvement strategies markedly differ across agro-ecologies of the districts. Accordingly, livestock in highland agro-ecology highly suffer from shortage of grazing land and inadequate feeds. On the other hand, key challenge of the lowland agro-ecology is widespread prevalence of diseases, parasites and adverse effects of climate changes. Midland agro-ecology lies between the two other agro-ecologies and shares moderate problem of both feed shortage during dry season and prevalence of diseases and parasites. In light of the diverse climatic variables and livestock production situations observed in the studied districts, it is essential to plan and implement interventions that address issues pertinent in specific agro-ecologies and production environments.

The Highland

Highland areas of both districts are densely populated and most of the grazing lands are allotted for crop cultivation and permanent vegetation. In addition, major feed sources including of natural pasture, crop residues and indigenous browse has poor nutritive value (ILRI 2000). This is in agreement with the southern regional livestock research strategy that identified inadequate supply and poor quality feed as an overriding constraint of livestock production in SNNPR (SARI 2007). The decline of livestock holding due to increasing population and shortage of feed resources in the studied districts is in agreement with previous reports of Ehui et al (1998) and Benin et al (2003). Shortage of feed and inadequate supplementary feeding were reported to be a major cause of livestock mortality and poor performances in highland agro-ecologies of southern Ethiopia (Desta and Oba 2004; Pond and Jonfa 2006).

High quality supplements of cereal grains, balanced concentrates or agro-industrial by-products have potential economic benefits to supplement low-quality feeds but they are unaffordable, inaccessible and not easy to utilize in smallholder farms (Nurfeta 2010). Thus, interventions that take into account the available resources of land, labour, capital and socio-economic circumstances of the smallholder farmers in the studied districts could help to improve supply and quality of feed. Forage and crop residues are usually available excess during rainy season in the districts and proper preservation as silage can help to buffer severe feed shortage during dry seasons (Teferedegne 2000). Simple physical treatment of high-fiber feeds including crop residues and roughages improves dry matter intake, digestibility and nutrient availability (Arisoy 1998). Improved forages can be source of nitrogen for rumen microbial activities and vital in utilization of crop residues and roughages and enhance growth and reproductive performance of animals (Moore et al 1999). Integration of improved forages into cropping system and natural resource management practices could circumvent land competition and increase supply of quality forage and soil nutrients (Blummel et al 2003). Non-conventional traditional brewery byproducts (atella) (Mekasha et al 2003), local agro-industrial by-products (poultry litter and coffee pulp) (Nurfeta 2010) and leguminous trees (Jabbar et al 1997) are important feedstuffs that could be properly utilized in the studied districts because of their low cost and availability (Negesse et al 2007).

The Lowland

A wide range of diseases and parasites, drought and warm climate largely affects livestock in lowland agro-ecologies of SNNPR including the study districts (SARI 2007). Trypanosomosis is a major problem of livestock and food self-reliance, excluded considerable cultivable land (180,000–200,000 km2) and risk of contracting disease to 14 million cattle, equivalent number of small ruminants and 7 million equines in west and southwestern Ethiopia including the studied districts (Lemecha et al 2006). Pond and Jonfa (2006) reported that livestock diseases and parasites are major constraints of livestock in lowland areas of Wolaita district. Similarly, Haile et al (2010) indicated that warm climate create conducive environment to pathogenic agents and infection in lowland areas of southern Ethiopia that caused high loss of small ruminants. Foot and mouth disease (FMD) (Gelaye et al 2009), bovine tuberculosis (bTB) (Berg et al 2009), trypanosomosis (Lemecha et al 2006) and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) (Mariner et al 2006) in cattle and endoparasites (fascioliasis, cestodiasis, gastrointestinal nematodes and lung worms), infectious diseases (Peste des Petits Ruminants/PPR) and respiratory disease syndromes in small ruminant (Tembely 1998) are major diseases and parasites of economic importance in the studied districts. Skin diseases, infectious diseases and welfare problems in equines (Biffa and Woldemeskel 2006) and New castle diseases (Dessie and Ogle 2001) and coccidiosis (Kinung’hi et al 2004) in chicken are major health problem in both districts. Despite the broad causes of infection and massive loss of livestock, there is no adequate public and private veterinary service in the studied district. Gelaye et al (2009) suggested that strategic vaccinations against multiple pathogens and regulation of transboundary livestock movement could be an appropriate measure towards controlling major livestock pathogens in the smallholder systems like the studied districts. An increased use of tolerant indigenous breeds could be a sound option to sustain livestock and livelihoods which is highly devastated by trypanosomosis. In this regard, trypanotolerant Sheko cattle breed, the only surviving Bos taurus found in Bench-Maji district of the southwestern Ethiopia are productive in tsetse and trypanosomosis infested areas (Stein et al 2009; Taye et al 2009) and well suit to be kept in the tsetse belts of both districts.

Cross-cutting issues

Inadequate delivery of inputs and technologies, lack of access to incentive markets and lack of credit hinders livestock improvement across all the agro-ecologies of the studied districts. The multipurpose functions of livestock and complex relationships between the biological, technical and social elements require a systems approach, whereby nutrition, animal health, inputs and technologies and incentive markets coordinated to optimise resource use and improve productivity and efficiency (Kaasschieter et al 1992). Smallholder livestock production of the studied districts characterized with high mortality, low fertility, lower productivity and inaccessible to incentive markets and credits is characterized as inefficient system (Shomo et al 2010). This could be reversed through training and educating farmers, farm extension visits, accessible credit and robust technologies (Gorton and Davidova 2004). Higher efficiency gives subsistence farmers the opportunity to diversify their income stream that enhance household liquidity and gradually open up further opportunities which could redress the vicious circle of rural poverty (Solis et al 2009). The current livestock research and extension systems of SNNP have limited capacity and less priority to livestock development. In such situations, Ruttan (2002) stresses that there should be more effort to enhance the capacity of agricultural research institutions, the capacity of technology-supply industries and extension education of rural people. Governance that promotes sustainable development of the smallholder systems should place the necessary institutions and strategies that deliver appropriate input, technologies, credit access, incentive markets and education that help farmers to overcome the production challenges and maximize their opportunities (Lio and Hu 2009). This essentially requires enabling policies and pro-poor investments in institutional capacities and technologies and link to the private sector that provide appropriate inputs and output markets (McDermott et al 2010).

There is no market information on prices and supplies, nor formalized grades and standards in the country including the studied districts (Ayalew 2006). According to Ajala and Adesehinwa (2007), this emerges in response to commitment failure resulting from lack of market information, inadequate regulation and the absence of legal enforcement mechanisms (el Dirani et al 2009). To benefit from the expanding market opportunities (Delgado et al 1999), productivity of the smallholder livestock has to be improved, which is possible only if the system is partly commercialized through market outlets and pricing policy offering farmer more incentives (Beets 1990; Coetzee et al 2005). It is also essential to develop a value chain intervention of livestock marketing which helps to understanding problems of market access, distribution of gains along the chain, nature and determinants of smallholder competitiveness in market chains and find leverage points for designing and implementing appropriate development programs and policies that enhance market participation of smallholder producers in the districts (Rich et al 2009).



Southern Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) financed this study. Farmers, traders, extension workers, veterinary technician and livestock experts patiently provided the information and acknowledged.


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Received 11 October 2010; Accepted 30 Januaary 2011; Published 6 March 2011

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