Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (9) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Role of indigenous Bamboo species (Yushania alpina and Oxytenanthera abyssinica) as ruminant feed in northwestern Ethiopia

Yeshambel Mekuriaw, Mengistu Urge* and Getachew Animut*

Department of Animal Production and Technology, Bahir Dar University,
PO Box 2172, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Yeshambel16@yahoo.com
* School of Animal and Range Sciences, Haramaya University,
PO Box 138, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia

Abstract

Survey was conducted in Amhara and Benishangul-Gumuz Regional States of northwestern Ethiopia to assess the utilization of two indigenous bamboo species as source of foliage for ruminants. Two zones, one from each region, two districts from each zone and four peasant associations from each districts and a total of 208 households were purposively selected for the study based on the availability, production and utilization as ruminant feed of highland (Yushania alpina) and lowland (Oxytenanthera abyssinica) bamboo species. Farmers were interviewed using semi-structured questionnaire, and data was supplemented by information obtained from key-informants through group discussion. Policy related documents, plans and actions of institutions were reviewed to assess the current status and prospect of bamboo in the study area.

 

Highland farmers privately own bamboo in their backyard and nearby farm lands as live fence, while those in the lowland owned both private and natural stands in the forest form. The major propagation mechanism of both bamboo species is by vegetative and seedlings means. The main current uses of both bamboo species are as source of income by selling culms, house construction, crafts, live fence, food and feed and soil conservation purpose with varying order of importance between the study areas. Fresh foliages of both bamboo species are used and well recognized as forage source for livestock, especially in the dry season. Processing and conserving bamboo foliage is limited in the study areas. Coughing and long retention of fibre in the rumen were mentioned as problems associated with highland bamboo feeding, but not for lowland bamboo.

 

This study highlighted that the two indigenous bamboo species are a valuable multipurpose crops in northwestern Ethiopia. However, perceptions of the farmers about feeding problems and nutritional contribution of highland bamboo for livestock in particular, and both species in general, need to be substantiated through scientific research. Future work must also focus on the development of conservation and processing methods and appropriate feeding system that may enhance the feeding values of bamboo foliage.

Keywords: Bamboo, Foliage, Highland, Lowland, Survey


Introduction

The increasing human population and higher demand for food in Ethiopia is progressively forcing farmers of the highland and mid-altitude areas to cultivate more land at the expense of natural gazing areas. Consequently, the major livestock feed resources in the country are becoming crop residues, which are nutritionally characterized as containing a high proportion of cell wall and being deficient in energy, protein and micronutrients (Owen and Jayasuriya 1989). Introduction and utilization of exotic multipurpose fodder trees such as Sesbania spp., Leucaena leucocephala, Calliandra spp. and Chamaecytisus palmensis through integration with food crops cultivation in the mixed crop-livestock system in Ethiopia started in the 1970s to supplement the roughage feed resources (EARO 2002; Alemayehu 2006). However, the scale of fodder tree planting and utilization undertaken by smallholder farmers in the country have shown uneven success rates and did not meet the required goals (Mekoya 2008). Thus, there is a need to look for locally available potential feed resources, which less compete with human food production and can provide the critical nutrients lacking in the main dry season feeds. One such potential feed resource is bamboo.

 

Bamboo is the common term for members of large woody grasses of the family Andropogoneae/Poaceae and subfamily Bambusoideae. Bamboo encompasses more than 1500 species within 75 genera, most of which are relatively fast-growing, attaining stand maturity within five years (Ohrnberger 1999). Bamboo species are adaptable to many environments. They are distributed mainly in the tropics, but occur naturally in subtropical and temperate zones of all continents except Europe. The species are found at latitudes from 46░ N to 47░ S and from sea level to 4000 m elevation (Ohrnberger 1999). Bamboo is a multi-purpose tree which is used for construction, furniture manufacturing, firewood, and human and animal foods (Sharma 1987; Keir et al 1997; Sath et al 2008). Worldwide, over 2.5 billion people trade in or use bamboo (INBAR 1999), thus playing important role socially, economically and ecologically (Ensermu et al 2000). Regarding its value as animal feed, Paudel and Tiwari (1992) reported that bamboo leaf is important and palatable ruminants feed in Nepal, especially in the dry season when feed shortage is critical. The fact that bamboo species are evergreen in climates to which they are adapted, suggest that it is a potential feed source in the dry season when feed availability for ruminants in most tropical countries is critical (Brias and Tesfaye 2009).

 

In Ethiopia, only two bamboo species are growing and both are endemic to Africa (Kassahun 2000). These species are Yushania alpina k. Schum (highland bamboo) and Oxytenanthera abyssinica (A. rich) Munro (lowland bamboo). Ethiopia has over one million hectares of highland and lowland bamboo resources, which account for about 67% of African bamboo resources and more than 7% of the world total area covered by bamboo (LUSO Consult 1997). Despite the large area coverage, economic, social and conservation significance of bamboo in Ethiopia, information about production, utilization and its use as forage for livestock is limited. Therefore, the present study was conducted with the objectives of generating holistic information about production and utilisation of the two indigenous bamboo species, and its use as forage for livestock under the prevailing conditions in the northwest Ethiopia. The problems associated with feeding of bamboo to ruminants, fractions and form of feeding, farmers’ indigenous knowledge on its utilization and the current status and prospects of the plant has been assessed as well.


Materials and methods

Study areas

 

This survey study was conducted in May and June, 2009 in the northwestern Ethiopia. Two zones, namely Awi zone of the Amhara Regional State and Metekel zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, which represent different agro-ecologies, were selected for the survey. Awi zone is a high rainfall area that range between 1200-2000 mm annually with a bimodal distribution. The short and long rainy season falls in February to March and June to September, respectively, followed by an extended dry season from October to February. The average annual rainfall is 1750 mm while the average monthly temperature ranges from 17░C to 27░C. Awi zone is located within a longitude and latitude of  / 10.95░N and 36.5░E and  / 10.95; 36.5 lies at an altitude range of 1800 - 3100 meters above sea level with an average altitude of 2300 m.a.s.l (Awi Zone Agricultural and Rural Development Office (AZARDO), 2008). Metekel Zone is situated within altitude ranges of 550 to 2500 meters above sea level. The average monthly temperature ranges between 20-25C. During the hottest months (January - May), it reaches between 28–34C. The amount of annual rainfall ranges from 500-1800 mm (Metekel Zone Agricultural and Rural Development Office (MZARDO), 2007).

 

Data collection and statistical analysis

 

Four districts, Banja and Guagusa from Awi zone (highland districts), Mandura and Pawe from Metekel zone (lowland districts) were purposively selected based on bamboo production and utilization practices. From the four districts, a total of 16 peasant association (PAs), four from each district, were selected based on the same criteria mentioned earlier. From each PAs, 13 households were purposively selected for data collection. Semi-structured questionnaire were used for data collection and data was collected in a single visit interviews. The questionnaires covered issues related to farmers’ current practices and indigenous knowledge on the production and utilisation of the two bamboo species. The questions focused among others on the presence or absence of bamboo ownership, practices of feeding bamboo to animals (when, how, to which livestock type), farmers’ perception (opinions and views) on the nutritional quality and animal health problems associated with feeding of bamboo forage.

 

Data collected by using questionnaires were supplemented by information obtained from key-informants, making field checks at the time of survey and secondary data derived mainly from Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development offices at each district. Group discussions were held during the survey with 14-20 key informants consisting of elder people, local administrators, bamboo project coordinators and peasant association development agents. The group discussants were selected purposively at each study district based on their knowledge about the area and bamboo utilization practices. During the group discussion, information were gathered on issues related to the current agricultural production system, the major constraints in crop and livestock production, farmers’ indigenous knowledge about the production and utilization of bamboo, and effect of feeding bamboo on animals. In the discussion process, individual issues were raised by the researcher and open discussion among the key informants were encouraged and women members were welcomed to actively participate. Information obtained from the East African bamboo project activities in Awi zone, Pawe National Research Center and the Ethiopian Biodiversity activities in Metekel zone were also used as input to describe and assess the current status and prospect of bamboo in the study areas. The interview and data collection was administered by development agents (DAs) working in the Ministry of Agriculture. The DAs were given training to make them familiar with the questions and on how to administer the questionnaire. In ranking the importance of bamboo, the respondents who reported for each rank were summed up and taken as the proportion from the total interviewed farmers for each districts. To determine the peak calendar of bamboo foliage feeding, number of respondents in each month were summed and categorized into three groups (i.e. X = when the number of respondents is from one to fifteen; XX = from 16 -30 respondents and XXX = from 31-52 respondents) indicating increasing importance of bamboo foliage. The collected raw data were systematically coded and analysed using descriptive statistics by employing Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 2007).


Results and discussion

Household and farmland characteristics

 

The average family size (Table 1) in Banja and Guagusa district is comparable to 6.54 (Halima 2006) reported for Awi zone, but greater than the national average (5.20) (ECSA and ORC Macro 2006). The average family size in Mandura and Pawe is not much different from that reported in the two districts from the highland area. Family size in Mandura and Pawe is relatively higher than that reported for other lowland drought affected areas such as Libokemkem district, northern Ethiopia which was 5 (Ayele and Mamo 2004) and comparable to the 6.70 reported in Alaba district, southern Ethiopia (Tsedeke 2007). Among the four districts, Pawe has relatively more family size and this could be attributed to the practice of polygamous marriage common in the area.


Table 1. Family size, landholding and allocation per respondent household in four study districts of North-western Ethiopia (Mean [SD])

Characteristics

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Total family size, N

6.56 (1.75)

6.71 (1.61)

6.06 (1.89)

6.94 (2.99)

Male, N

3.27 (1.28)

3.23 (1.11)

3.12 (1.38)

3.81 (2.06)

Female, N

3.29 (1.36)

3.48 (1.07)

2.94 (1.27)

3.13 (1.64)

Total crop land size, ha

0.74 (0.24)

0.93 (0.42)

2.26 (1.38)

4.99 (2.31)

Own crop land, ha

0.70 (0.24)

0.83 (.32)

1.78 (0.99)

2.38 (1.59)

Rented crop land, ha

0.04 (0.08)

0.10 (0.21)

0.48 (1.00)

2.61 (2.04)

Own grazing land size, ha*

0.23 (0.15)

0.27 (0.15)

0.13 (0.30)

0.08 (0.04)

Rented grazing land, ha

0.04 (0.07)

0.03 (0.07)

0.00 (0.00)

0.00 (0.00)

Land allocated for bamboo, ha

0.009 (0.005)

0.008 (0.005)

0.005 (0.004)

0.006 (0.005)

% land allocated for bamboo

1.73 (1.38)

1.36 (1.21)

0.31 (0.318)

0.34 (0.29)

* Own grazing land do not include communal grazing areas; N = number; SD = standard deviation


The average total crop land holding per household in Banja and Guagusa was low as compared to the national land holding (1.60 ha) reported by FAO (2008), and the average total crop land per household in Mandura and Pawe was higher than the highland districts and the national average. In addition to the communal grazing land, 82% of the respondent farmers in Banja and 94% in Guagusa have private grazing land used for direct grazing by animals, zero grazing or hay making. Private grazing land holding per household is more in Guagusa followed by Banja, Mandura and Pawe districts, respectively. The lower private grazing land, particularly in the lowland districts may be because of greater access to communal grazing land. Average and percentage land size allocated for bamboo production per household was greater in the highland than the lowland districts. Smaller plot allocation for bamboo production in the lowland districts can be attributed to the presence of natural bamboo forest resource that can be accessed as a communal property.

 

Current crop and livestock production status

 

In all study districts, mixed crop-livestock production is the common agricultural activity. The average land allocated for the major crops grown in the study districts is presented in Table 2.


Table 2. Mean land allocated (ha) for the major crops grown in the four study districts of North-western Ethiopia (mean [SD])

Crop grown

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Barley

0.17(0.13)

0.19(0.14)

*

*

Teff

0.29(0.15)

0.26(0.16)

*

*

Potato

0.17 (0.11)

0.14 (0.08)

*

*

Wheat

0.08(0.11)

0.11(0.10)

*

*

Maize

0.05(0.07)

0.04 (0.05)

0.78(0.69)

1.14(0.51)

Groundnut

*

*

0.57(0.73)

0.38(0.42)

Sesame

*

*

0.42(0.97)

0.81(0.75)

Finger millet

*

*

0.57(0.58)

1.42 (0.87)

Rice

*

*

0.13(0.70)

*

Sorghum

*

*

0.09(0.21)

1.13(0.66)

*crops not cultivated in the respective district; SD = standard deviation


Crop production system in all study districts is low input and low output system. According to results of the group discussion, the major crop production constraints in highland districts in order of importance are shortage of cropland, land degradation, high price of chemical fertilizer, shortage of improved seeds and drought. The constraints in lowland districts in order of importance are shortage of improved seeds, weeds, diseases, drought and shortage of cropland. The type of constraints and order of importance differs between the two zones indicating that different approach and solutions are required to solve the problems. The importance of crop disease as one of the top priority problems in crop production in Benishangul-Gumuz region, and a crop yield loss of about 15-20% as a result of disease were also reported earlier (Joachim 1996). This was attributed to lack of tradition of spraying pesticides to crops by farmers. In different regions of Ethiopia, many authors (Adane and Abraham 1996; Gebre-Amlak and Azerefegne 1999; Abate et al 2000; Abraham and Abate 2002; Teshome et al 2010) noted the existence of indigenous experiences in traditional botanical pesticides use, which can be prepared from leaves, seeds, and in some cases stem bark and root of different plants, such as Datura stramonium, Phytolacca dodecandra, Croton macrostachyus, Azadirachta indica, Helianthus annus, Euphorbia tirucalli, Ricinus comunis, and Capsicum species. All of these plants are available in the present study area (Awas 2007). Furthermore, Abate (1988) and Abebe et al (2005) demonstrated that trap-cropping system at on station trials showed a promising result in depressing the target crop pests, weeds or diseases. Similarly, recent study at Pawe revealed that groundnut is a suitable trap crop to reduce striga infestation and enhance maize grain yield (Yihun et al 2005). However, there is no information about its application on farmers plot. Therefore, these knowledge could be applied to reduce the crop loss experienced in the present study area.

 

The average Tropical Livestock Unit (TLU) holding per household in the study districts is given in Table 3 based on FAO (2005) conversion factor. Livestock is an important component of the farming system in the study districts. Except that goats are not reared by Banja district farmers, species of livestock owned by the respondent farmers is the same across the districts. Cattle and sheep population is more in the lowland and highland districts, respectively. Cows in highland districts are kept primarily for milk production (86%) and second for cash income (13%). The primary function of oxen in highland districts were for cash income, while its use as draught power is the primary function in the lowland districts. The tradition of using oxen as a source of cash income in the highland districts can be utilized to introduce small scale intensive fattening scheme to raise farmer’s income and also to decrease degradation of land as a result of grazing pressure, possibly by utilizing bamboo as a basal feed, and agro-industrial by products as a concentrate supplement. Sheep and goats across the study districts are primarily kept for cash income and food purpose. The purpose livestock serves in the present study area is not different from other areas of the country (Netsanet et al 2010; Yeheyis et al 2010) except that horses in highland districts of this study area are primarily used for draught purpose replacing oxen, which is not common in most parts of Ethiopia.


Table 3. Livestock number (TLU) in the four study districts of North-western Ethiopia (mean (SD)

Animal species

Districts

N

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Cattle

52

 4.73 (2.28)

3.94 (2.74)

8.75 (9.23)

9.88 (6.53)

Sheep

52

 6.83 (3.58)

 6.79 (3.33)

 3.73 (2.98)

4.37 (3.82)

Goat

52

 0.0

0.23 (1.00)

0.94 (1.78)

2.75 (4.39)

Equines

52

1.98 (1.14)

2.23 (0.98)

0.02 (0.14)

0.96 (0.98)

Poultry

52

1.65 (2.63)

1.73 (3.07)

6.92 (6.45)

7.75 (11.23)

N = number of respondents; SD = standard deviation; TLU= tropical livestock unit


Crop residues, private and communal grazing lands, crop aftermath, local brewery and distillery by-products and some browses such as Acacia species and Carrssa edulis (locally agam) are some of the available feed sources for livestock in the highland districts. Use of local brewery and distillery by-products in other parts of Ethiopia is also common (Demeke 2007; Yeheyis et al 2010). The common feed resources in lowland districts are crop residues, communal grazing lands, crop aftermath and browse species. Seasonal availability of feed resources across the study districts were reported by the respondents and group discussants. Accordingly, there is a common trend in surplus feed availability from July to November in all study districts. There is a good practice of harvesting the surplus forage feed and conservation as hay in the highland districts. However, farmers in lowland districts generally lack feed conservation tradition, although there is surplus feed during wet season. As a result, farmers move their animals long distance in search of feed during the dry season.

 

Farmers in all the study district experience feed shortage from March to June (dry season). Unless the drought period is extended, there is a relatively sufficient feed availability from November to February. During the long dry season, crop residues are the most important feed sources for livestock in the highland districts. Besides using crop residues in dry season, farmers in lowland districts move animals to forest areas. The use of local brewery and distillery by-products as supplements is most common among respondents (64%), but limited in availability. However, none of the respondents in lowland districts use industrial by-products as supplement for their livestock. Feeding of sesame and groundnut haulms is common in more than 95% of the respondents in lowland districts.

 

According to the perception of the group discussants in the respective districts, the major livestock production constraints in the highland districts in order of importance are shortages of feed and grazing land, disease and drought. In lowland districts, disease (mainly trypanosomasis), feed and drinking water shortage in order of importance are reported to be major constraints to livestock production. The high prevalence of trypanosomosis in the later districts was also reported previously (Afework et al 2000).

 

Greater than 65% of the households in all study districts engaged in off-farm activities. The major off-farm activity is making different handicrafts from the highland bamboo in the highland districts and selling lowland bamboo culms in lowland districts. The roles of bamboo in the society as off-farm activity or as source of employment and income were also highlighted by Ensermu et al (2000).

Bamboo production system
Ownership of bamboo plantation

In the highland districts, bamboo is owned privately as backyard and riverbank plantation or around farm area as live fences (Table 4). The species of bamboo cultivated in these districts is highland bamboo (Yushania alpina), which is locally named kerkeha. Private ownership of highland bamboo was also reported in Guraghe, Sidama and in other districts of Awi zone of Ethiopia (INBAR 2005; Berhanu and Statz 2007). Highland bamboo species plantation in Awi zone is known to be a long tradition (LUSO Consult, 1997). Although not included in the present study area, Ensermu et al (2000) reported the presence of about 30 ha of highland bamboo natural forest in Injibara, northwest Ethiopia.


Table 4. Type of bamboo ownership in the four study districts of North-western Ethiopia (% of respondents)

Type of ownership

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Private only

100

100

6

12

Communal only

0

0

9

15

Both private and communal

0

0

85

73

Total

100

100

100

100


The bamboo in the lowland districts (Oxytenanthera abyssinica) is known locally as shimel. The majority of the respondents (85%) in Mandura and 73% in Pawe districts possess bamboo as a private plot in their backyard or as a communal property (natural bamboo forest). The land allotted to private bamboo plantation in the lowland districts is small compared to the highland bamboo (Table 1), which is in agreement with the work of Victor and Tesfaye (2009) who reported that the majority of lowland bamboo in Ethiopia is found as forest. Furthermore, Ensermu et al (2000) found no private plantation of lowland bamboo. However, plantation of lowland bamboo as private holding in backyard is currently an emerging activity. This could be attributed to the fact that access to lowland bamboo in natural forest is restricted as a result of reduction in area coverage because of over utilization and the action taken by the regional government to enclose and conserve bamboo natural forests. The present trend of private plantation of bamboo in the lowland areas might be an advantage since it can enhance the conservation of this species in situ with controlled access of use and can improve cultivation and commercialization of bamboo.

 

Bamboo varieties and cultivation practices in the study districts

 

All the respondents in the highland districts possess highland bamboo with two varieties i.e. black (“Tikur”) and red (“Key”). Respondents in the highland districts do not have preference for either of the varieties and produce both varieties and use them for different purposes including as animal feed. The culm (stem) of Tikur bamboo is preferred for furniture making, while the Key bamboo is mainly used for house construction and fences. The taxonomy of bamboo is said to be confusing and is largely based on vegetative features, such as leaf anatomy, arrangement of vascular bundles in leaf sheaths and culms (Tewari 1992). Farmers traditionally classify the highland bamboo mainly based on culm (stem) color and leaf arrangement, although it is a difficult classification that necessitates clear set of characterization and identification criterias. The respondents in the lowland districts have only one variety of lowland bamboo species.

 

Almost all farmers in the four study districts plant bamboo in the main rainy season (June-August) to maximize moisture usage during the early seedling stage. According to farmers’ perception, Rhizomes planted at this time will get the full benefit of the available moisture and do not need to be watered in the dry season for full growth. This is a practice that agrees with the finding of Pearson et al (1994) who reported that culms which emerge early in the rainy season can fully develop during the wet season in tropical climates, while late emerging culms rarely survive into the dry soil conditions. The source of planting material is different for the two indigenous bamboo species because of species difference in flowering characteristics. For the highland bamboo, all respondents’ use only the vegetative part (culms with rhizome) for planting, whereas, greater than 84% of the respondents use seedlings and seed for propagation for lowland bamboo. According to respondents, propagation by seedling is a viable way of cultivation for lowland bamboo as supported by the work of Kassahun (2003).

 

None of the respondents in both highland and lowland districts treat the planting material with pesticides, even though termite was reported to be the major problem for bamboo cultivation in the study areas. In the nursery, ants and termites are prevented by spraying Deltamethrine or Diazinon and with proper plot preparation (Brias and Tesfaye 2009). None of the respondents in all study districts apply chemical fertilizer to bamboo plantation. However, manure application to highland bamboo seedlings at planting is common in Banja (96%) and Guagusa (95%) districts. Negligible number of farmers in Mandura (8%) and Pawe (6%) districts also apply manure to the lowland bamboo, probably due to the good fertility of the soil in the lowland areas. The practice of manure application to homestead highland bamboo plantation was also reported by Ensermu et al (2000). The objective of manure application as perceived by the respondents is to increase culm (stem) length and number, which agrees with the fact that increasing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) application improves total yields of shoots and/or timber due to the greater number of shoots and/or culms harvested (Hong 1994).

 

Current uses of the indigenous bamboo species

 

Bamboo is utilized to serve a range of functions such as a raw material for construction, furniture making, as forage for livestock, fire wood, fences and environmental protection (Table 5). It also serves as a source of human food. Lowland bamboo shoots at very young stage and before stem and leaf development are harvested, boiled and served as food by some groups of people in Mandura district. The practice of boiling bamboo shoot to be used as food is probably due to its cyanogenic content and supported by Ferreira et al (1995) who reported that boiling bamboo shoot reduce cyanogenic level.


Table 5. Rank in the current uses of bamboo in the four study districts of North-western Ethiopia

Uses

Districts

 

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

overall

Rank

%

Rank

%

Rank

%

Rank

%

 

House construction

2nd

21

2nd

21

2nd

25

2nd

27

24

Cash income

1st

33

1st

35

1st

37

1st

38

36

Furniture making

3rd

19

3rd

19

4th

11

4th

10

15

Forage

4th

16

4th

16

3rd

19

3rd

19

17

Others

5th

11

5th

9

5th

8

5th

6

8

Total

100


The primary use of bamboo is as a source of income followed by house construction across all study districts (Table 5). Highland bamboos are preferred as a raw material for furniture making, because of the hollow nature of the culm than lowland bamboo, which has solid culm (Kassahun 2000). Low value of lowland bamboo as a raw material for furniture making was also reported by Arsema (2008), who noted that the lowland bamboo is mainly used for income generation, construction and fences rather than furniture. The result of the present study revealed the economic importance of bamboo, which is capable of generating employment as off-farm activities for rural poor, skilled and semi-skilled farmers, particularly in the highland area where the bamboo species is suitable for making different handicrafts. In agreement with the result of the present study, some previous works (Stapleton 1990; Ruiz-Perez et al 1999; Ensermu et al 2000; Arsema 2008) reported that bamboo and its related industries provide income, animal fodder, fuel, food and raw material for house construction to over 2.2 billion people world-wide. Although crop and livestock farming is the major source of subsistence for the inhabitants of the study districts, they also attach a great deal of importance to bamboo as a source of employment and income. During the focus group discussion, community elders indicated that the wellbeing of households in their communities has been, and still is dependent on bamboo.

 

In the current study areas, bamboo as a forage source for livestock seems more important in the lowland as compared to the highland area. This may be because of its better cash value and the low perceptions of the respondents about the nutritional value of bamboo for livestock production in the highland areas. Similar to the present finding, feed value of bamboo ranked 3rd or 4th by farmers in Nepal preceding construction, basketry, and bridge (Sherchan et al 1996).

 

Indigenous bamboo foliage utilization calendar

 

Greater than 98% of the respondents in the four study districts reported that livestock population decreased as compared to the previous five years, mainly because of feed shortage and prevalence of diseases. In the study districts, feed shortage, particularly in dry season is the primary problem. This increased the utilization of bamboo as animal feed, since it is drought resistant and evergreen plant throughout the dry season providing green forage to ruminants. Respondents indicated that bamboo played a primary role in providing forage to livestock during the year 2009 when there was extended dry season. Respondents in all study areas said that feeding of bamboo to ruminants is a long time tradition. Similar tradition of bamboo use as animal feed was also reported in Japan (Cooper 2007).

 

All farmers in the study area use bamboo as forage for livestock for almost more than seven and ten months of the year in the highland and lowland districts, respectively depending on the length of the dry period (Figure 1). The shorter feeding calendar of highland bamboo in highland districts might be due to the labor requirement to collect leaves from long culms. Whereas, leaves from relatively shorter culm of lowland bamboo is accessible to animals and animals may continue to graze them almost throughout the year. Similar to the finding of the present study, bamboo foliage feeding throughout the year was reported in Bangladesh (Miah and Hossain 2001). However, information on the actual quantity available for livestock feeding was not obtained.


Banja

 

 

 

X

XX

XX

XX

XXX

XXX

X

 

 

Guagusa

 

 

 

X

XX

XX

XX

XXX

XXX

X

 

 

Mandura

 

X

X

XX

XX

XX

XX

XXX

XXX

XX

X

 

Pawe

 

X

X

XX

XX

XX

XX

XXX

XXX

XX

XX

 

 

S

O

N

D

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

 

Months

Figure 1. Feeding calendar of bamboo in the four study districts of North-western Ethiopia
(X= represents 1-15 respondents; XX = 16-30 respondents; XXX = 31-52 respondents)


Botanical fractions of bamboo consumed by livestock

 

In the current study districts, cattle, sheep, goat, horse and donkey are reported to consume bamboo. Bamboo grazing, especially at shooting stage, by wild animals was also reported in the present study area. Similarly, other bamboo species (Bambusa ventricosa and Bambusa oldhamii) have been reported to be relished by ruminants and horses in Bangladesh (Saadullah 1990).


Table 6. Botanical fractions of indigenous bamboo consumed by livestock in North-western Ethiopia (% of respondents)

Bamboo fractions

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Leaf only

67

73

35

29

Both leaf and small twigs (< 5mm)

33

27

65

71

Total

100

100

100

100


Miah and Hossain (2001) in Bangladesh revealed that animals can consume both twigs and leaf of bamboo. In the current study, most of the respondents in the highland districts reported the leaf to be the only botanical parts of highland bamboo consumed by animals, while one-third of the respondents reported that both leaf and small twigs are edible to animals (Table 6). However, greater proportion of respondents (about two-third) in the lowland districts reported that both leaf and small twigs of bamboo are consumed by livestock. The highland bamboo has tough twigs than lowland bamboo, which can be the reason for its lower importance for animal feed as perceived by respondents. Livestock species and wild animals relish young shoots of newly established bamboo. Hence, farmers possessing backyard and farmstead bamboo plantation protects access of livestock to prevent damage to the young plants.

 

The leaves of bamboo may be fed to livestock as fresh, wilted or mixture of the two (Table 7). Greater than 80% of the respondents in all study districts reported that bamboo leaves are offered to animals in fresh form (Table 7). However, previous work suggested wilting and sun-drying of bamboo foliage before feeding to animals results into higher level of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) content, which could restrict dry matter intake (DARE/ICAR 2003).


Table 7. Forms of offer of indigenous bamboo foliage to livestock in North-western Ethiopia (% of respondents)

Forms of offer

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Fresh only

83

81

84

86

Wilt only

6

8

6

6

Fresh and wilt

11

11

10

8

Total

100

100

100

100


Farmers’ perception of feeding bamboo foliage on animal performance

 

According to the respondents, highland bamboo foliages have inferior perception as compared to the lowland bamboo foliage in improving livestock performance (Table 8). The majority of respondents in the highland districts believed that highland bamboo foliage when fed continuously, i.e., for more than two weeks without grass hay and crop residue decreases body weight of livestock species. Respondents perceived that poor digestibility of bamboo foliage cause such poor performance of animals. Farmers also noted that when bamboo foliage is regurgitated, it causes coughing by blocking esophageal tube which they attributed to its poor rumen digestibility characteristics. Small proportions of the respondents have the perception that highland bamboo maintains the performance of livestock. According to such respondents, it seems that the problems associated with highland bamboo foliage is its high proportion in the diets of animals during the dry season, as it is the main or only source of feed in this season. This idea is supported by Mariette van den Berg (2010) who studied different bamboo species and noted that feeding large quantity of bamboo foliages caused toxicity to horse.


Table 8. Perception of farmers on the effect of feeding indigenous bamboo foliage on performance of animals in North-western Ethiopia (% of respondents)

Response

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Improve performance

0

0

77

75

Decrease performance

85

81

8

10

Do not change

15

19

15

15

Total

100

100

100

100


Contrary to the highland, the lowland bamboo has been appraised by greater than 75% of the respondents as having high value in improving livestock performance. Greater than 90% of the respondents in lowland areas claim bamboo foliage to have at least comparable feeding value to hay and about 7% reported that bamboo is better than hay. None of the respondents claimed about animal health problems associated with feeding of lowland bamboo. The difference between the two bamboo species in their feeding value could be due to differences in soil fertility, climatic factors, maturity stage at harvest, growing conditions, and ecological effects. In all study districts, no respondent reported loss of animal as a result of feeding bamboo foliage. The in vitro dry matter digestibility values of lowland bamboo (Teklu et al 2010) and organic matter digestibility of highland bamboo (Denbeshu 2010) were reported to be 66 and 55%, respectively indicating that digestibility of highland bamboo is slightly lower than that of lowland bamboo. The respective CP content were 170 -205 and 180 g/Kg DM (Denbeshu 2010; Eyob 2010; Teklu et al 2010). The neutral and acid detergent fibers of lowland bamboo were lower than that of highland bamboo (Teklu et al 2010; Denbeshu 2010). Therefore, it seems that farmers’ perception about feeding value of the two bamboo species match the chemical composition and rumen digestibility characteristics.

 

Harvesting and processing of bamboo foliage for feeding to animal

 

Few respondents (< 10%) from all study districts confirmed that little attention is given to hay making or cut and carry system feeding of bamboo foliage to animals (Table 9). Teklu et al (2010) reported that farmers in Assosa exercise free grazing and cut and carry system, but the study did not indicate the proportion of respondents using the mentioned feeding system. However, Sath et al (2008) reported that cut and carry system of bamboo leaf in Takeo province, Cambodia is common practice for cattle feeding. Greater than 62% of the respondents across the present study districts, however, reported that the livestock get fresh foliage mostly when bamboo culms are cut for construction or selling purpose.


Table 9. Methods of bamboo foliage harvest in North-western Ethiopia (% of respondents)

Collection methods

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Cut and carry

9

10

8

8

Bending culm

29

27

20

21

Cutting culm

62

63

72

71

Total

100

100

100

100


Bamboo is a long plant and the leaves are not reachable to animals. Bending culm to be accessed by livestock is one important practice in dry season across all study districts (Fig 2). This is particularly true for the highland bamboo because of their longer culm. Respondents in highland districts indicated that bamboo foliage shattered during the dry season is an important cattle and horse forage when wetted with small shower during the early rainy season. This observation indicates the possibility of preparing bamboo leaves during periods of abundant leaf production, conserve, process and use for dry season feeding. In all the study districts, none of the respondents use either physical or chemical processing of bamboo foliage for animal feeding. Furthermore, almost all respondents across the survey districts do not practice strategic feeding of bamboo by mixing it with other locally available feeds.



Figure 2. Young girl feeding sheep with highland bamboo foliage by bending the culm in North-western Ethiopia

Preferred age of bamboo foliage for livestock feeding

 

Age of plant is one important factor affecting nutritional quality of feed. Respondents indicated that more importance is given for culm production. Thus, selection of age of bamboo culms for foliage collection is based on the foliage biomass and the quality of the culm for other purposes. Although the most preferred age of bamboo feeding is at shoot stage, bamboo is not used at this age because of the multipurpose use of the culm. The age of the culm, at which farmers harvest bamboo foliage without affecting other culm function is between one and three years of age of the plant. This is supported by the work of Kleinhenz and Midmore (2001) who reported that low leaf area of culms (<1 year old) cannot sustain the demand for photosynthesis for proper growth. In addition to this, nutrient composition of bamboo decreases with age due to declining physiological function after the age of 3–4 years. The respondents noted that foliage biomass will increase with age, but the leaf become tough and difficult to be consumed by animals.


Table 10. Criteria for determination of age of bamboo by farmers in North-western Ethiopia (% of respondents)

Parameters for age determination

Districts

Banja

Guagusa

Mandura

Pawe

Planting record

62

63

54

52

Culm color

27

25

36

40

Presence of lichens & mosses

11

12

10

8

Total

100

100

100

100


The age of bamboo in the backyard and in the natural forests could be easily determined by the respondents based on different criteria (Table 10). Bamboo in the backyard or farmstead can easily be determined based on planting records. Since highland bamboo is owned privately, it seems that respondents in the highland determine bamboo age by recalling planting date. Culm color seems to be important criteria to determine age of bamboo in the lowland than highland areas. This is because the majority of bamboo in the lowland is owned communally as forest bamboo and lack history of the planting period. The observation of external characteristics (culm color and presence of lichens and mosses on bamboo culm) of the bamboo are "indigenous knowledge" passed from generation to generation, and allows the farmers to determine the age of bamboo for different uses.

 

Current status and prospects of the indigenous bamboo species

 

Bamboo cultivation in the highland study districts is increasing because smallholder farmers understood the multipurpose use of the plant. The lowland bamboo dominantly found as forest is declining at an alarming rate as a result of forest clearing to establish new agricultural land, forest fires, for human resettlement programs and increased cutting of bamboo for selling the culm, house construction and for fuel wood (Ensermu et al 2000). As a result, smallholders in lowland study districts started showing interest in backyard bamboo plantation.

 

Bamboo plantation and utilization currently received increased attention at national level as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits. Bamboo is believed to play a significant role in reducing poverty and named as “the Millennium grass” (EABP 2007). Currently, Pawe Agricultural Research Center (PARC) and Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI) are jointly running a program which enables in situ conservation to save the declining natural forest of lowland bamboo. To make the conservation effort technically easier, Brias and Tesfaye (2009) prepared cultivation manuals for the two indigenous bamboo species, which can be used by smallholder farmers and private sectors involved in bamboo cultivation. Furthermore, PARC and Metekel Zone Agriculture and Rural Development office are engaged in lowland bamboo seedling growing in the nursery and distribution to farmers in Metekel zone to encourage backyard lowland bamboo cultivation.

 

East African Bamboo project (EABP) has been implementing different bamboo development projects since 2000, to diversify bamboo species within the indigenous bamboo growing areas, and to establish bamboo plantations in areas where indigenous species are not growing. EABP has introduced ten Asian origin bamboo species into the country, which are being adapted and multiplied at three national nursery sites (Tesfaye 2008), one of which is in Awi zone of the present study area. Moreover, involvement of private sectors in cultivation and utilization of bamboo is recently increasing because of the need by the government to boost the subsector (EABP 2007; Abebe et al 2009). Bamboo production is also advertised in major cities of the country such as Addis Ababa as a biological wastewater treatment (Teshamulwa 2006). Gondar University has been working in the adaptation of highland bamboo in Gondar by purchasing culms from farmers in Banja districts since 2009.

 

The above mentioned interventions and the increased interest of the smallholder farmers for bamboo cultivation will increase the biomass yield of bamboo at national level in general, and in the study areas in particular. These efforts and the envisaged future industrial scale utilization of bamboo culm will positively increase the availability of bamboo foliage for livestock species indicating the need for understanding feeding value as well as possible methods of processing, conservation and feeding system.


Conclusion and recommendation

 

 

 


Acknowledgements

The first author would like to thank the Ministry of Education (MoE) for granting the research budget, Haramaya University for facilitating the budget use and allowing access to all facilities, Bahir-Dar University for granting PhD study leave and local extension workers in the study districts for their help during the survey work. Farmers who took part in the interview and group discussion are gratefully acknowledged.


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Received 26 March 2011; Accepted 31 July 2011; Published 1 September 2011

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