Livestock Research for Rural Development 28 (5) 2016 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Status of improved forage production, utilization and constraints for adoption in Wolaita Zone, Southern Ethiopia

Gebreegziabher Zereu and Tsegay Lijalem

Department of Animal and Range Sciences, College of Agriculture, Wolaita Sodo University, Ethiopia
wedizereu24@gmail.com   or   gebrezereu@yahoo.com

Abstract

This study was conducted in Wolaita Zone, Southern Ethiopia with the objectives of assessing status of improved forage production practices, utilization and constraints to integrate improved forages to smallholder farmers. A total of 225 respondents were randomly selected and interviewed using pre-tested structured questionnaire to collect primary data.

 

The study revealed that natural pastures, crop residues, hay, improved forages and industrial by-products were the main livestock feed resources. About 76% of the respondents were cultivated improved forages. Among the respondents who did not cultivate improved forages, about 75% were aware of the importance of improved forages. Desho grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum) followed by Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) were the dominant forages cultivated by respondents. About 85% of the respondents did not use fertilizers to grow forages. Cut and carry system was the dominant forages utilization method, but forage conservation was not common due to less amount of forage produced. Ranked by the respondents land shortage (1st), lack and high cost of planting materials (2nd), poor extension service (3rd), drought (4th) and lack of awareness (5th) were the major constraints for improved forage cultivation in the study area.

Key words: agro-ecology, conservation, feed resource


Introduction

In Ethiopia, the livestock sub-sector has significant contributions to the national income (Alemayehu 2012) and the livelihoods of households. However, livestock productivity is very low attributable to different factors of which poor nutrition is the major one. A large proportion of livestock feed resources in Ethiopia are natural pastures, crop residues and aftermath grazing (Adugna 2008; Getnet 2012).These feed resources cannot support higher animal productivity due to their nutritional limitations. Different strategies can be employed to correct the nutritional limitations of these feed resources. One of such strategies that has been receiving recognition and considered to be the best option is the use of improved forage species in animal feeding. According to Getnet (2012), the integration of improved forage crops in agricultural systems has many advantages including soil conservation, weeds, pests and diseases control besides to their primary use as high quality animal feeds. The author stated that improved forages are also less costly than purchasing of the concentrate and agro-industrial by-product feeds and their cultivation and use is considered to be environmentally friendly. Mulualem and Molla (2013) stated that if improved forages are integrated and produced at household level in a sustainable manner, animal productivity will be increased.

 

In Ethiopia, forage development strategies have been introduced and popularized for about five decades (i.e., starting in 1970s) in the mixed crop-livestock production system (EARO 2002; Alemayehu 2006; Alemayehu 2012). This integration of improved forage species into farming system is a promising option and /or strategy in solving the chronic feed shortages in the country (Alemayehu and Getnet 2012). However, the adoption of improved forages at farmers’ level has remained very low due to inter alia shortage of forage seed, the reluctance of most smallholder farmers (Alemayehu and Getnet 2012), and the lack of well organized extension services. Improved production and utilization practices of improved forages are also very important besides the introduction and popularization of improved forages by small-scale farmers.

 

Identification of constraints to improved forage technologies in a given agricultural system helps to design appropriate interventions. Beshir (2014) observed that since the adoption of improved technologies is dynamic having information with regards to the current technologies being adopted by farmers is very important. However, there is no readily available information with regard to status of improved forage production and utilization practices, as well as, constraints to integrate improved forages by smallholder farmers in Wolaita zone. Therefore, the present study was carried out to assess improved forage production and utilization practices and constraints to adopt improved forages by smallholder farmers in Wolaita zone.


Material and methods

Description of the study area

 

The study was conducted in Wolaita zone located in Southern Ethiopia. The study area has an altitude that ranges from 1200 to 2950 m above sea level (m.a.s.l); annual rainfall varies from 800 mm to 1400 mm with two distinct rainy seasons, the main (‘kremt’) occurring in summer (roughly June - August) and the small rainy season (‘belg’) occurring in spring (roughly from mid - February to mid-May). Minimum and maximum temperatures are 15 C and 20 C, respectively. The study area has 12 districts distributed in three agro-ecological zones: highland (9%; > 2400 m.a.s.l); midland (56%, 1500-2400 m.a.s.l) and lowland (35%, <1500 m.a.s.l) (WZFEDD 2005).

 

Sampling techniques and sample size

 

From the 12 districts of Wolaita zone, three districts viz. Damot-Galle, Boloso-Sore and Humbo were purposively selected to represent higher, medium and lower altitudes of the zone, respectively. From each selected district, three peasant associations (PAS) were randomly selected making a total of 9 PAS. From each of the randomly selected PAS, 25 households were randomly selected for the study. Thus, a total of 225 households, 75 from each district, were included in the study.

 

Data sources and methods of data collection

 

Both primary and secondary sources of data were used for the study. Primary data were collected from the respondents using pre-tested structured questionnaires. Secondary data sources were also reviewed.

 

Data analysis

 

Data were analyzed using SPSS version 20.0 for descriptive statistics and one way analysis of variance (ANOVA) in which the three agro-ecological zones (the highland, midland and lowland) of the study area were used as fixed factors. Duncan’s new multiple range tests was used to determine the differences (statistical significance) between agro-ecological zones’ mean values for the quantitative parameters at 5% level of significance. The statistical model used to analyze the quantitative data was: Yij = μ+Ai+eij; where, Yij = response variable, = overall mean, Ai = effect of agro-ecology (i.e. highland, midland and lowland) and eij = random error.


Results and Discussion

Livestock and landholdings

 

Table 1 presents the mean land and livestock holdings per household. Landholding size was significantly (P<0.05) higher in the lowland than in the highland and midland. This is related to the fact that the highland and midland agro-ecologies are relatively suitable for crop cultivation and as a result they are densely populated than the lowland. The land holding size of the highland agro-ecology in this study was comparable to the 0.80 ha reported by Ayza et al. (2013) in the same district -Damot-Gale.

 

The overall land holding size per household in the present study was comparable with the 1.29 ha reported by Netsanet et al. (2010) in Badawacho district of Hadiya zone, southern Ethiopia but lower than the 3.23 ha reported by Assefa et al (2013) in Adami Tullu, Oromia region and the 3.6 ha reported by Guyo and Tamir (2014) in Burji District, Segen Zuria Zone of southern Ethiopia. Generally, landholding size in the study zone is very small resulting in farmers keeping a small number of livestock and not to allocate land for forage production.

 

There was significant difference (P<0.05) in cattle, goat and chicken holding among the agro-ecologies (Table 1). The overall mean livestock holding per household was 5.1 heads of cattle, 2.2 heads of sheep, 4.4 heads of goats, 6.2 heads of chicken and 1.2 heads of donkeys. Higher values (15.6, 4.4, 7.6 and 11.8 heads of cattle, sheep, goats and chicken, respectively) were reported by Guyo and Tamir (2014) in Burji District, Segen Zuria Zone of southern Ethiopia. Altaye et al. (2014) also reported higher livestock holdings (13.99, 6.14, 11.37, 1.50 and 8.45 heads of cattle, sheep, goats and chicken, respectively) per household in Metekel zone of Benishangul Gumuz Regional State of Ethiopia.

Table 1: Livestock and landholdings per household in the study area (Mean +SE)

Variables

Agro-ecology

Overall (N=225)

p

Highland (n=75)

Midland (n=75)

Lowland (n=75)

Land holding

0.86+0.07b

0.65+0.05b

2.46+0.17a

1.31+0.08

<0.001

Livestock holding

Cattle

4.1+0.19b

4.4+0.27b

6.7+0.39a

5.1+0.19

<0.001

Sheep

2.1+0.14

2.2+0.18

2.2+0.22

2.2+0.10

0.745

Goat

-

1.6+0.24b

5.0+0.54a

4.4+0.48

0.008

Chicken

3.9+0.24b

7.7+1.20a

6.7+0.92a

6.2+0.54

0.016

Donkey

1.0+0.00

1.2+0.11

1.2+0.07

1.2+0.05

0.157

Means in the same row with different superscript letters (a-b) differ at p<0.05

Livestock feeds

 

Natural pasture, crop residues, hay (mainly made from natural pasture), improved forages and industrial by-products (mainly wheat bran and noug seed cake) were the main livestock feed resources in the study area (Table 2). The percentage of respondents who use improved forages as livestock feeds was relatively lower (54.7%) in the lowland than the highland (88%) and midland (84%) agro-ecologies. On the other hand, 90.7% of the respondents in the lowland used hay compared to 52% and 57.3% for the highland and midland agro-ecologies, respectively.

Table 2: Common livestock feed resources and their sources in the study area

Type of feed resource

Agro-ecology

Overall
(N=225)

Highland
(n=75)

Midland
(n=75)

Lowland
(n=75)

Percentages (%)

Natural pasture?

Yes

100

100

100

100

No

-

-

-

-

Crop residue?

Yes

100

93.3

97.3

96.9

No

-

6.7

2.7

3.1

Improved forages?

Yes

88

84

54.7

75.6

No

12

16

45.3

24.4

Natural pasture hay?

Yes

52

57.3

90.7

66.7

No

48

42.7

9.3

33.3

Industrial by-products?

Yes

54.7

85.3

33.3

57.8

No

45.3

14.7

66.7

42.2

All the respondents reported that they used natural pastures as their livestock feed resource, while 96.9%, 75.6%, 66.7% and 57.8% used crop residues, improved forages, hay and industrial by-products, respectively. Natural pastures (in the pastoral areas), crop residues and aftermath grazing (in the mixed crop-livestock production system) are the main livestock feed resources in Ethiopia (Adugna 2008; Getnet 2012).

 

Status of improved forage production practices

 

Table 3 indicates that 88%, 84% and 56% of the respondent in the highland, midland and lowland, respectively cultivated improved forages. Overall, 75.6% of the respondents were involved in improved forage production. Previous study by Mesfin et al. (2012) reported that 72.4% of the respondents cultivated improved forages in the central highlands of Ethiopia. In disagreement with this result, Altaye et al. (2014) from Metekel zone of Benishangul Gumuz Regional State of Ethiopia indicated that 95% of the interviewed households did not practice cultivation of improved forage species. In general, most research reports indicated that the use of improved forages as livestock feeds is very low in most parts of Ethiopia (Othill, 1986; CSA 2003; Alemayehu and Getnet 2012).

 

The majority of the respondents (51.5% in the highland, 49.2% in the midland and 48.8% in the lowland) mentioned that they were given planting materials for free by district’s Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, Areka Research Center, NGOs and from neighbors, whereas very few respondents (1.5% in the highland, 12.7% in the midland and 7.3% in the lowland) said they purchased forage planting materials (Table 3).

 

Awareness on the importance of cultivating improved forages by livestock producers is a determining factor for adopting improved forage technologies. Among the respondents who did not cultivate improved forages (non-adopting households) in the study area, 74.5% were aware of the importance of improved forages while the rest did not aware (Table 4). In agreement with this result, Mesfin et al. (2012) reported that 66.7% of respondents in the central highlands of Ethiopia were aware of improved forages though they were not involved in their cultivation.

Table 3: Percent (%) of respondents that cultivate improved forages and source of planting material in the study area

Variables

Agro-ecology

Overall

Highland

Midland

Lowland

Do you cultivate improved forages?

n=75

n=75

n=75

N=225

Yes

88

84

54.7

75.6

No

12

16

45.3

24.4

Source of planting material?

n=66

n=63

n=41

N=170

Own produced

47.0

30.1

43.9

42.9

Purchase

1.5

12.7

7.3

7.1

Gift

51.5

49.2

48.8

50.0

The non-adopting households listed different factors for not cultivating improved forages (Table 4). Land shortage was the major obstacle in the highland and midland agro-ecologies while drought, lack of and high cost of planting material were the main challenges in the lowland. Nine percent of the respondents in the lowland said that they had no interest in cultivating improved forages (Table 4).

Table 4: Awareness of on improved forages and reasons for not cultivating of non-adopting households in the study are

Variables

Agro-ecology

Overall
(N=55)

Highland
(n=9)

Midland
(n=13)

Lowland
(n=33)

Percentages (%)

Awareness on the importance of improved forages?

Yes

77.8

84.6

69.7

74.5

No

22.2

15.4

30.3

25.5

Reason for not cultivating improved forages?

No interest

-

-

9.1

7.3

Land shortage

88.9

84.6

3.0

36.4

Lack of planting material

11.1

15.4

18.2

12.7

High cost of planting material

-

-

21.2

12.7

Drought

-

-

39.4

23.6

Cultivated improved forages and their agronomic practices

 

Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), Desho grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum), Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) and vetch (Vicia spp) were commonly cultivated forage species in the study area. Desho grass followed by Elephant grass was the dominant forages in all the three agro-ecologies (Table 5). Besides, Leucaena leucocephala, Sasbania sesban and Cajanus cajan (Pigeon pea) and Lablab purpureus (Lablab) were observed by the researchers to be cultivated in the study area. The different forage species found in the present study were in the list of forages species evaluated and recommended for different agro-ecologies of the southern region of Ethiopia by Hawassa Research Center (Gizachew and Mergia 2012).

 

It is well known that land preparation and fertilizer application during forage establishment are important to have good stand and to produce quality forage. Overall, 76.5% of the respondents reported that they practiced land preparation when planting improved forages while the rest did not practice (Table 5). Only 14.7% of the respondents reported that they used fertilizer while the majority (85.3%) did not use (Table 5) because of the high cost of fertilizer (55.1%) and the belief that the soil is fertile enough for forages growth (29.0%) (Table 6).

Table 5: Improved forage species cultivated in the study area

Variables

Agro-ecology

Overall
(N=170)

Highland
(n=66)

Midland
(n=63)

Lowland
(n=41)

Percentages (%)

Forage specie cultivated

Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum)

40.9

23.8

41.5

34.7

Desho grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum)

92.4

87.3

58.5

82.4

Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana)

7.6

7.9

12.2

2.4

Vetch (Vicia spp)

1.5

1.6

0

1.2

Land preparation during planting?

Yes

72.7

85.7

68.3

76.5

No

27.7

14.3

31.7

23.5

Fertilizer application?

Yes

9.1

20.6

14.6

14.7

No

90.9

79.4

85.4

85.3


Table 6: Reasons for not using fertilizer during forage establishment in the study area

Reasons for not using fertilizer

Agro-ecology

Overall
(N=145)

Highland
(n=60)

Midland
(n=50)

Lowland
(n=35)

Percentages (%)

High cost of fertilizer

56.7

64

40

55.1

No access of fertilizer

-

2

2.9

1.4

The soil is fertile enough for forages growth

33.3

18

37.1

29.0

No understanding on the importance of fertilizer application

-

6

2.9

2.8

No knowhow if the soil needs fertilizer application or not

10

10

17.1

11.7

Utilization ways of improved forages

 

Not only the quantity of forages produced, but the way of utilizing the produced forages is important. All the respondents in the highland, 98.4% in the midland and 75.6% in the lowland used cut and carry system to utilize their improved forages (Table 7). In agreement with this result, Adugna (2008) stated that cultivated forages are mainly important as cut-and-carry sources of feed and as a supplement to crop residues and natural pastures.

 

Feed conservation could be one possible solution for feed shortage during the dry seasons. About 96%, 68% and 56% of the respondents in the highland, midland and lowland, respectively did not conserve forages while the remainder conserved forages in the form of hay (Table 7). This finding is in agreement with Adugna (2008) who stated that feed conservation is not common in most parts of Ethiopia. The majority of the respondents said that low yield was the main reason for not conserving forages in the study area (Table 7).

Table 7: Improved forages utilization and conservation practices (%)

Variables

Agro-ecology

Overall

Highland

Midland

Lowland

Improved forages way of utilization

n=66

n=63

n=41

N=170

Cut and carry

100

98.4

75.6

93.5

Grazing

-

1.6

9.8

2.9

Both grazing and cut and carry

-

-

14.6

3.5

Conservation of improved forages?

n=66

n=63

n=41

N=170

Yes

4.5

31.7

43.9

24.1

No

95.5

68.3

56.1

75.9

Form of improved forage conservation?

n=3

n=20

n=18

N=40

Hay

100

100

100

100

Silage

-

-

-

-

Reasons for not conserving improved forages?

n=63

n=43

n=23

N=129

Less amount of forage produced

100

97.7

82.6

96.1

No feed shortage

-

2.3

4.3

1.6

No awareness on the importance forage conservation

-

-

13.0

2.3

Constraints to improved forages cultivation

 

In Ethiopia, forage development strategy have been practiced for about five decades, but its adoption by the farming community has been very low because of factors such as lack and unadoptable forage technologies, poor extension services, shortage of land, lack and high cost of planting materials, reluctance of most smallholder farmers and size of livestock ownership and farm size (Othill, 1986; Alemayehu and Getnet 2012; Beshir 2014).

 

The major constraints for improved forage cultivation in the present study are shown in Table 8. The majority of the respondents in the highland (93.3%) and midland (94.7%) ranked land shortage as a first major constraint. Even though, land shortage was ranked first (46.7%) in the lowland this proportion is low compared with the highland and midland. Lack and high cost of planting material (forage seeds and/or cuttings) ranked as the second main constraint in all the agro-ecologies (Table 8), whereas lack of awareness was ranked 4th (53.3%) in the highland and 5th in midland (52.0%) and lowland (57.3%) agro-ecologies. Drought was ranked second as the major constraint in the lowland (33.3%) while it was ranked 5th and 4th in the highland and midland agro-ecologies, respectively. On the other hand, poor extension service was ranked 3rd in both the highland and midland agro-ecologies while it was ranked 4th in the lowland. In overall, land shortage, lack and high cost of planting materials, poor extension service, drought and lack of awareness were ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively by the respondents as the constraints for improved forages cultivation. In agreement with this result, Assefa et al. (2015) reported shortage of land (1st), high expense of forage planting materials (2nd), lack of awareness (3rd) and poor extension services (4th) in rank to be the main constraints hindering adoption of improved forages in Shashogo district of Hadiya zone, southern Ethiopia.

Table 8: Major constraints for improved forage production in the study area

Constraint

Rank

Agro-ecology

Overall
(N=225)

Highland
(n=75)

Midland
(n=75)

Lowland
(n=75)

Percentages (%)

Land shortage

1st

93.3

94.7

46.7

78.2

2nd

6.7

5.3

14.7

8.9

3rd

-

-

1.3

0.4

4th

-

-

4.0

1.3

5th

-

33.3

11.1

Lack and high cost of planting material

1st

1.3

2.7

1.3

4.9

2nd

78.7

86.7

58.7

74.7

3rd

9.3

4.0

12.0

8.4

4th

6.7

6.7

1.3

4.9

5th

4.0

-

26.7

10.2

Lack of awareness

1st

5.3

2.7

13.3

7.1

2nd

17.3

10.7

4.0

10.7

3rd

0.7

22.7

22.7

18.7

4th

53.3

12.0

2.7

22.7

5th

13.3

52.0

57.3

40.9

Drought

1st

-

-

13.3

4.4

2nd

-

-

33.3

11.1

3rd

9.3

17.3

26.7

17.8

4th

14.7

52.0

26.7

31.1

5th

76.0

30.7

-

35.6

Poor extension service

1st

-

-

14.7

4.9

2nd

12.0

-

18.7

10.2

3rd

62.7

53.3

26.7

47.6

4th

24.0

36.0

32.0

30.7

5th

1.3

10.7

8.0

16.7


Conclusion


Acknowledgements

All the financial and material support in this study was provided by Wolaita Sodo University (WSU) and we express our deepest appreciation for the support. Our special thanks go to the Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development of Wolaita Zone, Boleso-Sore, Damot-Gale and Humbo Districts for their help in giving us the information we asked. Our heartfelt thanks also go to all Development Agents (Das) for their support in data collection.


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Received 8 February 2016; Accepted 21 March 2016; Published 1 May 2016

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