Field experiences on promotion of forage technologies to the smallholder dairy farmers in Western Usambara Highlands, Tanzania

Dairy industry is among the important components of the livestock sub-sector in Tanzania and it is of great potential towards contributing to poverty reduction and improving food security. The industry in the country comprises of smallholder semi-intensive dairy farming practise in urban and peri-urban areas and the major extensive cattle production practiced by the pastoralists. Together, the dairy industry contributes about 30% of the GDP from livestock. The total amount of milk per year is approximately 2.2 billion litres and is projected to rise to 3.8 billion by 2022. This is considered low production compared to large size of animal herds and land size and low uptake and poor utilization of productivity-enhancing technologies are among the major causes. Establishment and proper management practices of high yielding fodder species such as Napier (Pennisetum purpureum) and Guatemala (Tripsacum laxum) grasses are among of the solutions for enhancing smallholder dairy production in areas where land is scarce and nutrition has been the major challenge. However, the uptake of these technologies is also still low for reasons such as small land holdings among smallholder farmers, poor extension services and scarcity of high quality propagation materials. As an effort to address the dry season fodder challenges among the smallholder dairy farmers in the Western Usambara Highlands (WUHs), the Livestock Community Action Research Project (CARP) promoted adoption of high yielding fodder grass varieties and silage making. The promoted fodder grasses include three high yielding Napier varieties namely Ouma, Kakamega2 and Bana in comparison to local Napier and Guatemala grass. Farmers, researchers and extension officers through participatory approaches worked together in assessing the performance of the five (5) fodder grass varieties in demonstrational smallholder farms and co-evaluated them as forage for ruminants. About 180 farmers/households adopted the newly introduced high yielding Napier grass varieties after they had evaluated their quality and potential yields in on-farm demonstration plots. It was learnt that prolonged farmer-extension personnel interactions, as well as presence of farmer’s associations increases adoption chances. Also, it was learnt that smallholder farmers will only adopt a new technology/practice if it is superior to what they already have in place, and only if it is affordable in terms of labour and finance. For example, most farmers chose Ouma variety due its high quality attributed to its dark green leaves, less hairiness and high yield followed by Kakamaga2. Although Kakamega2 was quantitatively valued superior but was less preferred due to its high hairiness and its close visual resemblance to local Napier. Also, farmers ascertain that forage chopping using hand tools for silage is tedious and time consuming. It is suggested that agricultural policies should put much emphasis on extension through increasing efforts to increase number of smallholder farmers being reached by extension personnel. Also, more emphasis should be put on strategies for enhancing rural mechanization; and enhancing access and affordability of production inputs.
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Region Focus: 
East Africa
RUFORUM Working document series
Licence conditions: 
Open Access
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Web resource