In upland areas of Southeast Asia, most smallholder farmers keep animals. Buffalo are traditional draught animals for land preparation or transport, and animal manure is used to fertilize crops. But most importantly, livestock such as cattle, buffalo, pigs, goats and poultry represent a savings account. When money is needed, e.g. for a wedding, medical bills or school fees, animals can be sold for immediate cash.
Planting highly productive, nutritious forages on small areas of a farm allows smallholders to increase livestock productivity without relying on increasingly scarce natural resources. If forages are planted close to the homestead and animals kept close by, the labour required to collect feed or herd animals can be reduced.
But because the productivity of such animals is typically low, they are customarily not kept for the purpose of maximum income generation and are left to feed on crop residues and native pasture, often of relatively poor nutritional quality, with consequent poor levels of weight gain (or even loss). In addition, burgeoning human and animal populations are putting pressure on native grazing areas and traditional feed sources, forcing farmers to find feed for their animals far from the homestead. Thus smallholders often find themselves trapped: more labour is needed to improve production, but low animal productivity does not justify the extra time investment to find feed of sufficient quantity and quality.
As a CIAT Asia priority theme, enhancing forage integration and access for smallholder livestock production addresses the opportunity for smallholder farmers to benefit from increasing market demand for livestock products, in the face of shortages in feed resources due to decreased cultivation area and increased risks in the production environment. It aims to help smallholder livestock producers overcome feed constraints by making available forage options that meet quantity and quality requirements for profitable animal raising. It also seeks to improve productivity of livestock and crop-livestock systems through gains in overall efficiency and access.
CIAT. Enhancing forage integration and access for smallholder livestock production. Eco-efficient agriculture for improved livelihoods in Asia. CCAFS, Hanoi, Vietnam (2015) 4 pp.