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.