More and better forage, all year round: Enhancing forage production in East Africa

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BAMSCOS Union Extension Officers during a forage farm tour

In East Africa, the quest for the availability of year-round improved forage is central to enhancing dairy farming productivity, income, and resilience. This endeavour, however, comes with diverse challenges within mixed crop-livestock systems spanning less than 3 hectares. The multifaceted nature of this effort incorporates factors like cash income, labour dynamics (including gender considerations), soil health and fertility, manure and compost utilization, food security, and climate change resilience.

NEADAP approach for year round fodder availability

    The NEADAP approach for year round fodder availability involves promoting year-round access to high-quality forage for farmers within cooperative systems or from commercial forage producers. It encompasses: 1) encouraging farmers to cultivate high-yield/quality forages on their land, 2) fostering commercial forage production on non-dairy farms in the vicinity, and 3) coordinating cooperative-led forage production while supplementing from, commercial forage producers as needed. This strategy aims to ensure a reliable and diverse supply of forage, particularly during dry seasons.

    Capitalizing on the groundwork laid by projects and organisations such as SNV KMDP-Kenya, TIDE-Uganda, BRIDGE-Ethiopia, CIAT ILRI,and the Netherlands East Africa Partnership has formulated a strategy for all-year-round, high-quality forage availability. Working alongside CIAT, ILRI, and Local Research Organisations (KALRO, NARO, TALIRRI) NEADAP aims to provide a comprehensive solution that not only enhances forage productivity but more so contributes to the sustainability and profitability of dairy farming systems.

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    Healthy soil and fertilisation is important for a productive and nutritious forage crop

    The forage-focused activities encompass a diverse range of initiatives:
    • Redefining forage seed regulatory framework: Collaborative efforts involving SNV (ICSIAPL), CIAT, ILRI, KIT, and KALRO have culminated in a forage seed policy brief that analyzes and offers recommendations to enhance regulations governing forage seed quality, availability in Kenya. Similar strides are being taken in Uganda, with a draft policy brief in the works.

    • Aligning incentives for the forage seed market: The "Getting the Incentives Right"initiative undertakes a holistic assessment of support modalities, aiming to create innovative and effective support packages to encourage the introduction and adoption of improved forage varieties. Interviews with seed companies are in progress, with a webinar scheduled for September to share outcomes.

    • Forage variety recommendations: A list of recommended forage varieties tailored to Kenya, aptly named "Forage Finder," is being launched at ESADA 2023. Farmers and advisors can utilize this tool to identify suitable varieties based on geographical locations and the potential nutritive value of the forages.

    • Forage cost calculation model: A forthcoming costing model empowers farmers and farm advisors to gauge the cost implications of forage production and conservation. The Forage cost calculator tool can facilitate a comparison between cost of production of different forage crop alternatives. The Forage cost calculator generates important information for decision making to lower the feed cost in the diet of dairy cattle. These (key data) will make the use of the Rumen8 more accurate.

    • Cutting-edge nutritional analysis of forages: A groundbreaking partnership with Agrocares brings hand-held scanner technology to assess the nutritive value of tropical forages. The collaboration, using NIRS technology, holds the promise of enhancing the outcome of the Rumen8 tool in regards more accurate nutritive values of forages.

    Bridging the gap between theory and practice, NEADAP has developed a holistic "Approach for year-round fodder availability” in collaboration with Kenyan Cooperatives in particular Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited (BAMSCOS) and Kieni Dairy Products Limited. This approach targets year-round forage availability, particularly to address availability during dry seasons and periods of drought, and includes:

    1. Empowering Farmers: Encouraging farmers to allocate a portion of their land for cultivation of high-yielding/quality forages.
    2. Expanding the Horizon: Promoting the cultivation of forage crops as a commercial crop by colleagues, and non-dairy farmers in the vicinity.
    3. Cooperative Fodder production and aggregation: Organizing fodder production through cooperatives, supplemented by external commercial forage producers if necessary and building stock of preserved forages
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    Soil sample collection in Baringo County

    Currently, ProDairy EA is conducting a baseline survey on the availability of forages on dairy farms for NEADAP and BAMSCOS with farmers in Baringo County, Kenya. Pearl Dairies (Uganda), FAO, and ILRI are working on similar initiatives in which NEADAP will explore possibilities for collaboration. This collective effort marks a promising stride towards enhancing sustainable forage production and as a result profitable dairy cattle diets in East Africa.

    To learn more about NEADAP's Approach for year-round fodder availability

    Contact Our solution leads, Geert Westenbrink or Jos Creemers


    Jos Creemers

    Jos Creemers

    Managing Consultant, ProDairy E.A. Ltd

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    Further reading:

    Quick Scan of Kenyas Forage Sub-Sector: Forage finder - Forage Cost Calculator: Seed policy:

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