Three ways to tackle Napier grass diseases in East Africa

An ASARECA-funded Napier grass smut and stunt resistance project held its final workshop on 2 and 3 June 2010 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It gathered 30 participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, UK, and Ethiopia.

During the workshop, participants shared three main ways to tackle these diseases that attack an important feed for cattle: One is to identify alternative forage species. The second is to raise awareness of the disease and better management methods among farmers. The third is to control the vectors causing the diseases or to breed disease-resistant grasses.

It all started in 2007, when ASARECA – the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa, the International Livestock Research Institute, Rothamsted Research, Kenya Agriculture Research Institute, National Agricultural Research Organisation (Uganda) and the National Biological Control Programme (Tanzania) launched a three year project to examine the problems.

The project brought together scientists from national and international institutes to find ways to halt the spread of the diseases that affect Napier grass – an important feed source for dairy cattle in the region.

The project aimed to determine the extent of the disease problem in areas where smallholder dairy is important, to collect Napier grass clones that farmers select as more resistant to the diseases and to identify best management practices used by farmers to reduce the impact of the diseases.

With the vision and financial support of ASARECA, this project has characterized Napier grass clones, developed diagnostic techniques for use in the region, and formed local partnerships to share information and management practices.

During the two day meeting, participants set out different approaches to fight the disease. One is to identify other alternative forage species.

“Before we were growing Guatemala grass, says Peter Ddaki, workshop participant and farmer in Kitenga, Uganda. It was less tasty and hard to cut but we could go back to it because if this disease is not fought, we go to poverty”. “It is true violence to me”, he adds. “From my cows, I have three things: urine, milk and manure. Well, they have all reduced. My suggestion to researchers is to think about Guatemala grass or other forages in case Napier grass dies away.”

Jolly Kabirizi, senior researcher at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) and project partner from Uganda is one of several researchers in the region looking more closely at other forages, such as the Brachiaria hybrid cv Mulato, and investigating feeding with crop residues. Jean Hanson, ILRI Forage diversity team leader, explains: “In this project we made the choice to focus on Napier grass and looked for a disease resistant variety of the same species because it is very difficult to find anything as productive as Napier and for farmers to change to other grasses for cut and carry systems. Guatemala grass does not have the same palatability as Napier grass, and Brachiara Mulato produces less biomass. We also carried on with research on Napier because its dissemination with cuttings is much easier than with the other grasses.”

Another approach is to raise awareness among farmers. Presentations showed that in the districts where the diseases were studied, over 80% of the farmers are now aware of the disease symptoms and adopt recommended best management practices. The incidence and severity of stunt especially, is really dropping (decline of 20 to 40% in Uganda and Kenya, more in Tanzania where it is an emerging disease) even though there is still a need to raise awareness to avoid spreading the disease. As Peter Ddaki puts it “don’t leave supervision of your garden to children or people who don’t know about the disease; use clean material when planting, or stunt will wipe out your entire crop.”

In Uganda, manure application seems to be the most effective control measure as it reduces Napier stunt incidence but also improves fodder yield. Similarly, in Tanzania and Kenya, a critical research area is the development of Integrated Pest Management.

A third approach is to look at the causes of the diseases and find ways to control the vectors or to breed disease-resistant grasses. Scientists from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Charles Midega and Evans Obura explained the importance of analyzing the biology of the disease and its vector. “Kenya is so far the only country where we identified a leafhopper vector (Maiestas (=Recilia) banda) transmitting Napier stunt disease”, says Evans Obura, Doctoral research fellow with ICIPE, “there could be other insects. We are at the moment working on identifying a phytoplasma (cause of the disease) resistant Napier grass cultivar and also studying the genetic diversity of Recilia banda in eastern Africa.”

But as Charles Midega pointed out: “if the resistant variety has high levels of resistance to the vector, where will the vector move to in the future? Food crops? And will food crops such as maize and millet be susceptible to phytoplasma?” This scary thought triggered numerous comments in the discussions.

On a positive note, Margaret Mulaa, senior researcher at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), has identified 28 clones that are not showing symptoms and appear disease resistant in the field in an area of high stunt incidence. These still need to be tested by farmers to confirm their yields and disease resistance before further distribution.

Fishbowl session at the Napier Grass diseases workshop Besides presentations, the workshop used participatory methods such as Fish Bowls and World cafes to encourage discussions. Facilitated with brio by Julius Nyangaga and Nadia Manning-Thomas, these lively sessions were sometimes new to participants and much appreciated. They particularly helped the project team interact with decision makers and regional stakeholders.

It was clear from the group discussions that the project created awareness, trained scientists, mentored graduate students, plus identified materials and set up efficient networks.

Alexandra Jorge, Coordinator of the Global Public Goods Project, commented on the progress made in the three year project: “It is amazing to see the amount of knowledge people have accumulated when you compare the first meeting I attended in 2007 and this one! I also notice the ownership and commitment participants feel about their work” and she adds “I was impressed with how much people involved did at all levels in only three years…”

In her closing remarks, Sarah Mubiru from ASARECA shared a story illustrating the power of collaboration: In her story, a man brought to God asks to see Hell and Heaven. In Hell, people have bowls of soup but spoons that are too long to drink with or eat from. In Heaven, people with the same bowls and long spoons feed each other. The first results in chaos, the second in harmony.

She said that ASARECA similarly prides itself on its partnerships, carrying out fruitful partner-based research that improves livelihoods. ASARECA funds projects that “work locally” and have regional impact through linkages and dissemination.

She concluded that this project has achieved that goal with strong national teams addressing local issues, working together across the region to support each other and using the website to make the project results available world wide.

These sentiments were reflected by ILRI Theme Director Shirley Tarawali: “The strong collaborative nature of this project will hopefully last after the end of the project”.

More:

View presentations, posters, reports and outputs from the workshop and the project

Read an article by Nadia Manning-Thomas on the knowledge sharing processes used in the workshop

Visit the project website

View photos from the workshop

A woman in science: Jean Hanson

Jean  HansonJean Hanson leads the Forage Diversity team at the Ethiopia campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Having worked in the fields of genebank management and conservation of forage genetic diversity for over 35 years, later this year she will ‘go on to the second phase’ of her career, as she puts it, when she retires from ILRI. ‘I want to concentrate on sharing the knowledge I gained throughout my career,’ she says. ‘I plan to work on building capacity and training students in my fields and working and learning from them, too.’ Early on, Hanson knew she was not going to follow the traditional path of women of her day. She did not feel like becoming a teacher or a nurse. ‘I was brought up in an age where women were not scientists. But raised on a farm, I was always interested in science,’ she says. ‘When I was 16, I thought women should have the same right to choose their career as men did, and I knew I was interested in science, so I went to university and first studied agriculture.’

After obtaining a PhD in seed physiology, she started a post-doctoral assignment with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, working with curating the maize genebank, in Mexico. She then worked in Indonesia for 5 years with the British Cooperation (DFiD) as a seed physiologist, establishing a legume genebank with a national research institute. Later, Hanson worked in Rome with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, among other organizations. Then, in 1986, she applied for and got a short-term contract with ILRI’s predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and stayed for…25 years.

Azage Tegegne, an animal scientist colleague of hers, remembers her from those days. ‘In 1986, I was working around Zwai, where Jean had substantial research activities. I was looking at feed, she was working on forages. We then started a very good and long-lasting working relationship,’ he says. ‘She also became a very good friend of mine. I have never known a more hard-working, dedicated person. She also goes the extra mile to make people feel good,’ he adds. ‘And she is very loyal and committed to her work and this institute. If plants need watering at 5 a.m., she is there, always taking responsibility.’

Jean Hanson has been leading ILRI’s project on forage genetic resources since 1989. She was Interim Director of Institutional Planning from 1996 to 2001 before taking up the position of Senior Advisor on matters relating to strategies, technologies and operational procedures for conserving and managing plant genetic resources ex situ on a joint appointment with IPGRI (now known as Bioversity International) and ILRI from 2002–2004. ‘In the field of genetic resources, she is an expert,’ says Alexandra Jorge, Coordinator of the Global Public Goods Project for Bioversity International, who has been working with Jean for the past 7 years. ‘She is well known and respected at the international level and scientists really take her comments into consideration.’

‘I am a hard core genetic resources scientist,’ confirms Jean Hanson. ‘When I started, it was pure science, all about technical things. These days, since the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994, issues such as access and benefit sharing or the ownership of genetic resources make it more political.’

If Jean is a renowned scientist whose work is recognized and appreciated by the international scientific community, she is also very well liked and colleagues unanimously comment on it. ‘If I have issues I want to discuss, I go to her for advice. She is always there, never says no and finds a way to have time to give,’ says Jorge.

‘Even in times of difficulties, she seems to handle everything so calmly,’ adds Janice Proud, coordinator of a Napier grass project of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA). ‘She sets high standards and I learned how to run a project thanks to her experience. I trust her judgment because she is good at dealing with the details as well as being able to see the big picture.’

Yeshi W/Mariam, research assistant and seed technologist, who has worked with Hanson for 18 years, confides, ‘We will miss her a lot. We are like a family here in the forage diversity team.’ According to Yeshi, ‘Gender is an important issue for Jean. Thanks to her, I am now taking a day leave per week to go back to university and study to obtain my BSc in biology. She is very encouraging because improving your career matters to her. But it is the freedom she gives me in my work that I appreciate most.’

Gender is indeed an important issue to Jean and she is involved in mentoring through the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development program to enhance the careers of women crop scientists in East Africa. ‘I believe women in science are capable and important. That’s why I agreed to be a mentor,’ she says. ‘You learn skills about how to be a better mentor. We learn from one another and provide support to the generation that will replace us.’  

Coming from that next generation is Esther Gacheru, research fellow and infosystems specialist. ‘She is inspiring people,’ says Gacheru. ‘Working with Jean has been a great start for me; she lets me do what I want to do and at the same time oversees my work to help me learn and progress. I don’t know if I will have that “space” or that type of work relationship later in life.’

About life and work, we will let the last words be from Jean Hanson herself. ‘If you are determined, anything is possible. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. Persevere. And you will end up where you want to be.’

As is said here in Ethiopia, where Jean has spent most of her life as a scientist, Yiqnash (‘May everything turn out to be good for you’), Jean Hanson!

Re-assessing the fodder problem

Small-scale farmers depend largely on their animals and need to feed them well. However, several factors threaten its supply. Technology based innovations have been the mainstream solution to improve the fodder problem. But making farmers find relevant information and networks appears to be as effective for innovation. An ILRI project looks at the issue from a different point of view and discovered that the problems related to fodder availability have just as much to do with access to knowledge as with access to appropriate technology. This article in the March 2010 issue of ILEIA’s ‘Farming Matters’ magazine profiles the DFID-funded Fodder Innovation Project. Read the article… Farming Matters Magazine In this video interview, Ranjitha Puskur shares some lessons from the project: [blip.tv ?posts_id=2966873&dest=-1]

Moving from project mode to innovations systems thinking?

Reflecting on some ILRI experiences in Ethiopia, Alan Duncan explores some challenges associated with innovation systems approaches that focus less on promoting a specific technical solution and more on facilitation of innovation, learning and joint actions among groups of people and organizations. He poses two important generic questions:

  • facilitating stakeholder platforms is quite demanding of time and resources in itself. Is the use of stakeholder platforms just another project-led approach? Who will take responsibility for facilitating these platforms when we are gone?
  • Is our focus on planted fodder and improving feed supply for production of livestock commodities untenable in a food insecure area?

Read more and comment … (ILRI Fodder Adoption Project)

See his video interview on this topic (Blip.tv)

Promising technologies not enough on their own to bring about widespread change in livestock systems

In this short video, ILRI’s Alan Duncan introduces the IFAD-funded ‘Fodder Adoption Project’ based at ILRI.

He outlines the approach followed in the project – trying to strike a balance between the technological and institutional angles.

The project helps groups of stakeholders – farmers, private sector, dairy coops, the government – get together in ‘innovation platforms’ where they can develop joint actions that address livestock fodder problems.

Initially the project went with a traditional approach, focusing on technologies. As the process evolved, other issues came in, more actors joined the platforms, and the technologies – growing improved fodder – acted more as a catalyst for people to come together to discuss a wide range of other issues (dairying, health, etc).

Fodder proved to be a useful ‘engine’ for the group to identify a much wider range of issues to address – along the whole value chain.

He explains that this type of work facilitating stakeholder platforms is “not trivial.” But it is essential: “Technology is only one small part of the equation and really a lot of it is about human interactions and how organizations behave.”

He concludes: “We have lots of promising technologies, but in themselves they are not enough to bring about widespread change in livestock systems.”

See his presentation with Ranjitha Puskur

More information on this project

View the Video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2966914&dest=-1]

Innovation network platforms to overcome fodder scarcity

In this short video, Ranjitha Puskur from ILRI shares some lessons emerging from the DFID-funded Fodder Innovation Project.

The project looks at fodder scarcity and how to address it, but from the perspectives of capacities, policies and institutions.

This current second phase of the project, she says, emerged from the realisation that the availability of technologies is not really the limiting factor, policy and institutional factors are the major bottlenecks.

She briefly introduces the innovation systems approach that underpins the project: Essentially, the aim is to form and facilitate a network of different actors in a chain or continuum of knowledge production and its use, mobilizing all their various resources and capacities to address a problem.

What outcomes and changes has she seen?

At the farm level, farmers are changing their livestock feeding and management practices; there is an emerging demand for technologies, inputs and services that, ironically, were earlier promoted without success.

“Farmers are seeing the need for knowledge and can articulate demands to service providers.”

She emphasizes that “getting a network of actors isn’t an easy process, it takes time”. Different organizations with different interests and motives have to be brought around the table to contribute and benefit.

“It needs great facilitation skills and negotiating skills which are not very often core competences of researchers like us.”

Beyond facilitation of this network formation, “we also see that linkages don’t happen automatically” … we need a facilitating or broker organisation to create them.

In her project, they work through key partner organisations: “This works well, but they needed much support and mentoring from us.”

She concludes with two final observations: Policies are a very critical factor and it is important to engage policy makers from the outset, ensuring that we know what they really want, and that the evidence base is solid.

Traditional project management approaches don’t seem to work in such projects: We need nimble financial management, and very responsive project management.

“Very traditional logframes and M&E systems seem very inadequate.”

See her presentation with Alan Duncan

More information on this project

View the video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2966873&dest=-1]

Improving the performance of crop-livestock systems

Last week, the CGIAR System-wide Livestock Programme (SLP) held its annual planning meeting in Addis Ababa.

In this short video, John McDermott, ILRI Deputy Director General for Research introduces the SLP. He argues that its focus on the intensification of crop-livestock systems is critical: More than a billion people in developing countries are involved in these smallholder systems.

The SLP brings together 12 CGIAR centers, and, he mentions, “one of the key things we’ve been struggling with is how to improve the performance of these [crop-livestock] systems” – so people can get more income and more benefits from them; also so the systems can be more sustainable.

Reflecting on the just-completed SLP meeting in Addis Ababa, he highlights one of the major issues under discussion: how the crop biomass from these systems can be used more effectively – as food, as animal feed, and as fuel. Furthermore, how the crop residues can be fed back into the soil.

“Now we are turning our attention more to this tradeoff between whether you actually feed these residues to animals or whether some of them should stay with the soil.”

Watch the video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2966773&dest=-1]

Feeding livestock, sustaining soils: Crop-livestock tradeoffs focus of SLP discussions

This week, ILRI Addis Ababa hosted a meeting of the Livestock Programme Group that steers the CGIAR’s Systemwide Livestock Programme (SLP). The Programme builds synergies between crop research and livestock research across the CGIAR.

A major discussion point at the meeting is the “pressure on biomass use in systems.”

Bruno Gerard, SLP Coordinator, explains that the group will look especially at tradeoffs in the use of crop residues – between feeding livestock or sustaining soils.

View his video:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2967023&dest=-1]

Read more …

Research project on fodder marketing in Bihar, India


ILRI India

A recently completed research project has, for the first time, systematically studied the trading of fodder in Bihar with a view to determining the importance of fodder trading and marketing as a means of mitigating fodder scarcity. The study has also identified differences in the nutritive value of traded fodders.

Dr Iain Wright of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) which led the study explained, “Scarcity of fodder is one of the key constraints to the development of the livestock sector in Bihar as well as India generally. We know that trading of fodder is important within villages, between villages and even between states, but until now we have not known much about the volumes traded nor the importance of fodder trading in supplying fodder to areas where there is a scarcity. We now understand more about the way in which fodder is moved within Bihar and even outside the state and how the marketing of fodder could be made more effective.”

Crop residues make up almost 50% of the fodder that is fed to livestock in India, and are even more important in Bihar where over 60% of all feed is contributed by wheat and rice straw, with rice straw especially important. Dr Wright explained that recent research by ILRI had shown that there were big differences in the nutritive value of straw from different varieties of rice. ‘We wanted to see whether these differences in the feeding value of rice straw are reflected in the prices paid for straw in the markets.’

The results of the study show the diversity of the supply and demand for fodder in different parts of Bihar. Areas with intensive cereal production supply dry fodder to the rest of Bihar. Dr Nils Teufel an ILRI researcher explained that farmers with small land-holdings have to purchase dry fodder to feed their animals while farmers with surplus fodder are selling about 45% of their dry fodder production. “Within villages, more than 80% of trade in fodder is usually directly between producer and consumers but trade between districts generally involves up to four trade transactions,” he added. Urban dairy producers are major buyers of fodder – they buy about 73% of dry fodder sold by traders.

The type of fodder used also depends on the intensity of production: with increasing intensification of dairy production, the share of wheat straw being fed to dairy animals increases.

Laboratory analysis of fodder samples showed the expected superior nutritional quality of wheat straw compared to paddy straw. In fact, the analysed paddy straw samples showed below average quality characteristics.

Traders and consumers evaluate straw by its appearance, but neither appearance nor the nutritional quality characteristics seem to have a strong effect on prices. This is in contrast to some other parts of India where prices are higher for fodder with better nutritional quality.

A workshop at which the key findings of the project will be presented and discussed is being organized by ILRI on 27 October 2009 at the ICAR Research Complex for the Eastern Region, Patna. The guest of honour will be Sri Anil Kumar Singh, Director, Dairy, Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Government of Bihar. Participants will include representatives of the primary stakeholders, i.e. fodder producers, traders and livestock owners of the state as well as research scientists and officials from different government departments. Members of the Press are cordially invited to attend.

For further information
contact Dr Iain A Wright, Regional Representative, Asia. Tel: 987 187 7038, email: i.wright@cgiar.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is one of 15 International Agricultural Research Institutes which are part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. ILRI carries out research to alleviate poverty through the development of the livestock sector in Africa and Asia. Its headquarters are in Nairobi, Kenya. It has a team of scientists based in Hyderabad working to alleviate problems of feed scarcity and an Asia Regional Office in New Delhi. For further information on ILRI see www.ilri.org

The research project was funded by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Vienna, Austria.

Feeding tomorrow’s hungry livestock

In January 2008 ILRI shipped 4000 samples of tropical fodders and forages to Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault for its offical opening today (26th February). This ‘natural freezer’ will help conserve future feed supplies.
 

Dramatic losses of plant diversity, including fodders and forages that feed livestock, are one of the greatest challenges facing sustainable development today. Soaring human populations are eroding the world’s plant genetic diversity and other natural resources. Increasing demands for human food, along with urbanization, pollution and land degradation, are squeezing out hardy fodder and forage plants that allow half a billion poor people to keep livestock. These fodders and forages are vital today. In future, they may become the only way poor livestock keepers are able to adapt to climate and other changes.

A genebank maintained by ILRI, in Ethiopia, is part of a global effort to help save food and feed plant diversity before it is too late. ILRI is conserving and studying animal feed crops to help ensure future food supplies.

ILRI and other members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are storing their vast seed collections in the new Svalbard global seed vault in Norway as a safety backup. This natural freezer, located in the Arctic Circle, will preserve seeds of these plant varieties for many years. This effort is part of a global commitment under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The benefits are universal.
ILRI’s forage diversity project leader, Jean Hanson, says, ‘The 18,000 seed and plant samples held in trust in the ILRI genebank are tested to help scientists deliver appropriate fodders and forages for millions of poor milk and meat producers.

‘In January 2008 ILRI shipped 4000 samples of tropical fodders and forages to Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault. These samples duplicate specimens from ILRI’s vast collection of African forages, the largest and most diverse in the world.’

ILRI genebank: A global public good

ILRI maintains both an active and base genebank in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The active genebank is used for current research and distribution of seeds. Seeds are dried in a dehumidified drying room and packed in laminated aluminium foil bags for storage in the active genebank at 8°C. All seeds in the active collection are freely available in small quantities to bona-fide forage research workers and distributed both directly and through networks.

The base genebank is used for long-term security storage of original germplasm collections. The base genebank acts as a repository of materials that have been reasonably characterized and which may or may not have current interest or use by plant breeders. Collected materials are preserved until such time as there are enough resources available for them to be characterized and evaluated. Materials are stored in the base genebank at -20°C.

ILRI’s director general, Carlos Seré summarizes, ‘We know that weather is set to become more extreme, increasing flooding, soil erosion and salinity, droughts and other causes of land degradation.

‘Climate change will also spread diseases among livestock feed plants as well as crop plants. These changes are already increasing world food prices and threatening lives of the poor.

‘The options scientists are generating through plant genetic diversity research will help small farmers adapt quickly to their changing local environments and markets.’

‘In future, the genes scientists are investigating may provide resistance to drought, disease or salinity, not only in fodder plants but also in maize, rice and other important cereal crops’ concludes Sere.

View film on conserving forage genetic resources

 

 Feeding tomorrow’s hungry livestock: ILRI 3 minute film

Request DVD

Cover image of ILRI’s ‘Managing fodder and forage genetic resources’ DVD

Emai: g.ndungu@cgiar.org to request a copy of this 10 minute film.

Further Information:

ILRI’s forage diversity project leader, Jean Hanson, has been invited to join the International Advisory Council for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The council is being established to provide guidance and advice, and will include representatives from FAO, the CGIAR, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (ITPGR) and other institutions. 

Forage diversity activities at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Forage diversity as a global public good

For research-related enquiries contact:

Jean Hanson
Forage diversity project leader
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA
Email:
j.hanson@cgiar.org
Telephone: +251 11 617 2000

Sweet sorghum: Utilizing every ‘drop’

Poor livestock keepers in the drylands point to feed shortages as one of their biggest animal production constraints. Research in India is demonstrating that sweet sorghum's traditional use as a dual-purpose food and feed crop and its modern day use as a bio-fuel need not be mutually exclusive

Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'

Sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is well adapted to the semi-arid regions of the tropics. One of its main advantages is that it is very water-use efficient  It has long been used by farmers as a multi-purpose crop from which they extract grain for human consumption and stover for livestock feed. Today, sweet sorghum is becoming increasingly used in industrial bio-fuel production in India. It is one of the most efficient dryland crops to convert atmospheric CO2 into sugar and is therefore a viable alternative for the production of ethanol.

 

 

Sweet sorghum’s role in India’s bio-fuel plans
‘All countries, including India, are grappling with the problem of meeting the ever-increasing demand for fuel within the constraints of international commitments, legal requirements, environmental concerns and limited resources. In this connection fuels of biological origin have drawn a great deal of attention during the last two decades.
 
‘India wishes to consider the use of bio-diesel and ethanol for blending with petro-diesel and petrol. Oil provides energy for 95% of transportation and the demand for transport fuel continues to rise. The extract from the third assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that global oil demand will rise by 1.68% from 75 million barrels per day (mb/d) in the year 2002 to 120 mb/d in 2030. Energy input in agriculture is also increasing. Part of this energy should come from bio-based fuel, which is short term renewable.
 ‘Ethanol is used as a fuel or as an oxygenate to gasoline. In India, raw material used for producing ethanol varies from sugar, cereals (sweet sorghum), sugar beet, and molasses. Brazil uses ethanol as 100% fuel in about 20% of vehicles. Use of a 5% ethanol gasoline blend is already approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and is in a progressive state of implementation in India.’

Excerpted from: ‘Development of Value Chain for Bio-fuel in India’, National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP). NAIP website: http://www.naip.icar.org.in

 

Win-win situation
Increasing industrial usage of sweet sorghum for ethanol production does, on one hand, provide important income for dryland farmers, but it can also divert biomass away from livestock, thus adding to the feed scarcity problem being faced by livestock keepers. However, scientists are demonstrating that full use of all parts of the sweet sorghum plant can meet both industrial and livestock feed needs.
Collaborative work between the International Crop Research Center for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the Rusni Distillery in Sanga Reddy Medak District, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s National Research Center for Sorghum (NRCS), in Hyderabad, and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing marketable sweet sorghum feed blocks using the stripped leaves and the crushed stalks (bagasse) remaining after juice extraction for ethanol. A bagasse-based feed block has been manufactured in collaboration with Miracle Fodder and Feeds in Hyderabad and is currently being tested with large and small ruminants with very promising results.Sweet sorghum: utilizing every 'drop'
Full utilization of crops and their by-products in the balanced production of food, feed and industrial products is likely to become increasingly important in developing countries. Total utilization of all parts of the sweet sorghum plant for use in the manufacturing and food industries would help compensate for fodder loss and provide an additional source of income for farmers.

Value-added products from by-products

Surveys of fodder markets in Hyderabad showed that stover from ordinary grain sorghum is widely traded as livestock fodder. This stover is sourced from several Indian States, transported over distances of more than 350 km and fetches retail prices that are about half the value of the sorghum grain. Higher quality stover fetches premium prices ranging from 3.1 to 3.9 Indian rupees per kilogram of dry stover.
  The fodder quality of feed blocks made from sweet sorghum leaf strippings and bagasse is similar to premium stover made from grain sorghum. Scientists estimate that this feed could fetch prices of 6 rupees per kg and more. The manufacturing of feed blocks could therefore offer attractive additional income along a sweet sorghum utilization chain. The feed blocks could be made more nutritious by adding sorghum grain distillery by-products—where the grain is used for biofuel production—and/or by targeted fortification with other supplements. The end product would be an attractive sweet sorghum by-product based feed block of good quality and with a high density, making

New strategy for pro-poor dairy development in Assam

ILRI and partners recently unveiled a new action plan to help the poor in Assam improve their livelihoods through the dairy sector.

Assam is located in the far North-East corner of India and shares its borders with six Indian States and two countries. The majority of milk is produced by rural smallholders using indigenous cattle and buffalo, but productivity is low in comparison with other States in India. Further, most milk is marketed through traditional and informal channels, estimated at 97% of locally marketed milk, compared to some 80% nationally.  In spite of these constraints, Assam displays strong production potential and inadequate milk supply, so there are many opportunities to grow the dairy sector and help the poor improve their livelihoods.

In 2005, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was invited by the Directorate of Dairy Development (DDD) of the Government of Assam, to collaborate in a comprehensive study on the dairy sector in Assam to identify opportunities to boost the milk sector and improve the livelihoods of smallholder producers.

About Assam

Assam is situated in the far, North-East corner of India. The total geographical area of the State is 78,438 sq kms which accounts for about 2.4% of the country’s total geographical area. In 2001, the population of Assam stood at 26.64 million – representing 2.59% of the total population of India.

The percentage of poor in Assam is the highest among the seven sister States of the North East. Around 36.09% of the State’s population continues to live below the poverty line, a figure considerably above the national average of 26.1% (1999-2000). There is a rural-urban divide: four out of ten people in rural Assam are likely to be below the poverty line, while in urban Assam, the incidence is less than one in ten.

Cattle constitute the largest livestock group followed by goats, pigs and buffaloes. Livestock in Assam are mainly indigenous breeds but the average productivity is poor in comparison with other States of India. The production of milk in Assam in 2002-2003 was estimated at 773 million litres as against 750 million litres in 2001-2002 indicating a nominal increase of 3.06 per cent over.

Action plan presented to stakeholders
On Wednesday 30th May, ILRI and the DDD presented their findings and a draft action at a final stakeholders’ meeting in the Assam capital Guwahati convened by the Assam Minister for Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, the Hon. Khori Singh Enghti. The action plan is based on surveys of 1500 consumers, 600 traditional and formal market agents and 3000 dairy producers in eight districts of Assam. It also includes an analysis of the successes and failures in the formal sector in Assam and an analysis of the quality and safety of milk and dairy products in both the traditional and formal sectors. The data were gathered and analyzed in collaboration with local partners in Assam.

New Strategy for Pro-Poor Dairy Development

Assam Action Plan Highlights

Demand outstrips supply
The report found dairy production to be a feasible option for raising incomes and improving livelihood opportunities, particularly for the rural poor. According to Steve Staal, ILRI’s markets theme director, ‘Our study shows that there is a huge gap between demand and supply. To meet the demand, which is mostly for good quality raw milk, dairy interventions that address productivity, access to livestock services and markets, and improved milk quality in the traditional sector, would result in more income and more employment for rural smallholders.’

Improved productivity and increased production essential
Besides large market potential in rural Assam, the survey also found many farmers expressed a desire to become involved in increased marketed milk production, but low milk yields and lack of a basic marketing infrastructure were identified as major obstacles. The action plan highlights opportunities to increase farm-level production and productivity through improved animals such as cross-breeds, improved fodder and feed technology, and by providing access to livestock services. The action plan also incorporates actions to provide smallholder access to reliable markets to absorb more milk at remunerative prices. The government of Assam have already made efforts to bring smallholders into collective market mechanisms, but marketing of milk through the processed milk channel remains relatively insignificant and smallholders receive little remuneration.

Pro-poor interventions critical
The plan highlights that dairy systems in Assam may be too diverse to have a singular policy thrust. It states: ‘We need to recognize such diversities of the system and place them within pro-poor dairy intervention designs and enable poor households to take part in the process.’

According to the report, no dairy development is possible in Assam unless it addresses the problems faced by the traditional sector. Most of the milk consumed in Assam is ‘raw’ unpasteurized milk supplied by smallholders. The survey found that demand for pasteurised milk was low and its consumption was limited almost entirely to urban areas. Staal emphasised the need for an inclusive plan ‘Any development plan that focused mostly on pasteurised milk is unlikely to yield the desired results. The idea is not to have a parallel competitive system to beat the traditional sector but to strengthen the existing system and help build a blend of modern infrastructure and professionalism.’

Quality standards to be raised
The report also highlights the need to raise quality and hygiene standards. According to Delia Grace, an epidemiologist and food safety specialist at ILRI, ‘Most of the samples analysed did not meet general bacteriological quality standards causing a potential risk to human health. There is an urgent need to create awareness among farmers and distributors to address the problem.’ The report suggests taking immediate steps to provide training packages to milk farmers and distributors and to raise awareness among consumers that all ‘raw’ milk should be boiled before consumption – a practice that is generally followed in Assam.

Assam action plan soon ready for implementation
According to Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia ‘the report was well received by stakeholders and we are currently incorporating their comments. The final action plan will be released within a month.’

ILRI Assam Dairy Project Staff

Liza and Patro