Feed scarcity causes low livestock productivity across sub-Saharan Africa. Smallholders face significant challenges in gaining access to high-quality forages to feed their animals, especially in the acid and low fertility soils of the arid and semi-arid lands of eastern Africa. Smallholders in the region who rely on mixed crop-livestock farming inhabit the most climate-sensitive economic sector.
The Brachiaria program provides ‘climate smart’ forage technologies that enable farmers to produce more quality forage year-round. Feeding Brachiaria grasses to dairy cattle has proved to increase milk yields by 15–40%. Galla goats fed on Piata and another cultivar, MG4, have higher daily weight gain than those fed on Rhodes grass. Many farmers in the project area in Kenya and Rwanda have expanded their acreage of Brachiaria using vegetative propagation (splits); they can also sell these to other farmers.
Four Brachiaria grass cultivars, including local ecotypes adapted to drought and the low fertility soils of Kenya and Rwanda, have been identified. The varieties are being integrated into mixed crop-livestock systems. Seeds have been distributed and farmers have been trained on how to grow Brachiaria for animal consumption, propagation and seed production. Six demonstration farms have been established in Kenya.