Bridging the Feed Gap: Expanding Access and Utilization of Improved Forages in Ethiopia
Amidst the bustling landscape of Ethiopia’s agricultural sector, the livestock industry stands out as a powerhouse, contributing 46% to the country’s agricultural GDP. With this crucial role in mind, various stakeholders are joining forces to spur the industry forward through innovative forage solutions. These solutions not only tackle existing challenges in feed production, management, and utilization but also pave the way for a more efficient and sustainable future for Ethiopia’s livestock sector.
In a compelling seven-minute of the Nourishing Tomorrow – Feed and Forage Solutions for Sustainable Food Systems video, the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) and the CGIAR initiative on Mixed Farming Systems (MFS) take center stage, showcasing their collaborative efforts in empowering smallholder farmers across Ethiopia. Through sustainable forage production, these initiatives are not only meeting the growing demand for feed but also fostering a more resilient and prosperous livestock industry.
This work builds upon the achievements of the Africa RISING program, which conducted insightful validation of promising cultivated forages, fodder trees, and feed utilization practices in four key regions, laying a solid foundation for success. Recognizing the immense potential of these validated livestock feed and forage innovations, AICCRA and MFS initiatives co-invested in scaling and expanding their reach to a wider range of farmers. This investment aims to unlock the transformative potential of these innovations and create lasting positive impacts.
The collaborative effort offers farmers a valuable package that includes a diverse range of improved forage varieties, practical feed management and utilization practices, and comprehensive training on effective cultivation and management strategies. The impact of this initiative has been substantial, with over 3,000 farmers already benefiting from this comprehensive training. As a result, they are now equipped with the knowledge and skills to unlock the full potential of their land and livestock.
The impact of these efforts can be seen in the lives of farmers like Zenebech from Lemo District in Hadiya zone. Zenebech and other farmers who have adopted these approaches have noticed big changes. They are now producing more milk and meat, which has made a real difference in their lives.
‘Feed shortage remains a critical bottleneck to improve livestock productivity in Ethiopia’ explains Kindu Mekonnen, ILRI Senior Scientist. ‘Integrating climate smart forage crops into the farming systems is essential to overcome this challenge. We are committed to supporting farmers with evidence-based research and practices to achieve this transformation,’ he further emphasizes.
Recognizing the immense potential for further impact, AICCRA and the Mixed Farming Initiative are now setting their sights on scaling these efforts even further. Their strategic approach focuses on two key avenues: Extending the benefits of sustainable forage production practices and commercialization pathways for forage seed businesses (connecting farmers with reliable sources of early generation and certified seeds and establishing stable market linkages for consistent forage production).
By empowering farmers with the knowledge, tools, and market connections they need to thrive, AICCRA and the Mixed Farming Initiative are paving the way for a future where Ethiopia’s livestock sector not only flourishes but also contributes significantly to improved livelihoods, food security, and economic prosperity for all.
Featured image: A cattle feeding on the improved forage. Photo by ILRI
Authors: Haimanot Seifu, Kindu Mekonen, Million Gebreyes and Gloriana Ndibalema