Buffalo dairy value chain in Nepal showing symptoms of change

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On 20 July 2023, a team from the CGIAR initiative on Sustainable Animal Productivity (SAPLING) and 20 public and private sector stakeholders representing research, development, academy and industry gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal for a reflection workshop to revisit the initiative’s Theory of Change (ToC) launched last year and make suggestions for improvement. 

SAPLING Nepal’s ToC was aimed at improving livestock productivity, encourage public and private sector investments and foster climate and inclusive policies for the buffalo value chain.

Value chain enhancement was expected to be achieved through promoting two innovation packages, which consist of core technologies and enablers that contribute to upscaling various technologies and innovations.

While Innovation Package 1 (IO1) bundles technologies for productivity enhancement and deals with business models for an integrated delivery of inputs and services, Innovation Package 2 (IO2) focuses on policy engagement for the scaling of innovations packages through enabling increased investment in the livestock sector. During the reflection workshop, participants were divided into two groups to discuss each innovation package. 

Original Schematic Theory of Change for the dairy buffalo value chain in Nepal 
Original Schematic Theory of Change for the dairy buffalo value chain in Nepal

IO1 comprises innovations in genetic improvement, fertility management and diet enhancement, along with an integrated delivery of these services through Village Livestock Promoters (VLPs)—extension service providers—and business models, all aimed at boosting buffalo productivity.

In the first year of SAPLING activities, stakeholders have noted a positive increase in knowledge among farmers, VLPs and national institutions, subsequently enhancing buffalo productivity and investment.

The Saikrishi Cooperative in Rupani Municipality of Saptari district has reported a 60% productivity increase. Similarly, the Milk Producers Cooperative in Itahari Municipality of Sunsari district shared that 80% of buffaloes treated in fertility camps came to heat after treatment.

The SAPLING team is analysing these changes, but they suggest that the integrated approach, using VLPs to link local dairy cooperatives and farmers, may have contributed to improving buffalo productivity in Nepal. 

IO2 designs strategies for engaging with policymakers to scale up and increase investment in buffalo dairy value chain development. Workshop participants proposed novel SAPLING activities to cultivate an enabling environment for scaling and financing buffalo dairy development.

These activities encompass linking farmers to banks, financial institutions and insurance companies. Already, there are signals on increased investment in the livestock sector by national partners.

As of July 2023, 30 rural municipalities have included 15 million Nepal rupees (120,000 United States dollars) in their 2023-24 budgets for SAPLING activities focused on improving productivity. Moving forward, workshop participants suggested incorporating the need to increase public and private investment towards national academic research and development into the ToC. 

In conclusion, the SAPLING team and workshop participants highlighted that activities under the current ToC has been contributing to improved buffalo productivity and increased investment after its first year of implementation.

Simultaneously, participants recognised the necessity of augmenting public and private investment in academia, research and development to more effectively scale buffalo productivity interventions through SAPLING’s integrated approach.

Furthermore, they stressed the importance of involving more stakeholders in the activities to ensure an enabling policy environment that will increase access to financing and profitability for smallholder buffalo farmers.

The SAPLING team will adjust the ToC based on suggested changes, which will contribute to the immediate initiative outcomes like building capacity for animal management and end initiative outcomes like the uptake of innovation packages by public and private decision-makers. 

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