CHANGES in rainfall patterns, amounts and distribution that has been seen over the years as a result of the broader climatic change phenomenon that is being experienced globally, has brought very real and observable challenges to the livestock farmer.
Some of the challenges include the decrease in the productiveness of the rangelands and inadequate drinking water for the livestock. The grazing lands are largely failing to carry the animals throughout the year as they quickly get depleted because the grass hardly grows to substantial levels due to poor rains received.
Admittedly there are a whole lot of other factors that contribute to rangelands failing to carry the animals throughout the year, such as high stocking rates that cannot be carried by the area, shrinking sizes of the rangelands due to expansion of the human settlement.
The objective of this submission is not to dissect the reasons for decrease in rangeland carrying capacity and productivity but to motivate for adoption of fodder production by livestock farmers as a direct response to this challenge which is exacerbated by the climatic change pressures.
A number of non-governmental organisations have in the past few years promoted fodder production among livestock farmers. The Government has also provided seed packs of fodder crops as part of the Intwasa package.
However, fodder production practice has remained largely lowly adopted by livestock farmers. A number of reasons can be presented to explain the low adoption of fodder production intervention as mitigation against failing rangelands.
Some of the reasons include poor extension messaging and very low private sector participation. Vigorous extension messaging around the adoption of fodder production practice needs to be done by both the Government and private sector so that awareness among livestock farmers about the existence and importance of the approach is improved.
The Government has very expansive and extensive system which can be calibrated and activated to effectively deliver the message about fodder production among livestock farmers. Currently there is hardly any effective messaging except handing the fodder seed pack to livestock farmers most of which know very little about the fodder crops and hence do not even plant the seed.
The private sector has also been conspicuously absent in the fodder production sector, with only one seed house stocking a few lines of fodder crops, at a slightly expensive price. The private sector needs to come to the party on this one and promote fodder crops in the same manner that they promote food crops and vegetables seeds.
We need to see fodder demo plots all over the countryside, that are sponsored and promoted by these seed houses, in the same way that they do other crops such as maize. We see maize crop plots that are promoted and sponsored by seed houses all over the farming lands.
Seed houses need to understand that fodder production is the future of livestock farming and in not-so-distant future the demand for fodder seeds will soar as livestock farmers adapt to the new reality brought by climate change factors and other parameters.
It is about time seed houses develop the fodder production value chain by actively participating in the value chain and providing affordable seeds, marketing and extension services that goes with it. We need to see fodder production adverts, regalia and paraphernalia flooded on livestock spaces, for heightened awareness.
My point is, there is more that the private sector can do now to develop the fodder production value chain, and then you sit and reap the benefits later. Research stations and universities have done studies to determine which fodder crops do well in which regions and what conditions.
The private sector now needs to just pick the baton and run. If the private sector runs, the Government will come along because they have the extension network which the private sector can pig back on like they do with food crop production.
Let us help the livestock farmer response to the climate change pressures by presenting the fodder production option on his doorstep and stimulate the uptake of the technology.
Uyabonga umntaka MaKhumalo. Mhlupheki Dube is a livestock specialist. He writes in his own capacity. Feedback email@example.com/cell 0772851275