Improving food and livelihood security through livestock activities in the Ecofarm project
“The simple techniques of the Ecofarm project, such as providing a salt lick stone for the animals, was only a small effort to make, but showed a large gain and made livestock an important source of income in my village” said Gamal Ishaq Abdellah, leader of the development committee in Faris village in North Kordofan in Sudan.
The results of the Ecofarm livestock action research were many: improved productivity in terms of lambing rates, lamb and ewe (sheep) survival, high goat and cow milk yields and enhanced fertility; reduced costs of production in sheep fattening; improved household nutritional status through availing more milk to children; and increased income through selling early weaned fattened lambs. A good indication of the Ecofarm livestock technologies’ impact is their success in uptake and scaling up by other development projects in the country (IFAD Projects in Western Sudan and Butana area, ICARDA Project in Lower Atbara area Northern Sudan).
In Sudan livestock production faces major constraints. Unavailability of nutritious grazing feed resources on a year-round-basis, water scarcity, deficiency in major mineral elements (P, Ca and I) and diseases are some. As a consequence mortality is high, production is unstable, fertility is low and milk yields are also low.
To improve productivity in order to enhance the food security situation and increase farmers’ income is the main objective of the Ecofarm livestock action research. Specifically, the project aimed to improve sheep productivity in terms of higher conception, higher lambing and twining rates and lamb survival, improving weight gain and added value to weaned lambs to improve farmer income, as well as improving milk yields in lactating animals to improve the household nutritional status.
Three livestock production systems are practiced in the area. Nomads’ livelihood (more than 50% of the gross household revenue) depends on livestock with continuous migration in search of water and forage. Transhumant migrate seasonally along traditional grazing routes with minor plant cropping activities. And sedentary farmers practice both agronomic and livestock dominated activities, through combining cropping activities with raising small ruminants and a few cows.
3 years, 6 villages, 100 farmers for impressive results
The Ecofarm project went on for three years (2007-2010) and covered six villages in North and South Kordofan States (3 villages each) in western Sudan. This dryland area is characterized by unimodal (July-Oct) rains (100-450 mm), subject to a relentless series of droughts (1974/75, 1984/85, 1991, 2003), desert encroachment and moving sand dunes. Dryland farming has triggered a change in the composition of rangelands species with dominance of annual plants and forbs, which eventually has resulted in denuded lands and eroded soils.
99 farmers (57 women and 42 men) participated in project activities with 400 animals (120 ewes, 163 goats, 62 cows and 55 lambs) included in Ecofarm livestock action research demonstration trials. The results of the trials were impressive. Strategic supplementary feeding of ewes had improved reproductive performances (conception rate from 65 to 80.0%), lambing rates (from 55.8 to 75.0%) and twining rate (from 4.5 to 23.3%), reduced abortions (from 22.5 to 5.0%) and lowered mortality (from 2.5 to 15.0%), increased overall lamb weight at birth (from 2.01 to 2.41 kg) and improved ewe fertility through reducing time and number of services (1-2 services) to get conceived. Desert lambs fattening Ecofarm technology resulted in higher final body weight and higher total and daily weight gains, and reduced the cost of production. Saltlick supplementation to lactating animals increased total and daily milk yields (50.0% increase in goats and 17.8% in cows) and improved fertility through shorter time to return to cyclicity (2-4 weeks).
The Ecofarm Project livestock action research activities in the drylands of Kordofan, Sudan, were presented at a side event 20 October 2011 during UNCCD COP 10 in Changwon City, South Korea. A final report will soon be available on this webpage.