The recently completed programme “Developing sustainable animal fodder systems for improving household incomes in several districts of Nepal”, has changed the financial situation and improved social conditions for at least 10,800 farmers throughout Nepal. Funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and New Zealand Aid through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT), the six-year programme aimed to solve the serious fodder scarcity issue in rural Nepal which has given rise to poor animal health, fertility and productivity – a significant contributing factor torural poverty.
“We worked together with 300 farmers to design and implement a programme they wanted to be part of. It really wouldn’t have worked without the participation of the farmers” says Keith Armstrong of New Zealand’s Plant & Food Research.
Keith worked with Nepalese colleagues from the Nepal Agricultural Research Council and Department of Livestock Services to establish six clusters of farms spread throughout Nepal. They tested a range of fodder cultivars in order to discover those best suited to Nepal’s diverse environment.
Traditionallytosecure feed fortheir animals farmers had collected low quality feeds from common lands and forests. After adopting new on-farm crop management systems, including rotational cropping with legume crops, farmers small holdings now produce most of their high quality fodder requirements without compromising their existing food grain crops. In fact due to improvements in soil structure and fertility, crop yields have also increased.
In addition, improved farm production systems have also had a huge impact on women farmers. Their animal husbandry workloads are reduced by 50%, resulting in increased time and energy to develop a diverse range of revenue earning activities as well as a more enjoyable family life.
Luisetti Seeds were among several New Zealand companies to assist in the supply of seed for testing in this environment. Without this generous support it would have been difficult to meet tight budgetary constraints and test such a wide variety of lines to find the most suitable for adaption in different environments.
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The most popular winter forage is oat combined with legumes, Vetch or Berseem clover depending on altitude. Tropical cereal and legume fodders are used for summer fodder production. Until recently fodder crops were not widely grown on farms.