What are the options for sustainable intensification through livestock feeding? How can we best deal with the competition for biomass between livestock feeding and soil fertility? These are some of the questions that future research on livestock keeping needs to address in order to feed and maintain the 600 million rural poor people worldwide who rely on livestock for their livelihoods.
This was said by Iain Wright, the Director of the Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity (ASSP) program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) when he addressed nearly 70 participants at a side event organized by the Institute at the ongoing FARA Africa Agriculture Science Week, in Accra, Ghana. In his presentation entitled “The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems”, Wright noted that increasing livestock populations are putting pressure on demand for feed and increasing the competition for biomass.
“Feed is the most important input cost yet the feed to product price ratio is increasing,” he observed, adding that feed is at the interface of positive and negative effects of livestock. It is also a major user of natural resources (land, water).
Researchers, he said, are now working to identify feed surplus and deficit areas with the aim of helping to facilitate fodder markets and design context specific feed processing approaches, he said. They are also attempting to select, breed and disseminate improved food-feed crops and forages and identify new feed ingredients. These combined approaches will help to make better use if existing feed resources, produce more and better feeds; and encourage and facilitate feed trading, processing and small scale business enterprises around feed.
ASSP is working to increase the productivity of livestock systems in developing countries through high-quality animal science (breeding, nutrition and animal health) and livestock systems research. Wright is also the ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia and head of ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus, where over 300 staff are located.
Editor’s note: The ‘biomass crisis’ that Iain discusses was part of a side event and might be an interesting topic of discussion at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) in Accra, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana. Follow this event on Twitter via @FARAinfo and the the hashtag#AASW6, on FARA’s Facebook Page and on the AASW6 blog.
story by Jane Gitau
See story on FARA Science Week blog here