This week, we were brainstorming – over dinner – with a group of livestock/feed enthusiasts attending the final meeting of the Fodder Adoption Project.
How might we mobilize the scattered expertise and enthusiasms of forage and fodder (and related crop and livestock) people in the CGIAR and worldwide to focus attention on livestock feeding as a strategy to enhance livelihoods, address future food security and mitigate climate change?
This all started when our CIAT colleague and local host Tassilo Tiemann mentioned that his ‘favourite’ fodder plant is ‘Leucaena leucocephela’, why – because he likes multipurpose trees.
This stimulated some debate with ILRI’s Alan Duncan expressing a preference for turnip, the focus of his PhD research; Shirley Tarawali chose cowpea, perhaps because of her previous work at IITA; Bruno Gerard of the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Program chose a fodder ‘system’ comprising Faidherbia albida, Andropogon and cowpea; Ranjitha Puskur opted for Stylosanthes, because of its importance in dry areas in India; Lucy Lapar from ILRI Vietnam also selected ‘Stylo’; while Antonio Rota of IFAD chose sugarcane. Michael Blummel was still contemplating his choice at the end of the evening, despite the helpful suggestions of colleagues – groundnut or sorghum!
We collectively mused on what the fodder favourites would be for other absent colleagues, recalling that the ILRI forage genebank has 18000 plus accessions and a ‘best bets’ list of 60 plants compiled by Jean Hanson.
What does this tell us?
First, there’s a lot of fodder diversity out there – biological, but also in terms of preferred options of fodder and livestock specialists.
Second, judging by the discussion spurred by the choices – and the reasons and stories behind them – there could be much that we could gain by documenting and extending this lighthearted exercise into something more structured where we ask people to briefly explain their favorite fodder/forage plants in terms of their potential to improve future food security and improve livelihoods for small holder livestock keepers.
A form of ‘crowd sourcing’, we could map opinions and preferences worldwide, stimulate discussion, learning and debate, and perhaps identify promising opportunities as well as as gaps to further work on.
As the current Fodder Adoption Project ends, this is perhaps an opportunity to try out a completely different exercise, with the same acronym: The ‘Fodder Appreciation Program’ – better sugestions welcome!
Share your favourite fodder option, and why you like it using the comment option on this blog post.