Under the title ‘Enhancing Livelihoods of Poor Livestock Keepers through Increased Use of Fodder’, the goal of this IFAD-funded Programme was to improve the livelihoods of poor livestock keepers in Ethiopia, Syria and Vietnam in a sustainable manner through increased access to and adoption of fodder interventions.
With activities in Ethiopia, Syria and Vietnam and linking with a project implemented in Nigeria and India, the project aimed to better understand the factors and processes that determine the success of fodder interventions in developing countries. This understanding was used to strengthen the capacity of poor farmers and service providers to better meet their needs for fodder.
The project completion report has just be published, providing information on four project output areas:
- Mechanisms for strengthening and/or establishing multi-stakeholder alliances that can enable scaling up and out of fodder technologies.
- Options for effective delivery systems including innovative communication strategies and on farm interventions to improve fodder supply.
- Enhanced capacity of project partners to experiment with and use fodder innovations through effective communication, technical information and training in diverse aspects placing fodder interventions in the context of systems of innovation.
- Generic lessons with wide applicability on innovation processes and systems, communication strategies and partnerships that provide an enabling environment to enhance scaling up and out of fodder innovations.
In addition, outcomes and lessons are drawn together around three major strands: Innovation, Scaling Out and Market Development
The assimilation of innovation systems thinking into project activities was an emerging theme of the project and played out in different ways in the three project countries. In Ethiopia, the project pro-actively established and facilitated local innovation platforms at study sites and used these as the central mechanism for bringing about change in farming practice. Innovation platforms were combined with introduction of planted fodder early in the project. This combination of technology introduction and a focus on enhancing stakeholder networking was a hallmark of activities in Ethiopia. The result was modest adoption of forage technologies at farm level accompanied by significant change in stakeholder attitudes and behaviour which we anticipate will lead to more substantial long-term change at farm level.
In Syria the approach was similar although perhaps with greater emphasis on introducing new technologies to farmers. In Syria there was a more challenging external environment with a strong extension service, heavy government intervention in pricing of agricultural commodities and few NGO or private sector actors. This scarcity of non-government actors limited the diversity actors involved in innovation platforms. Within these constraints we noted strong farmer adoption of technologies introduced by the project and a greater connectedness of key actors including the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform and the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.
In Vietnam we saw widespread system change in farming practice from subsistence based cattle system to a market-oriented system in which breeding and feeding practices were substantially changed with strong benefits for farmer livelihoods. This change was facilitated by the Fodder Adoption Project and, in the case of the more advanced learning site Ea Kar, predecessor projects led by CIAT. In Vietnam a coalition of local key stakeholders was formed at each learning site and these took responsibility for driving and facilitating cattle development. While national project partners were initially instrumental in facilitating local coalitions, this responsibility quickly evolved to local partners, the district extension of agriculture offices. Also, the composition of local coalitions changed as the project progressed. These stakeholder changes were described in detail in a paper by Khanh et al (2009). “Actor-oriented” approaches were a strong element of project activities.
As in Ethiopia, there was an early emphasis on introduction of promising forage technologies using participatory approaches. “Village learning activities” were used to great effect to develop farmer capacity to experiment with new feeding and breeding practices. Following early pockets of success in introducing new technologies there was strong emphasis on working with local government extension workers to bring about sustained change, link farmers with markets and upscale adoption. As the project progressed the range of actors reached by the project widened; actors from across the value chain became involved, notably traders and buyers of cattle from distant markets. The link between promising technologies and linking farmers to markets through facilitation of stakeholder linkages was a key element of success in Vietnam and in many ways, the example of Vietnam provided the project with a flagship model for livestock development, elements of which were tried in the other countries.
In summary, across all three project countries our approach was to combine the introduction of promising technologies with a pro-active emphasis on bringing key actors together at important points in the development process. In Ethiopia and Syria this was done through innovation platforms while in Vietnam the same end was achieved through facilitation of ad hoc interactions among important stakeholders. In Vietnam a tipping point was reached and we saw widespread system change following continuous engagement by CIAT and local partners in project sites for a number of years. In Ethiopia and Syria the tipping point has yet to be reached but we see promising signs of change in actor behaviour which will need to be followed to assess whether they are sustained and lead to widespread change in farmer practice.
Scaling out activities were somewhat different in the three project countries partly because project activities were at a different point in the development trajectory in each country.
The most advanced scaling out activities were in Vietnam where a strong strategy for scaling out early successes was developed. The general approach was to focus at village level to begin with through introduction of new practices through Village Learning Activities. Some of this had happened before FAP began. Having established early pockets of success local extension workers were brought on board through site visits and interactions with farmers. The project then provided technical support for scaling out of successful technologies but the scaling out was led by the local extension department. Such scaling out approaches were still relatively local involving the local district extension workers. An important activity of FAP was to extend project activities to a completely new site, Ha Tinh. This was achieved through exchange visits early in the project. A key element success was allowing government officials to hear first hand from their counterparts in the advanced learning site about how things had progressed in their site. This led to rapid adoption of new feeding practices in the new learning site over project life.
In Ethiopia, scaling out of technologies did not progress beyond district level (woreda) during the lifetime of FAP. However, the project did have some impact in terms of scaling out of innovation systems approaches to actors beyond project sites. This was achieved through regular meetings of a national Ethiopian Fodder Roundtable at which innovation approaches were presented. At district level we found considerable enthusiasm for scaling out of planted fodder by local extension offices. The scaling out was achieved through conventional government mechanisms rather than through spontaneous adoption and it remains to be seen how sustainable such efforts are and whether they continue beyond the project lifetime. One issue we encountered was the question of what was being scaled out: technologies or innovation approaches. We tended to find that government extension officers were keener on the former and it is too early to say whether we see sustained use of innovation approaches in study districts and beyond.
In Syria, again we saw scaling out of successful technologies at district level but as in Ethiopia it is as yet unclear whether the use of local stakeholder platforms has been taken on by local stakeholders and will persist beyond project life.
Market development activities varied by country partly because of the different stages of maturity of project efforts in the three locations.
In Ethiopia, the project started by introducing planted forages at district level. Early successes were used to build stakeholder engagement. Towards the end of the project we saw local stakeholders turning attention to marketing issues in at least one of our sites. Thus in Ada’a, by the end of the project local stakeholders were negotiating arrangements for procurement of milk rather than focusing on fodder production issues. In all three countries a similar pattern was observed: using fodder as an entry point but maintaining a strong focus on stakeholder processes led naturally to dealing with bottlenecks further along the value chain.
In Vietnam, this process had reached maturity so that much of the project effort was focused on developing market arrangements with traders, re-orienting production to meet market demands, dealing with credit provision and so on.
In Syria, there was limited work on market development perhaps because livestock production systems are already relatively mature and market linkages for farmers are already well established.