Project Title: Analysis, Management and Decision Support for Farmers’ Feeding Strategies: Talking Pictures.

Description: Low frequency and lack of flexibility in agricultural knowledge and information flows in developing nations often prevent farmers from adapting effectively to short-term changes in resource availability and production circumstances. Particularly in smallholder dairy systems, the absence of such links makes it difficult to imagine how extension services can promote improved feed management amongst their client-farmers in a way that is flexible enough to meet individual needs and that accounts for the dynamics of feed resource availability. This project developed a simple, pictorial system for disseminating extension information called Talking Pictures – Dairy (TP-D). This system is based on the DRASTIC software, developed by an earlier DfID-funded project and is unique in being able to support dynamic decision making for a wide range of situations, thereby compensating for the lack of contact between farmers and extension staff. The participatory development and evaluation of TP-D in Tanzania, Kenya and India clearly demonstrated the predictive accuracy of the methodology. It also established that farmers use TP-D as a tool in a true sense, applying it to their own problems in a number of ingenious ways. TP-D thus represents a real innovation in effectively enhancing farmers’ personal, dynamic and science-based decision-making capacity that has not been offered by previous static extension materials. Farmers using TP-D increased milk off-take compared to their controls, augmenting milk-derived income often by as much as 25 per cent. The tool is also widely acceptable and follow-up information has suggested that more than 90 per cent of the group of farmers, originally exposed to TP-D in Tanzania, were still using the methodology after a two year period. More importantly, this study also confirmed that TP-D’s use has been actively spreading amongst farmers. The ease with which TP-D guides, based on a format originally developed in Tanzania, have been produced for another country (Kenya) and another sub-continent (India) and, the ease with which smallholder farmers in these areas effectively use the guides to address their most significant dairy feeding problems, has clearly demonstrated that TP-D is indeed a generic tool. The initial success of TP-D has now been capitalised upon in a subsequent project aimed at the pilot-level up-scaling of its use in India.

Partners: Tanga Dairy Development Project, International Livestock Research Institute, ANTHRA, India.

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Completed, March 2003.

Project Title: Development of a Practical Dairy Feed Rationing System Appropriate for Use in Developing Countries.

Description: Approaches to optimising diet formulation based on techniques such as linear programming (LP) have proved to be very effective in situations where one objective (generally profit maximization) is regarded as being overarching. However, they are of little use to many livestock owners in developing countries who keep their animals for multiple uses. Moreover, LP applications cannot identify near-feasible solutions that in many instances may be adequate for the user and more cost-effective. Although these drawbacks have been addressed by using a number of different mathematical programming approaches, each with its own merits, no single approach has been extensively adopted. A further difficulty lies in the fact that computer-based applications of mathematical programming techniques require an availability of data and a degree of sophistication on the part of the user that are unlikely to qualify them for field use in developing countries. This project aimed to address the need to deliver science-based information on ration formulation to dairy producers in developing countries in a format that is both user-friendly and effective. This led to the development of DRASTIC (A Dairy Rationing System for the Tropics), which is a genuinely usable, decision support tool for planning dairy feeding under tropical conditions. DRASTIC has a user-friendly design, it requires no expert knowledge of nutrition and the nutritional variables in the underlying model are assessed from simple indicators of feed quality, allowing the system to cope with variable feed compositions in the absence of quantitative data. Use of DRASTIC in an interactive mode with farmers in the field has shown that it can be very effective in predicting outcomes and designing modified feeding strategies for more cost-effective production or increased yield.

Partners: Federación Departamental de Productores Lecheros, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Tanga Dairy Development Project, Tanzania.

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Completed, March 1999.

Project Title: Development of an Information Toolbox for Small-scale Dairy Producers in Developing Countries.

Description: No description available.

Partners: International Livestock Research Institute. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Ongoing.

Project Title: Development of Feeding Strategies to Improve Reproductive Performance and Yields of Cows in High Potential, Mixed Farming Systems.

Description: No description available.

Partners: Natural Resources Institute. University of Reading. Tanga Livestock Research Centre, Tanzania.

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Completed, March 2000.

Project Title: Development of Seasonal Nutrition and Resource Management Strategies for Smallholder Dairy Systems

Description: Seasonal fluctuations in feed supplies are a continuing problem for smallholder farmers in many areas of the developing world. Although purchased feeds from off-farm sources may be used in times of shortage to redress this imbalance, these inputs are only available to those farmers with a significant disposable income. It might be expected that the poorest farmers, who rely to a greater extent on feedstuffs available on-farm or gathered from communal areas, are often those most susceptible to seasonal constraints. In order to develop technical interventions appropriate for poor farmers, which are likely to have impact at the farm level, it is important to understand the influence of seasonal effects on the complex interactions between supply and demand of feed resources. Currently, research planning often relies on static diagnosis techniques carried out at the start of a project. Although PRA methodology can access some seasonal information, the level of detail and accuracy that can be achieved is not clear. For example, PRAs carried out at different times of year may produce unreliable results where farmers problems are seasonally dependent. In some areas it may be necessary to augment the qualitative data, with quantitative information describing the farming system and changes in available resources across the year. Longitudinal monitoring techniques have potential to more adequately describe seasonal changes in feed resources and use. However, they can be cumbersome due to the problems of data handling. Furthermore, it is not always clear where such detailed data is required and where qualitative information can suffice.This project examined ways in which longitudinal data can be used to pre-test proposed interventions and to prepare extension material which will facilitate discussions with farmers leading to on-farm adaptive research or uptake of existing technologies.

Partners: Natural Resources Institute. International Livestock Research Institute.

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Completed, March 2002.

Project Title: Extrapolate. Development of an Ex ante Tool for Ranking Policy Alternatives

Description: EXTRAPOLATE arose out of the need for a decision support tool to assess the impact of different policy measures. By disaggregating the effects of policy interventions the tool facilitates discussion of the relevant issues and enables users to visualize the predicted impacts of policy interventions, based on a simple numerical analysis.. The idea is for the tool to serve as a filter that allows the user to sift through, in an ex-ante fashion, a range of policy measures to identify those that could be applied in a specific situation to achieve particular outcomes that further policy objectives of decision makers in general. This would be the first step in assessing potential impact before looking at things in more detail. This filtering is done in relation to the broad characteristics of the population, resources, agro-ecology, etc.

Partners: Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Livestock Research InstituteI, Uganda Dairy Development Board

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Ongoing.

Project Title: Integrating Indigenous and Biological Knowledge to Implement Improved Dry Season Feeding Strategies on Farms in the Hills of Nepal

Description: The project’s specific objective was to improve the year-round stability of fodder supplies and thus food security of resource-poor farm families. The project achieved this by implementing and promoting earlier research results that combined the use of farmers’ knowledge of tree fodder quality with biological indicators of nutritive value. The project alsol developed tools (FORMAT) that will contribute to improving the effectiveness of extension services in supporting the management of dry season feeding strategies in the hills of Nepal, where almost 70% of farm households are in food deficit for at least part of the year.

Partners: University of Wales. LIBIRD and Pakhribas Agricultural Centre (Nepal).

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Completed, December 2004.

Project Title: Lao PDR – Participatory Livestock Development Project

Description: Stirling Thorne Associates provided specialist inputs in pig managment to this ADB PPTA team. Specifically, the team was responsible for analysing technical, institutional, and regulatory issues of livestock development in Lao PDR with a view to formulating an investment package that would: (i) reduce mortality and improve productivity of livestock production in the country (ii) expand and improve marketing opportunities for livestock of smallholders (iii) promote the development of private service providers in essential areas of livestock production and marketing system. A number of key constraints to improved productivity of pig production systems was identified during the study. These included serious constraints related to animal health that will need to be addressed before farmers are likely to risk investing in interventions aimed at the improvement of pig management practices. Constraints related to feeding and nutrition appeared to be most limiting to the achievement of economically acceptable levels of production from the small-holder pig production systems. Achieving reasonable levels of dietary protein would seem to be particularly difficult using the range of feeds currently available in villages. However, some promising interventions related to the provision of feeds of higher protein and mineral / vitamin contents do exist and could be promoted by the Project. Another key constraint is the lack of information about effective management practices, in particular feeding and breeding practices. Considerable benefits could be realised by improving the delivery of information. In particular, promoting the use of more dynamic tools for planning activities – such as feeding strategies that are not effectively addressed by existing static extension materials – is likely to be highly beneficial.

Partners: Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, International Livestock Research Institute

Funded by: Asian Development Bank.

Status: Completed, December 2004.

Project Title: Optimising Knowledge and Information Transfer: Disseminating Innovation in the Feeding of Dairy Cattle in India as a Poverty Reduction Entry Point.

Description: This project has undertaken a systematic evaluation of improved approaches to knowledge transfer for farmers engaging in small-scale dairy production as a developmental route out of poverty. Effective uptake and impacts of improved dairy management have been patchy for this type of farmer. Some individuals manage profitable units with average milk yields in excess of 15 litres / day but a substantial majority, with the same cross-bred stock, struggle to maintain lactations at all. As a result, the need for better information systems that allow farmers to practise flexible and responsive management strategies, particularly in respect of feed planning and management, has been widely identified. There now exists a considerable body of information on technical and managerial interventions that will support the successful adoption of small-scale dairy production. In addition a number of novel tools (both computer and paper-based, static and dynamic) for facilitating the transfer of these findings are now available. The project has been integrating these tools and media into a flexible, user-friendly system for the dissemination of improved approaches to the management of small-scale dairy production. The development of a tiered approach to information delivery is a key, novel feature of the project. Only recently have dynamic planning tools become available that can be applied close to the farm (DRASTIC) or even by farmers themselves (Talking Pictures – Dairy). During the project these tools will be applied to the real problems of disadvantaged livestock keepers in India. In addition to the development of methods for applying the tools and testing these, due consideration has been given to wider distribution amongst target organizations and institutions in South Asia and beyond.

Partners: BAIF Development Research Foundation, ANTHRA, Valsad District Dairy Cooperative Union

Funded by: Department for International Development.

Status: Ongoing.

Project Title: PET Cereals

Description: No description available

Partners: Centre for Arid Zone Studies

Funded by: World Food Programme.

Status: Ongoing.

Project Title: Review of Opportunities for Developing Integrated Models of Crop-livestock Interactions.

Description: This desk study was commissioned to include a critical review of existing livestock management-oriented computer models and their suitability for linking to existing crop models for a more integrated view of the operation of crop-livestock systems. During the course of the study, a set of general recommendations were formulated on how the integration of such models for system characterisation, impact assessment and intervention targeting might be achieved in practise. The review concluded that there would be considerable scope for adopting this approach although no single combination of models could be identified. Three main areas were identified where integrated models might prove useful (i) impact assessment of new technologies in dairy production and marketing. (ii) impact of livestock on the sustainability and improvement of crop livestock systems (including the impacts of manure management strategies, draught animal use and crop residue utilisation). (iii) impacts of changes in feed resource use, particularly in determining approaches for matching supply an demand. Attention was drawn to the need for proper and realistic assessments of data availability and an appropriate strategy for model validation.

Partners: International Livestock Research Institute.

Funded by: ILRI Core.

Status: Completed, September 1998.