Coping with climate change through fodder production to support small stock production

Gwanda district falls under natural ecological region V, in which average annual rainfall received each season is usually far below 650mm and too erratic for viable rain fed crop production. Livestock production, particularly goats and cattle under range grazing has increasingly become an important source of livelihood among rural households in these marginal rainfall areas. However, recurrent droughts, incessant rain, flash floods, veld fires and climate change pose countless challenges for livestock production among smallholder farmers. The challenge of climate change calls for action to assist vulnerable communities to cope and adapt to the changes. The ERVHIZ project, funded by the EU, managed by FAO and UNICEF, and implemented by SAT and other partners is doing just that by training farmers on climate resilient approaches to attain household food and nutrition security as well as profitability.

Mpumelelo goat production group, in Gohole village of Manama, ward 17 of Gwanda South is composed of twenty-seven farmers (63% female). Within the group there are also two youths and one disabled farmer. The group was established in 2018 to curb poverty amongst the farmers through sharing ideas on how they could supplement their animals’ feed during periods when the vegetation deteriorates. They each contributed a goat and started with 27 goats. The increase in production was initially hindered by high kid mortality mainly due to the lack of nutritious feed and poor housing. At the same time, the market value of their goats was low – US$25 to US$30 per goat.

pumelelo group with part of their flockIn December 2021 the group began to get support from the ERVHIZ project to build their capacity on fodder production, processing, storage, and utilization through use of agroecological interventions around plant nutrient enhancement techniques like thermal composts, Johnson’s Su bio-digesters, vermi-composting, biochar fertilizers, bokashi fertilizers and liquid organic fertilizers. The members also received input packs of lab lab seed, velvet beans seed and forage sorghum seed from the ERVHIZ project. They were trained through their local community-based facilitator and lead farmer with support from their local agricultural extension officer on crop establishment and management and they managed to plant at least 0.2 hectares each. At harvesting they were trained on fodder harvesting, storage, processing, and utilization. The farmers were also trained in business skills to enhance livestock marketing and sales amongst farmers.

Mpumelelo group’s improved shelterDue to the support, the group has harvested and stored 1.5 tons of baled fodder which they are using to feed their goats. They also formulate other feeds using information they received during training. The group has now built an improved goat shelter and established a farmer field school around their enterprise. Currently, they have 73 healthy goats of mixed Boer and Matabele breeds and have recently sold six bucks for USD40 each. “This coming season we hope to buy our own fodder seed and plant on a larger area as we realized that home-grown fodder is very effective and more profitable than commercial feed. We will also use the stover from our small grains in feed formulation,” said Albert Maphosa, the chairperson of the group.

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