Through the promotion of an integrated package of proven technologies, the ‘Red Meat Value Chain’ initiative has enhanced the supply of locally-adapted feed and forage. In order to reduce the feed gap, two major options were initiated: promoting forage production in cereal-livestock production systems, and valorizing agro-industrial by-products in agro-pastoral areas.
The technologies promoted by the initiative have been thoroughly investigated and evaluated at scale by ICARDA through several projects. They include:
Semi-industrial feed block (FB) machinery: Four semi-automatic modern feed block machines have been made by a local manufacturer and are ready for distribution to selected entrepreneurs. Sound sustainable businesses have been developed around this technology: a survey has been conducted on the seasonal availability of regional by-products; low-cost quality feed block formulas have been developed; and selected entrepreneurs have received training on business plan development.
‘Cactus choppers’: Some 29 locally-manufactured cactus choppers were distributed to local farmers and farmer associations, and an additional one was sent to Tunisia’s National Agricultural Research and Extension Services (NARES) for demonstration purposes. The choppers are powered by hand and more efficiently cut cactus cladodes for ruminant consumption. Additionally, the machines are of relatively low cost (USD 326) and can be shared among small farmer households. The result: Maximizing feed resources for small ruminants, cutting down labor time and injuries, and promoting the usage of a readily available and climate-resistant crop.
Cactus is one of the best candidates to mitigate the effects of drought and sustain livestock production during these periods – offering high palatability, digestibility and reducing pressures on limited water resources.
Upgraded forage and pasture seed processing unit: The initiative assembled, tested and demonstrated a new seed treatment unit. In addition, a training workshop on the practical operation, adjustment and maintenance of a seed processing plant was provided by ICARDA covering critical issues such as: forage and pasture production systems, classification, choice of species, and the management of effective seed production and delivery options.
A forage and pasture seeds strategy and plan of action was also developed and submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture. This was informed by a national forage and pasture seed workshop which brought together representatives from government agencies, farmer organizations, the seed industry, agricultural research institutions and higher education.