Fodder scarcity is a serious problem for the small-scale farmers of dairy-focused counties in Western Kenya, disturbing feed plans and bringing economic pressure. In these areas, fodder crops compete with cash crops, making it especially difficult for farmers increase the productivity of their animals.
Sadly, farmers have few choices in dealing with fodder scarcity. Grazing on road sides also don’t fulfil animals’ nutrition requirements, and conventional feed stuffs often include rejected grains from being sold due to mycotoxin contamination. Milk processing companies are also concerned on the presence of aflatoxins in milk collected from thousands of fragmented dairy farms.
Although these small-scale farmers have been growing maize and other fodder crops like Napier grass for many years, they have limited knowledge and few skills in fodder preservation techniques. As a result, they face a drastic decrease in milk production during the dry spell.
The inability to reliably feed their animals also signals problems for how these small-scale farmers feed their families. As productivity drops, so too, does income. Not surprisingly, the dry spell brings with it fear and uncertainty. In training these farmers in silage-making techniques, part of our objective was to ensure that they never need fear the dry season again.
Maridadi Maandalio, a self-help group in Trans Nazoia county, faces challenge of fodder shortage every year. This group has grown from only seven members, when it first registered with the Ministry of Gender, Youth & Social Services in 2013, to more than 50 active members. It is predominantly made up of small-scale farmers with dairy, poultry, maize and horticulture production as their income.
During training sessions, Maridadi Maandalio members were taught a complete seed to feed package. This included helpful tips for growing and managing fodder crops, especially maize, recommendations on ideal harvest stage, and ensiling practices and considerations when feeding silage. Every participant calculated the yearly fodder requirements for their animals during an interactive exercise. Many of them also expressed interest in earning extra income by making and selling silage to neighboring farmers.
“We know the name of silage, but we don’t know how to make it,” said the group chairman in a speech following the training. “This comprehensive training gave us an in-depth understanding of silage making.
“Corteva brought a new innovation for us. Now we don’t have any fear of dry season.”
I am sure this training will not only improve productivity of animals but will also provide farmers extra source of income selling surplus silage.