By Esther Bloem
On 7 June 2017, participants of the Innovations in Technology, Institutional and Extension Approaches towards Sustainable Agriculture and Enhanced Food and Nutritional Security in Africa (InnovAfrica) project kick-off meeting visited one of its project sites in Kangundo, Machakos County, eastern Kenya.
During the field trip, the participants who represented all 16 InnovAfrica partner institutions witnessed the positive impact of the Brachiaria fodder-livestock value chains on the income and livelihoods of farmers. The production and use of climate-smart Brachiaria fodder-livestock is among the innovative technologies that will be up-scaled through the InnovAfrica project in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. The technology was developed in Kenya jointly by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
The farm visits organized by KALRO and the regional agricultural extension service demonstrated the key role of partnerships in improving the market value chains for the benefit of smallholders. The re-introduction of the climate smart grass, which is native to Africa and has significantly increased cattle milk and meat yields in South America and Australia, has been a boon to the dairy farmers in the region. Among the farmers visited was Ruth Katungwa who explained the economic and social benefits of Brachiaria grass to her and her family.
‘I plan to purchase livestock with the money I get from selling this grass to other livestock farmers,’ said Katungwa.
Lessons learnt from the experience of such farmers will help InnovAfrica disseminate this and other agricultural technologies to reduce the food insecurity burden in Africa’s six project countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa.