Farmers at Kirehe and Nyamagabe districts have begun to realise some positive impacts of improved forages such as enhanced forage availability, persistence to drought and increase in milk production. For example, cows fed on Brachiaria brizantha cv. Piata have produced up to 33% more milk than cows fed on Napier grass.
This has also substantially reduced the time that farmers spend in searching for natural forages. The introduction of improved forages by InnovAfrica to Kirehe and Nyamagabe districts has prompted more farmers to adopt improved forages for increasing milk production. Currently, at least 253 dairy farmers from the Southern and Eastern Provinces of Rwanda have planted Brachiaria grass.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, phone call and data collection forms were used for collecting milk production data. Farmers completed forms and shared with RAB Officials using WhatsApp. Farmers who planted Brachiaria grass in their farms reported a marked increase in milk production up to 32% at Nyamagabe district. A similar trend was observed at Kirehe district.
Brachiaria grass cultivars and other improved forages including Rhodes grass and Desmodium established on-farm have shown increased milk yield. Besides high nutritive value of Brachiaria grass, its drought resilience characteristics and suitability for frequent harvesting contribute to a year-round supply of livestock feed.
Furthermore, because of the adoption of integrated farm planning (PIP) approach, majority of farmers have increased milk yield by planting improved forages simultaneously increasing their agricultural production through the use of best agronomic practices. The PIP approach was found to be an extension approach that could sustain the innovations that are being promoted for enhancing agricultural productivity in Rwanda.