The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) is a landlocked country in the horn of Africa, bounded to the north by Eritrea, to the west by Sudan, to the south by Kenya and to the east by Somalia and Djibouti; it lies within the tropics between 3°24` and 14°53` North; and 32°42` and 48°12` East (see figure 1). It covers 1,120,000 square kilometres in nine regional states, one City Council and one City Administration. Smallholder peasants farm eight percent (about 10,000,000 ha) of the national land area and about 3,100,000 hectares are fallow. The total area of grazing and browse is estimated to be 61,000,000 –65,000,000 hectares, of which 12 percent is in mixed farming and the rest in pastoral areas (Alemayehu, 1998a; MoA, 2000). The population was estimated at about 63,000,000, making it the third most populous country in Africa, after Egypt and Nigeria, but according to the World Factbook the July 2006 estimate was 74,777,981 with a growth rate of 2.31%. The male-female ratio is almost one to one. 85.3 percent of the population lives in rural areas and the rest is urban (CSA, 1999).
Figure 1. Location map of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is culturally and biologically diverse, among the four most diverse countries in Africa for endemic vertebrates; fifteen percent of the estimated 7,000 vascular plants are thought to be endemic. Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds; in fact among the top 25 countries in the world in endemic linguistic diversity. It is has more than 80 ethnic groups, each with its own language, and about 200 dialects, culture and traditions. The four main language groups are: Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic, and Nilo-Saharan. One of the most significant areas of Ethiopian culture is its literature which is represented predominantly by translations from ancient Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge'ez, modern Amharic and Tigrigna. Ge'ez, one of the most ancient languages in the world, is still used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has its own unique customs and traditions and which have been influenced by Judaism.
The agricultural sector plays a central role in the economic and social life of the nation and is a cornerstone of the economy. About 80-85 percent of the people are employed in agriculture, especially farming. The sector contributes about 40 percent of total GDP; livestock and their products account for about 20 percent of agricultural GDP. Smallholders, the backbone of the sector, cultivate 95 per cent of the cropped area and produce 90-95 percent of cereals, pulses and oilseeds. Subsistence agriculture is almost entirely rainfed and yields are generally low.
Within agriculture, some 60 percent of the output is from crops, with livestock and forestry producing 30 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Crop production by area is predominantly cereals (84.55 percent) followed by pulses (11.13 percent) and others (4.32 percent). Five crops account for almost all cereal production: maize (15.75 percent), teff (Eragrostis tef) (25.78 percent), barley (12.29 percent), sorghum (12.39 percent) and wheat (10.76 percent) [CSA, 1995-1999]. However crops such as pulses e.g. Chick pea, Beans, Peas; oil crops e.g. sunflower, safflower, rape, neug (Guizotia abyssinica), groundnut; and root and plantation crops e.g. potato, sweet potato, yam, cassava, `enset` (Ensete ventricosum), and sugar-cane have great food and industrial value.
Subsistence crop production is traditional and rainfed, with very limited areas of irrigation. Of around 166,000 hectares under irrigation some 64,000 hectares is small-scale; while the irrigation potential of the country is estimated at around 3,000,000 hectares, (EPA, 1997). Small-scale traditional irrigation has been practiced for decades in the highlands, where small streams are diverted seasonally for limited dry season cropping. Medium and large-scale schemes are of more recent origin, particularly in the Rift Valley.
Ethiopia’s livestock population (2002) is the largest in Africa, with 30,000,000 cattle; 24,000,000 sheep; 18,000,000 goats; 7,000,000 equines; 1,000,000 camels and 53,000,000 poultry. About 70 percent of the cattle and sheep and 30 percent of the goats are in the highlands above 1,500 metres. All camels are in the lowlands (Alemayehu, 1998a). [FAO Statistical databases (Table 1) show somewhat different numbers for 2002 (and subsequent years): cattle 40.6M; sheep 14.3M; goats 9.6M; equines 5.7M; camels 0.48M; poultry 40.9M and these differences need to be checked].
Table 1. Ethiopia statistics for livestock numbers, meat and milk production and livestock exports and milk imports for the period 1995-2005
Source:FAOSTAT, 2006; n.r.=no record
Production from cattle has been estimated to be 620,000 tons of meat; 244,000 tons of milk; 24,000,000 tons of manure; and 2,400,000 hides annually [FAO Statistical databases show somewhat different numbers for 2002 and these need checking]. Per capita consumption of milk is estimated at 19 litres per year, while meat consumption is about 13.9 kilos a year of which beef and veal contribute 64 percent; and sheep, goats, chicken and camels provide the remainder. Skin and hides are known contributors to local industries and 12-16 percent of the total export market (MoA, 1997; Alemayehu, 1998a).
Official exports averaged 500,000 sheep and goats [FAO statistical databases show much lower totals and these need checking]; mainly to the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. There are unrecorded cross-border exports to Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. Domestic demand has outstripped supply, resulting in local prices for cattle which are higher than world prices, constituting a major bottleneck to exports.
The current land tenure system, as per the national rural land proclamation No. 89/1994, assures some security through users’ rights. Land has been a common property of nations and nationalities and shall not be subjected to sale or to other means of transfer. The users’ right helped small farmers to own cultivated and grazing lands. Pastoralists have communal ownership rights to grazing lands. Periodic redistribution of land among farmers has been a strong disincentive to carry out improvement and/or erosion control measures.
Land holdings are small and often fragmented into many parcels. Farms of less than a hectare comprise more than 26 percent of agricultural land; almost 60 percent is in holdings of less than two hectares and the rest in holdings between 2-2.5 hectares. Ethiopia’s population, currently about 63,000,000, is the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and is growing fast. High livestock numbers and human population exert pressure on land and force farmers to open new cropland at the expense of grazing and forest. Trade in farm products is almost entirely private with minimum involvement of the public sector. There are no legal restrictions and controls on markets, but local authorities have some regulations and charge fees.
Ethiopia with its extremely variable agro-climatic conditions has several major ecological systems that support large and very diverse genetic resources. Despite this huge resource, Ethiopia’s latest estimate of real GDP per capita is Birr 1010.08 (US $ 118.00 at the exchange rate of June 2003). It is estimated that 60 percent of the population live below the line of absolute poverty. Average life expectancy is 49 years.
The poor performance of agriculture is reflected in the national annual food deficit. The sector has been beset by natural disasters, in particular periodic severe droughts, so the substantial natural potential of the highlands, their fertile soil and good rainfall and irrigation have not been realized. Lack of modern inputs for the subsistence sector, especially fertilizer; inadequate availability of credit, poor credit recovery and widespread disorder and civil war are the main constraints. These situations have drawn resources from productive use in the agricultural sector.
The major problems have their roots in poor sectorial policies including controls over input and output prices and insecurity of land tenure. In the lowlands the low rainfall produces inadequate, poor quality pastures; pastoralists mostly keep cattle for prestige so low livestock production is further aggravated by low off-take. Recently, government structural adjustments and trade liberalization policies are being considered; and these could include guidelines for changes in pricing and marketing of several farm products, including livestock. The intention to give incentives to farmers to target their crop/livestock production to market demands and to practice natural resource conservation could sustain the farming sector.
The lowlands, the major grazing land of Ethiopia, form a wide apron surrounding the highland massif and part of the Great Rift Valley. This arid, hot zone, with up to 90 growing days per year, is suited mainly to extensive grazing. It includes the lowest elevation in the country at 126 metres below sea level. The lowlands make up nearly 61 - 65 percent of the land-mass, and are the major nomadic pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas. The topographic diversity of the country has resulted in the formation of a multitude of agro-ecological zones and sub zones with varied farming systems (see section 3).
2. Main soils and agro-ecological zones
There is limited information on the fertility status of the various soils. Research showed that Potassium; Nitrogen; Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and organic matter contents of most Ethiopian highland soils are generally high by international standards (EARO, 1998), whereas their phosphorous content is low to very low. Compared to the African standard most soils in the highlands of Ethiopia are fertile (FAO, 1984c). Contrary to most other African soils, the majority of Ethiopian highlands soils remain relatively fertile at depth. However, most highland soils are deficient in important nutrients and require fertilizer to sustain crop yields. Research has indicated that Ethiopian soils are generally low in available nitrogen and phosphorous and cannot produce high crop yields unless these are supplied.
Temperature and rainfall are the most important climatic factors for agricultural production in Ethiopia. Altitude is a factor that determines the distribution of climatic factors and land suitability; this influences the crops to be grown, rate of crop growth, natural vegetation types and their species diversity. Taking the two extreme altitudes, temperatures range from the mean annual of 34.5° C in the Danakil Depression, while minimum temperatures fall below zero in the upper reaches of Mt Ras Degen (4,620 metres) with a mean of less than 0° C, where light snowfalls are recorded in most years. Between these extremes are vast areas of plateaux and marginal slopes where mean annual temperatures are between 10° and 20° C.
According to FAO (1984 a) rainfall in Ethiopia is generally correlated with altitude. Middle and higher altitudes (above 1,500 metres) receive substantially greater falls than do the lowlands, except the lowlands in the west where rainfall is high. Generally average annual rainfall of areas above 1,500 metres exceeds 900 mm. In the lowlands (below 1,500 metres) rainfall is erratic and averages below 600 mm. There is strong inter-annual variability of rainfall all over the country. Despite variable rainfall which makes agricultural planning difficult, a substantial proportion of the country gets enough rain for rainfed crop production (FAO, 1984b). Distribution of rainfall is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Long term average annual rainfall (mm.)
In the north of the country the rainfall pattern is mainly bimodal, with the shorter of the seasons around March/April; the second rainy season often begins around June/July. In some areas the two seasons combine into a unimodal pattern; this is commoner in the west and some northern parts of the country where rainfall is generally higher. Between these extremes, in the central highlands, there is a tendency for the two seasons to merge. The lowlands of the east and southeast contrast with the rest of the country by having a bimodal rainfall distribution; and have marginal rainfall for crop production (MoA, 2000; FAO, 1984b).
Temperature and rainfall, in combination with topography and soils determine moisture availability which determines vegetation and agricultural productivity. Based on moisture regimes FAO (FAO 1984a) classified 50 percent of the country as having sufficient moisture for annual crops and another 16 percent is thought to be reliable for perennial crops.
4. Vegetation map of Ethiopia
According to Zirihun Woldu (1999), Ethiopia was once heavily treed with about 34 percent of its area and 57 percent of the land above 1,500 metres covered by dense forests and a further 20 percent by wooded savannah. Massive deforestation has reduced these figures to 3.6 percent of the total area and 9 percent of the land above 1,500 metres. Widespread deforestation started, particularly in the highlands, at the end of the nineteenth century with the expansion of agriculture. The current deforestation rate is estimated to be 200,000 ha/year with most of the surviving forest in remnant patches in inaccessible and remote areas.
The main Ethiopian plateau is characterized by broad rolling uplands, immense cultivation with good soil. In June–September the landscape is green. In December it is yellow-tan with ripe grain and stubble. In March it is grey – black ploughed fields of traditional subsistence farms.
The grazing lands of Ethiopia are in the arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones which cover around 61 - 65 percent of the land mass and have a number of agro-ecological sub-zones with diverse types of crop and animal production. The arid zone altitude range is from 126 metres below sea level to 1,200 metres; mean annual rainfall is from 100 to 600 mm and the Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) is estimated at 1,700 – 3,000 mm. The mean temperature is above 27 0C. Since rainfall is erratic crops are irrigated.
The arid zone plains are bushed grassland, except some patches of woodland. The Rift Valley and escarpments are covered by wooded grassland. Crop production is only along rivers (irrigated state farms). Cotton, maize and sorghum are the dominant annual crops, among the perennials are citrus, banana, and mango. Stock rearing (goat, sheep, camel and cattle) is the major land use. Dominant trees and shrubs include: Prosopis juliflora, Tamarix aphylla, Calotropis procera, Parkinsonia aculeata, Balanites aegypitiaca, Dodonaea angustifolia, Rumex nervosus, Acacia spp., Combretum molle, Azadirachta indica, Salix subserrata, Carissa edulis, Tamarindus indica, and Euclea schimepri. Among wildlife wild-ass, zebra, duiker, lion, leopard and ostrich are known to exist. Nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralism is the common livestock production system in the arid zones.
The semiarid zone (400 – 2,200 metres) has mean annual rainfall of 300 – 800 mm; PET ranges between 1,900 to 2,100 mm, and a growing period of 46 – 60 days. Hilly areas and stony terrain are under wooded grassland or bush grassland; flat land is under rainfed crops (often mechanized). Extensive grazing is the major land use and cattle, goats, sheep, and donkey are the major stock. Trees include: Boswellia papyrifera, Acacia seyal, Acacia senegal, Acacia nilotica, Ziziphus spp., Diospyros mespiliformis, and Balanites aegyptiaca. Common wildlife are: reticulated giraffe; Grant’s gazelle; oryx; Burchell’s zebra; waterbuck; elephant; lion; duiker; greater kudu, lesser kudu and buffalo.
The Ethiopian rift system is in the arid-semi-arid zone; the main Rift Valley is a zone of intensive agricultural activity; increasing and progressive settlement has replaced grazing lands with small to medium farms, some of which are mechanized. Originally the vegetation in the rift floor and escarpments was wooded grassland with Balanites, Combretum and various species of Acacia. Broad-leaved woodland dominated by Combretum, Olea spp., Celtis, Dodonaea viscosa and Euclea, occupy the mid altitudes of the escarpments. Lake margins and swamps of the rift valley are covered by swampy genera of Typha, Phragmites, Cyperus, with Suaeda monoica on alkaline soils.
It is common to associate the traditional zones with elevation and temperature and try to recognize agroclimatic and vegetation zones. Authors have recognized different agroclimatic zones and associated them with the traditional system. Many researchers have classified the vegetation and ecological zones (Zerihun, 1999; MoA, 2000). General characteristic of the different zones are presented in Table 4.
to MoA (2000) many of the classifications and characterizations are not
comprehensive and are discipline oriented. The current AEZ classification
(MoA, 2000) is based on the basic ecological elements of climate, physiography,
soils, vegetation, farming systems, etc. The intention of better characterization
is to suit the country’s diverse but unique natural and cultural
diversity. Current AEZs are based on temperature and moisture regimes.
Eighteen major AEZs are delineated and named by terms describing the broad
moisture and elevation conditions of areas (Box 1). A total of 49 agro-ecological
sub-zones are identified based on homogeneity in terms of climate, physiography,
soils, vegetation, land use, farming system and animal production (See
Box 1. The Current Major Agro-ecological Zones of Ethiopia
5. Agro-ecological Zones of Ethiopia and Research Centres and Sub-centres
Agricultural Enterprises in the Different Agro-ecological Zones
The dominant agricultural enterprises in all agro-ecological zones are small-scale subsistence farms in the highlands and livestock rearing in the lowlands. Large enterprises (ex state farms) were government holdings which are being privatised. Current private investments are mainly in the agro-industrial sector especially on cash-crop and livestock production. Production systems in Ethiopia are as complex as the agro-ecological zones, and amplified further by the cultural diversity of people. General description of the major agricultural enterprises, crop-livestock and pastoral production enterprises are discussed below.
Small to Medium Scale Crop-Livestock Production. The most productive zones are between 3,200 and 1,500 metres highland, (‘dega’ ) and lowland (‘Woina dega’). In this agro-ecological zone a wide range of crops are grown and many species of livestock kept for different ends. Production systems are, in fact, of a mixed crop plus livestock type with draught power being important. Rainfall is generally not limiting except in the far north and growing seasons are often very long ,with two crops per year in some areas. Due to high population, farming is dominated by smallholdings. Medium–scale private crop production is beginning as a result of the recent state farms privatisation and the new investment policy. Medium or large scale dairying is found around big towns and cities.
Small to Large-scale Livestock Production. In many agro-ecological zones at low altitudes 1,500-500 metres (kola-zone) growing seasons are short to very short, so only drought resistant crops can be grown, unless irrigation is possible. Livestock are important throughout this zone. The poor conditions for crops and the extensive system of livestock production imply low human population. There is large-scale ranching, particularly fattening for domestic and export markets; ELFORA Pvt. Ltd. Company (ex. Livestock/Meat Development Corporation) is one large-scale (commercial) livestock/Meat producing company operating here.
are the home of a diverse array of pastoral people who depend on livestock,
which feed on native vegetation, and net productivity is very variable
over time and space. The lowlands are home to 29 ethnic groups, of which
more than 90 percent are pastoralists. Livestock provide subsistence and
employment for more than 10,000,000 people and are a source of meat, milk
and fibre for residents of some two dozen major towns and cities within
or adjacent to the lowlands. Subsistence nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists
are the major stockholders on the grazing land. Afar, Somali and Borana
are the major pastoral groups in the north eastern, eastern and southern
grazing lands. Production systems and stock management are described in
section 4 below.
Livestock Genetic Resources : With its varied climatic and topographic conditions, its ethnic composition and the size of its national herd, Ethiopia is a major repository of livestock resources and genetic diversity but little has yet been done to describe them other than in superficial terms. “Breeds" are recognized by morphology, or more often by the name of an ethnic group or locality. Much still needs to be done at the genetic level to gain a fuller understanding of the relationships among types, classes, breeds and populations.
Cattle: Most local cattle are zebus; recognized breeds, including Boran, Fogera, Horro, Sheko (Gimira), Abigat (Adal), are indigenous to and synonymous with particular regions. The Fogera and Horro are known as milk producers, the first being reared round Lake Tana in Amhara State and the second in Eastern Welega in the west of Oromiya State. The Boran, renowned as a beef breed well beyond the boundaries of Ethiopia, is also "indigenous" to Kenya and Somalia where its tribal owners claim territory; it is found in the south and east of the country in the Southern Nation Nationalities and Peoples' Regional State (SNNPRS) and in Somali Regional State. The Nuer breed in the southwest is considered to have tolerance to high tsetse challenge. European breeds, especially Friesian and Jersey, have been imported for many years and crossed with indigenous cattle to improve dairy production.
Sheep: Almost all sheep in Ethiopia are indigenous; several breeds have been identified but are less clearly differentiated than cattle. These have evolved in-situ under various, but universally harsh, conditions of health care, feeding and management and often of climate. Their output is low but is probably capable of being improved if better circumstances are provided. National Research Institutions and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have done some preliminary breed characterization. Formal cross breeding has been confined to the Debre Berhan station of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) at about 2,800 metres some 120 kilometres north of Addis Ababa. The main "improver" breeds have been Awassi and Corriedale but little success has been achieved in transferring results to the smallholder sector.
Goats: Until very recently, the situation was very similar to that for sheep; their huge genetic resource was largely unknown in terms of breeds or population composition and there was confusion over terminology. Some early types identified included a short haired goat in the Danakil Desert, the white and variegated goats of the Hararghe highlands, a Bati goat in Wello valued for its skin, the Arusi goat and other types of the western lowlands. More recently a comprehensive survey of goat populations included physical inspection and handling of more than 14,000 animals. In this study a number of qualitative and quantitative variables were used to characterize goats into four major categories and 14 distinct types; estimates of geographical distribution and population size were also attempted. Further information was gained on production systems, management practices, flock structure and reproductive history.
In the first two systems enterprises are mainly small holdings, while the last includes medium to large-scale market oriented production units. Parastatal and commercial livestock production systems with more intensive animal production, are mostly found around peri-urban and urban areas and to a lesser extent, around the previous farmer’ co-operatives and few private rural areas. Dairying and fattening of oxen and small ruminant are the most popular activities.
Small-Scale Subsistence Production. In this system where food and cash crop growing is the main agricultural activity, farm size ranges from 0.5-1 hectares. Soil fertility maintenance is a major problem. Livestock are for draught, seasonal milk and meat production and a source of food and income. Cattle are the main stock. Feed resources are natural pasture, crop residues and to lesser extent improved pasture and forages. Milk yield is 1 litre/day, and average land area 0.25 hectares per animal.
Medium Scale Intensive Dairying and Fattening. Farmers use all or part of their land to grow improved pasture and forage, some buy agro-industrial by-products and use their land for food and cash crops. Manure is used on crops. Milk is the main source of income and farmers use family labour and sometimes hire help for dairying and fattening. Feeds are from improved pasture and forages and purchased concentrates. Milk production is continuous from crossbreed animals (Local Zebu crossed with Friesian), ranging from 5-8 litres/day; a crossbred animal occupies 0.5 to 1 hectare, on holdings of 1-2 hectares. Major inputs include crossbred cows, artificial insemination, credit, veterinary extension and training.
Peri-Urban Commercial Dairying. This occurs around cities where demand for milk is high. The main feeds are agroindustrial by-products (concentrates) purchased bush hay, improved pasture and forages and crop residues. Milk, often sold directly to consumers, is the main source of income. High-grade crossbred cows, are fed on purchased concentrates and roughages; the enterprise is commercial. Milk production is continuous and yield per crossbred cow ranges form 10-15 litres; a cow is held on between 0.25-0.5 hectares. Inputs include concentrates, roughages, grade stock, AI, credit, extension, training and veterinary services.
Feeding Systems. Livestock mainly feed on natural pasture, weeds of arable land, fallows and crop residues left after harvest. Bottomlands are set aside for hay to be used for severe dry periods. In the highlands farmers fence small areas of pasture, which are grazed by oxen at the time of ploughing and used to feed young calves. Most stock graze on hilltops, swamps, forest margins, roadsides and stony or unfertile lands.
Fallows and crop residues are grazed in the morning and evening as cattle are taken to and from daytime grazing areas. Small calves, which cannot go to distant areas, graze fallows and crop residues. Cut and carry feeding and dry season feed supplemented with crop residues and agro-industrial products are common in the mid and high altitude mixed farming systems.
In high potential areas dairy farmers grow improved pasture and forages, mainly fed on cut and carry, and hay. Dairy associations have started silage making for their milch cows. Farmers involved in small-scale fattening do cut and carry and hay (from natural pasture and crop residues) feeding. Residues of local grain by-product and beverages are mixed with salt and given to milking cows, plough oxen and fattening animals. In the lowlands (pastoral areas) livestock graze and browse.
Integrated Crop-Livestock Production System. In the mixed production systems, cattle play an important role by supplying draught, while equines are the highland beasts of burden. Small ruminants and poultry are the main source of cash and family consumption. In the higher areas (above 3,000 metres) barley and sheep predominate; this system covers parts of North-Wollo; the Eastern Mountains of Gojjam and the Semen Mountains of Gonder.
Highland Annual Crop and Livestock Farming. The high crop-related livestock production system is found between 1,500 and 3,000 metres with an estimated area of 12,500,000 hectares. A wide range of cereals, oil crops and food legumes are grown. Cattle are kept for traction and fuel, a small number of sheep and goats provide cash. The system is common in the highlands of Tigray, Wollo, Gonder, Gojjam, Shewa and parts of Wellega. Farms are very small and often fragmented. Due to high population density and expanded cultivation, grazing areas are reduced to lands unsuitable for cropping, or fallows, waterlogged land and steep slopes. The feed situation in this system is precarious and a challenge to the development of both the resource itself and food grain production.
Highland Perennial Crop Farming. Another mixed system found between 1,500 and 3,000 metres. This area has intensive crops with cultivation and livestock number per household being higher; it is predominant in Southern Ethiopia, particularly the Chat (Catha edulis) and coffee growing areas of Harerge; and enset (Ensete ventricosum) plantations of Walaita, Sidamo and Gurage. It also touches the coffee growing area of Jima and Wellega. Livestock are not important for traction as hoe cultivation is used in the highland perennial crops. Feed in this system is from native pasture and crop residues.
The Extensive Pastoral System. Lowlands below 1,500 metres are arid or semi arid. Here livestock rearing is the mainstay of people, and livestock and livestock products provide subsistence, either directly as milk, milk products, meat and blood, or indirectly in the form of purchased cereals through sales of animals; crop production is limited. This production system is extensive; feed and water supply are achieved through either constant or partial herd mobility. A strong traditional built-in system or social laws maintain a sustainable resource management, govern this system. The pastoral lands of Ethiopia are in the border regions and the ethnic groups are often trans-boundary. For example: Afar pastoralists are found in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti; Somali pastoralists of eastern Ethiopia are also found in Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya, and the Borana homeland is between Ethiopia and Kenya.
A nomadic pastoral system denotes an economy that derives the bulk of its food supply from livestock, using a great variety of herding practices, on natural pasture, provided that the system involves some degree of mobility. A transhumant system allows members of the communities to practice some crop production in settlement areas. Despite the attempt to integrate farming with livestock around settlement areas, crop production has remained opportunistic. Pastoralism presupposes a sustainable balance between the human and animal population and the pasture. Such a balance is precarious and rarely occurs, even with highly developed indigenous social organization (Alemayehu Mengistu, 1998b).
maintain livestock under environmental conditions of risk and uncertainty
using traditional strategies. Such strategies in Ethiopian nomadic and
semi nomadic systems include:
Extensive grazing systems. Pastoralists’ resource management is traditional; regulations are decided by the local community. Traditional rulers decide from collective choices taken after discussion. The rules structure individual and collective choice, which allows the herders to manage grazing as common property. Decisions are made with a high level of community involvement of men, aimed at efficient and sustainable use of resources.
An important point to mention is their tree management rules. Trees have high value to pastoral people; they are used as fodder, as food in periods of stress and are important for shade. Pastoral people are not allowed to lop trees when there are other fodder sources available, i.e. grass and bush. They do not cut trees for firewood but gather dead wood, mainly along perennial and seasonal watercourses. Pastoralists are never allowed, and do not cut fruit trees. Selected men decide tree management rules and a man from each extended household is elected to uphold them; he gives permission to lop trees when needed.
know how to select the most appropriate seasonal grazing and browsing
areas, and protect areas which have already been grazed. They make decisions
on a daily basis in their use of natural resources. They do not have complex
rules of management and are only concerned with the key resource; such
as dry season feed areas. Pasture production on such land is low. This
makes the pastoralists survival subject to unpredictable natural events
that force them to make agreement with highland people to have seasonal
access to each other’s grazing and natural resources. The widely
known rules of grazing management are:
Pastoralists experience strong seasonal fluctuation in feed availability and quality; an increasingly popular practice is the establishment of a special enclosure where standing hay is surrounded by thorn-bush fence (Alemayehu Mengistu, 1998b) to be used in the dry season for feeding immature stock and lactating cows. In addition to feed storage, this allows optimal plant growth and helps the pasture condition as it allows both seed setting and plant re-growth. During good rain years, feed is most available in the rainy season and then markedly declines in the dry season, so haymaking is also becoming common, especially by partially settled pastoralists. Crop residues are also used in areas where there is cultivation.
Herd management. Livestock breeding is based on local knowledge; breeding stock are selected for their ability to survive periods of temperature fluctuation, shortage of water and fodder, insects and diseases. Selection also considers the amount of milk the animal supplies as well as fertility. Lowland pastoralists practice herd splitting, which is dividing their herd into separate units depending on type, age, sex and productivity. Small ruminants are usually separated from cattle and camels based on different requirements of fodder, water, and salt. Camels are herded separately mainly because of their lower watering frequency, and long movement in search of fodder. Herders cooperate to look after split herds of related families.
Herd composition is designed to meet the people's needs and fit the environment. The arid zone natural resource base is highly unpredictable and the people keep multi-species herds. The system displays a relatively high degree of flexibility. Cattle and sheep which were part of the Afar herds are now decreasing in numbers, as more emphasis is put on goats and camels. Camels were rare in the Borana, but now are becoming very common.
Most of these people are nomadic; a few have settled permanently (mostly transhumance) and mixed with other ethnic groups and practice crop and commercial activities. Camel and goat keeping is the main economic activity of the pastoralists. They have also been engaged in salt-caravans for many centuries.
Cattle Management. Pastoralists manage cattle in a traditional pastoral fashion. According to Coppock (1994) suckling calves are kept apart from their dams except when used to stimulate letdown of milk at two milkings per day. Bulls commonly run with cows all year so mating is uncontrolled and periodicity is influenced by seasonal fluctuation in nutrition. Cows are milked early in the morning and evening. Most grazing time is spent on grasses with less time spend on browse.
Where water and grazing resources permit pastoralists lead a semi-settled existence. The household may remain sedentary throughout the year, or a succession of years, and family residences in a given well area may last for generations. Cattle are herded either as home-based groups or mobile grazing groups. Herd splitting is done depending on the condition of the resource base, availability of labour, sex and age class of animals and whether cows are in milk or dry.
As described by many researchers the primary purpose of the herd splitting system is to distribute animals away from the home-encampment area during times of restricted forage and water availability. Strong and less productive animals are sent with mobile grazing herds managed by older boys and young men. At the other extreme home herds are composed of milking cows and some weak or sick yearlings that return to the encampment each night. These are kept within closer grazing orbits whose radii vary depending whether the day is used for grazing or both for grazing and watering.
The mobile grazing herd is composed of dry cows and males of diverse ages and ranges widely. The composition and size of home based herds and mobile grazing herds are dynamic across seasons, type of average rainfall, and dry or drought years. Larger and more heterogeneous home based herds may characterize years of high rainfall, while the inverse holds for mobile grazing herds. Both home based and mobile grazing herds are watered once every three to four days during dry periods. This is considered as a management adaptation to minimize labour required to raise water from deep wells.
Sheep and goat management. Pastoralists keep large flocks of sheep and goats for subsistence, income, breeding, restoring wealth and social prestige. At a subsistence level, sheep and goats are kept for occasional slaughter for meat. At present goats are kept for their milk, especially as food for children in the dry season and for adults in times of shortage. Sheep are rarely milked. Sheep and goats are sold regularly in exchange for small commodities and food items. Offtake is mainly males while the females are reserved for breeding. The nomadic pastoralists’ sheep and goats are to a high degree drought resistant and well adapted to arid range with bush vegetation. Goats are highly productive and used for milk, butter and meat. Milk is very important for the nourishment of children. Skins are used for storing butter, for churning milk, as water buckets, for storage of cereals and for sale.
The age of goats first kidding is 8 to 12 months; kidding interval is six months. Four to five days old male goats (kids) are often given to guests as a gift. Some newborn male goats are slaughtered after a few days, to increase the amount of milk for the family use. In the dry season all the new kids are slaughtered, because of fodder scarcity and female goats would be unable to survive with suckling kids.
Some male sheep and goats are kept for reproduction and meat. At the age of four-five years, male sheep and goats are castrated for fattening, and called ‘sanga’. They grow fast and provide good meat; sangas command a high price in local and export markets and are preferred for ritual occasions: holydays, when a woman has given birth and during circumcision ceremonies.
Camel raising. Camels are of great interest for the lowland peoples and pastoralists in particular; they are uniquely adapted to the lowlands of Ethiopia, and contribute significantly to the food security of pastoral households. Their most important use is for milk and transport of household and commercial goods. The protein, fat and vitamin-C content of camel milk is vital for pastoralists living in an environment that lacks vegetables. Pastoralists use camels for travel and/or commercial operations; domestic uses include carrying grain, commodities from market, large quantities of drinking water from wells both for people and calves in dry season; they are also are used for ploughing. Most pastoral campments have at least one camel.
The preferred number of female or male camels that are kept in different localities varies according to the proximity of the communities to commercial goods sources such as saltpans. The market value of a camel varies from US$ 175 to US$ 200. Members of different communities exchange males for transport and female for milk.
Ethiopian camels are raised under traditional management; there are few studies on camel husbandry. The multiple changes in the dry land environmental and lack of veterinary services coupled with low reproductive performance make camel raising difficult; it is a slower process than goat raising. Sexual maturity is at four to five years and they usually calve once per year.
Calf management is considered very important by herders and is given considerable attention at home or in the encampment. Herders consider sufficient milk supply, provision of water during dry seasons, good pasture and good control of parasites as important calf care measures. Herd splitting to reduce competition for forage, water and salt between herds optimises resource utilization; this strategy also guarantees continuous supply of milk for the families, and meets both the needs of calves and the family. The management of the herd attempts to ensure a sustainable flow of benefits from camels to households. With limited resources, investment on calf rearing by the pastoralists is relatively intensive. Keeping them in confinement during most of their first year is important in helping calves to thermo-regulate in what can often be a cold and windy environment during rainy periods; this also minimizes risk of predation. Women regularly remove manure from calf pens and attend to health problems such as removal of ticks using kerosene and traditional remedies to heal wounds and internal ailments.
The importance of salt for camels is well known among herders; camels depend on salty plants, salty soils, and salt supplements. Herders recognize camels with salt deficiency symptoms and give them supplements. There is a occasional salt supplementation where salty plants and soils are scarce.
Traditional breeding management considers the selection of breed female and male camels, and controlled breeding. All females are considered fit for breeding; selection is mostly focused on bulls. Once a bull is selected for breeding he is used as long as possible, but sires are kept only for five to seven years in a herd. Letting a selected bull browse with breeding females controls breeding and all unwanted bulls either browse separately or are castrated.
of ruminant livestock production
Limitations. Ethiopia’s livestock productivity is below
the African average. Total herd offtake is estimated at 7 percent annually
for beef and at 33-36 percent for sheep and goats, with corresponding
carcass weight of 100-110 kilos and 8-10 kilos respectively. Cows do not
reach maturity until 4 years of age, calve every second year, and produce
only 1.5 to 2 litres of milk daily over a 150 to 180 day lactation. As
a result per capita consumption of meat and milk is low. Poor health,
feed shortage and low genetic potential are the main constraints to increased
livestock productivity in the country (ILCA, 1991 and MoA- NLDP, 1998).
for intensification of ruminant livestock production
Despite the poor performance of livestock in the past, the country’s livestock, biodiversity and land resource base retain the capacity for improvement. The very large livestock population, highly adapted to the diverse agroconditions of the country, will be the basis for an increased supply of animal products and work input that is crucial for the upkeep of a sustainable agriculture. Improvements in the excessive wastage due to disease, malnutrition, reproductive inefficiency, marketing and price structure will immensely improve performance.
of the genetic potential of indigenous ruminant livestock particularly
for the dairy industry is an area where private and small holder interests
should be growing, though feed will remain a major constraint. Semi-intensive
and backyard poultry are likely to develop on a modest scale because of
increasing prices for milk and meat. Improvement of feed quantity and
quality is another opportunity; there is great potential of improving
both the quantity and quality of pasture and forage. The Ethiopian Agricultural
Research Organization (EARO) has developed feeding systems and addressed
researchable areas with regard to feed and nutrition to make sound livestock
production possible. MoA recently initiated work to improve feed quality
and quantity through various programmes aimed at:
Though there is no reliable and comprehensive information, MoA reported that more than 100,000 hectares of degraded grazing land has been rehabilitated, in four years, through a well coordinated grassland improvement programme. However, efforts up to now are insignificant compared with the total area of degraded land, and the effort needs to be continued and strengthened further.
Improving feed supply is possible if backyard forage production, under-sowing, oversowing and growing improved pasture and forages are widely adopted. Production of forage seed by contracting small holders has shown potential as a way of improving seed supply. As crop farming become more intensive, crop residues would become a major feed source; another area is improving the quality of crop residues and efficient utilization of by-products.
For the lowland
pastoral areas there are various opportunities for improvement of grazing
management. These include:
can be sought in disease prevention and control. Even though there is
no epidemiological data on most livestock diseases and disease reporting
is below the required levels, successful control and eradication of rinderpest
is an indication of the proper designing and implementation potential
of the country. If support to similar programmes of priority diseases
is given the associated economic loss will be minimized and improved access
to potential export markets may be possible.
Livestock feed resources in Ethiopia are mainly natural grazing and browse, crop residues, improved pasture, forage crops and agro-industrial by-products. As described in section 4, feeding systems include communal or private natural grazing and browsing, cut-and-carry feeding, hay and crop residues. At present, stock are fed almost entirely on natural pasture and crop residues. Grazing is on permanent grazing areas, fallow land and cropland after harvest. Forage availability and quality are not favourable year round and hence gains made in the wet season are totally or partially lost in the dry season. Table 5shows the feed resource balance of the country.
Table 5. Estimated Feed Availability
to Livestock in Ethiopia
At present, around dairy and fattening areas there is insignificant production of improved pasture and forages. The contribution of agro-industrial by-products is also minimal and restricted to some urban and peri-urban farms (dairying, poultry and fattening). In the past two decades, considerable efforts have been made to test the adaptability of pasture and forage crops to different agroecological zones; several useful forages have been selected for different zones. The medium and large-scale private enterprises could benefit from those findings.
Grasslands are generally in regions of moderate precipitation, between 250 and 750 mm. Grasses in different parts of the country vary according to the altitude. Most grasses are used as forage and grasslands are usually for grazing, but also provide tall and strong grass for thatch.
region of Ethiopia accounts for some 30.5 percent of the area of the country
and is most extensive in the western, southern and south-eastern semi-arid
lowlands. On the more humid side, open grassland and grassland with some
trees are common; grasses may cover as much as 90 percent of the area.
In the drier parts patches of bush are common and the proportion of grass
is reduced to about 70 percent. Incense and honey harvesting are common.
Area and Productivity: Recent information on the area and productivity of natural pasture is scarce because of the expensive (in terms of time and money) nature of data collection. Previous estimates of areas and productivity are very variable. The total grazing and browsing land was estimated to be 61-65 million hectares (Alemayehu, 1998a), but it is changing due to increasing population and cropping. Productivity estimates also vary, probably due to variation in time and ecological change, rainfall, soil type and cropping intensity.
estimate of natural pasture yield for the lowlands was one ton DM/ha while
for the highland and mid altitude on freely drained soils it was 3 tons
DM/ha, and, on seasonally water-logged fertile areas yields were about
4-6 tons DM/ha (Alemayehu, 1998a). MoA (1984) estimate was 1.5 and 0.56
tons DM/ha for the highland and lowland respectively. Another yield estimate
for different highland zones (MoA, 1989) was as follows:
Species Composition. Natural grasslands constitute the main highland pastures. Besides grasses, they contain 28 Trifolium species out of which 8 are endemic (Kahurananga, 1986). The highlands have been divided into different altitude zones for the description of the grassland vegetation designated by the characteristics of the plants (Alemayehu,1985; Kahurananga, 1986). The proportion of legumes tends to increase with increasing altitude; particularly above 2,200 metres, there is a wide range of annual and perennial Trifolium spp., and annual Medicago spp. At lower altitudes native legumes are less abundant and commonly have a climbing or sprawling habit with a large variation in their range and density in wet bottomlands. This appears to be only partly due to edaphic differences. In the lowlands browse and shrubs are dominant plants.
above 3,000 metres
from 2,000 to 3,000 metres
from 1,500 to 2,000 metres
Between 1,500 to 500 metres
and Trends of Grazing-lands
Sources and Management
Water for livestock and people is traditionally obtained from ephemeral ponds, perennial springs and rivers, seasonal streams and wells (Alemayehu, 1998b). Water supply in the Borana plateau is dominated by deep wells, which are less common in other areas. The different groups of Borana prefer to move animals to distant water sources in dry periods rather than invest a large effort in digging permanent wells. The Boran mostly use ponds in the rainy season and wells in dry periods. Ponds are easily accessed but are only available for short periods. Wells however, are unusually permanent water sources but require a large input of labour to lift it to the surface.
Borana wells can broadly be grouped into shallow (‘adadi') and deep ('tula’). Wells are usually in groups of four to twenty. Adadi wells consist of a wide shaft dug into alluvium and can be up to 10 metres deep. The tula and crater (found in the bottom of volcanic craters) wells however, are usually much deeper and require massive excavation with shafts commonly sunk into rock. Adadi wells can be dug at any time and can be an opportune source of water. Tula and crater wells, in contrast, are old. It is often contended that another ethnic group dug them, possibly more than 500 years ago; if the Borana inherited the wells, they have had to adjust their original social system. At least until recently, new wells excavation has not been reported. The 'tula' wells comprise the most reliable source of water. They reportedly have similar discharge of water during dry and drought years and when watersheds receive lower than average rainfall.
Tula wells are impressive feats of engineering. Animals and people enter the site by travelling down along a narrow ramp flanked by high earthen walls. Entry is regulated by a herder at the gate of a large storage basin, several metres above, which is a system of clay water troughs that water up to several dozen cattle or other stock at a time. A chain of 5 to 20 people stand on lashed wooden platforms, or rocky protrusions and pass water from the well with leather buckets (2-5 litre capacity). The whole water management task is physically intense and lifting begins early in the morning. The drinking area for animals is a large flat platform, some 5 to 10 metres below the ground and watering and exit of stock is orderly, supervised by a herder.
and Forage Crops
of Pasture and Forage Resources
and Forage Genetic Resources
Biodiversity conservation. Conservation and use of grass germplasm has made a significant contribution to the economic development of Ethiopia through the national pasture and forage research programme. The International Livestock Research Institute ILRI (ex. ILCA) has done much to fill the gap by collecting grasses from different parts of Ethiopia and by acquiring access to world collections of forage grass germplasm. Currently over 371 accessions of grasses from 77 species and 37 genera, 2076 accession of legumes from 140 species and 35 genera and 185 accession of browse from 41 species 18 genera are collected and conserved. In recent years the Forage and Pasture Genetic Resource Conservation and Research Department was established under the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research/Ethiopia (IBCR/E) to carry out the conservation of pasture and forage genetic resources.
Pastures and Forages
Greater use of leguminous fodder trees and shrubs assists in increasing soil fertility, controlling soil erosion and providing firewood and timber. These legumes are well adapted to the current edaphic and grazing condition, they can be readily integrated into farming systems, they retain their feeding value into the dry season and show great success in the higher potential areas of the country. The best adapted strategies and promising plants currently recommended for major zones are listed in Table 7.
Pasture establishment is relatively difficult in the highlands compared to the humid, warmer and lower areas, because of the soil and climate. In the wet season waterlogging, relatively low soil temperature, and reduced long and short radiation limit the establishment and subsequent growth of pasture in the highland. In these areas, for the best environmental condition for seed and seedling establishment and growth, perennial pasture is usually sown during the short rains (March and April) but annual forages are usually sown in June (IAR, 1983).
methods of establishing pasture are tedious and labour demanding, especially
in the highlands; better ways are the low-cost methods such as backyard,
undersowing and oversowing, which are more attractive to farmers. These
strategies provide farmers proper use of their land for cultivation of
crop/pasture and forage/trees, where products can be used for food, feed
and firewood respectively. Some perennial grasses can be planted vegetatively;
Festuca arundinacea, Phalaris arundinacea, and Setaria
sphacelata are well adapted to waterlogged conditions and easily established
by root splits.
of Pasture and Forage into Farming Systems
At research sites in the mid-altitude area, maize was under-sown with Desmodium, phasey bean, Chloris (Rhodes grass), Panicum and Cenchrus after the first weeding. Almost all forages established, and there was no maize yield reduction (IAR, 1983). There is a good opportunity for integration of pasture and forage crops in the existing farming system.
As a result of these findings, in Ethiopia heavy emphasis is put on the use of forage legumes in cropping systems (through under-sowing, improvement of fallows, and establishment of tree legumes hedges) to partly address the major problems of long-term sustainability of crop production. Extensive use of tree legumes in a number of strategies (Table 7) can have an effect, in the long term, on firewood supplies, including the release of dung which would otherwise have been burnt. The increased forage supply and improved use of forage (dairy and fattening system) will provide another opportunity for generating dung.
There is a wide opportunity for the use of forage pulse crops to be incorporated in the farming system; adapted and recommended crops are: Cowpea, Pigeon pea and Phaseolus acutifolius. These can be used for food and feed especially during the dry season.
and Forage Seed Production
Under these systems over 200,000 tons of forage seed were produced from 1988 to 2002. Of the seeds produced : Vetch, Lablab, Cowpea, Axillaris, Siratro, Stylos, Desmodium, Oats, Rhodes, Panicum, Tree-lucerne, Leucaena and Sesbania are dominant. Large local seed production is under way using farmers’ contracts (Alemayehu, 2001).
Grazing Land Resource Management
On top of these, protection and penalizing of illegal acts against management of grassland resources, the community exercise their own acceptable by-laws. This provides the best opportunity for correct management of grazing land resources. Based on these, a number of recommended management rules are developed to assist grazing land problems and management. These rules are based on community by-laws.
Rules for Grazing Land Management in Ethiopia
Teaching Institutions The Alemaya University of Agriculture (AUA); Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Addis Ababa University (AAU); and Agricultural Colleges are responsible for teaching and carrying out researches required for the national needs. Existing and Future Regular Programmes in Some Agricultural Higher Learning Institutions:
of Veterinary Medicine, Addis Ababa University
Agricultural Research Organization (EARO)
of Biodiversity Conservation and Research (IBCR)
Rehabilitation and Development Fund (SRDF)
The author, Alemayehu Mengistu, is a specialist in pasture, forage and rangeland assessment and improvement, with over two decades of experience. He has served as a visiting lecturer in Pasture and Forage Science at the Alemaya College of Agriculture, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Awasa College of Agriculture of the Addis Ababa University, and various agricultural colleges. From 1987 onwards till 1994 he worked as coordinator for Forage Development, and later overall project coordination of the Fourth Livestock Development Project (FLDP).
[This profile was prepared in July 2003 by the author and was edited
by J.M. Suttie and S.G. Reynolds in July/August 2003. Some updating was
undertaken by S.G. Reynolds in August 2006 and Table 1 was added.]