Field projects

TCP/FIJ/2901 (A)

Forage Based Smallholder Dairy Production in Fiji

1. BACKGROUND

Fiji dairy production can be divided into five main sectors: (a) large commercial farms supplying RCDC (Rewa Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd) factory; (b) small commercial farms supplying RCDC factory; (c) registered producers supplying the raw milk town supply market and ghee market; (d) unregistered producers supplying raw milk vendors, and (e) subsistence and home consumption farmers.

Although some of the larger farms use improved pastures and cut and carry systems, the majority of cows are grazed on mostly unimproved pasture and fed on crop residues. Feed practices are generally poor due to insufficient farmer knowledge, resulting in low milk yields per cow, and this is particularly so with the many subsistence farmers. The sector urgently needs assistance in terms of new technologies and packages, forages and non-forage feed resources, better feeding of dairy cows, cut and carry systems, grazed pasture production and management and use of locally available feed resources, milk handling and (for non-RCDC suppliers) milk processing. An appropriate suite of pastures and supplements along with preparation, establishment, management and feeding technologies needs to be identified and extended to the farmers.

Recently, the Fijian Government has formulated a new policy on agriculture (the Agricultural Diversification Programme or ADP) which aims at developing food security and increasing income on all Fijian farms right down to the household level. Strong emphasis is given to well-focused, people oriented development initiatives, which take place after a meaningful process of consultation. ADP replaces the Commodity Development Framework, CDF, which concentrated on developing commercial production.

Technical assistance is urgently needed to develop those sectors of the dairy industry where the families involved suffer most from low income and poor food security and their effects, i.e. the 143 low milk producers supplying RCDC, unregistered producers supplying raw milk vendors, and subsistence and home consumption farmers. It is these families numbering some 18 000 (including many small cane farmers), who have previously not been assisted that the Government now wishes to reach through this project. Emphasis will be on encouraging these poor producers to adopt forage based dairy production to improve their milk yield.

The project will facilitate substantial improvements to the lives of many low-income rural families through a comprehensive programme of training, extension and demonstration. The project will concentrate on assisting dairy development in four specific localities:

1. Assisting the 143 poor milk producers (i.e. those small commercial farms supplying the RCDC factory) to improve their income levels through improved forage production, feeding and dairy husbandry and farm management. Also provide advice on improved milking shed design, milk handling and hygiene;

2. Assisting small unregistered commercial dairy farmers to improve their income levels by increasing production by way of improved forage, feeding and dairy husbandry and management. Also by improving their market price levels obtained and marketing options through improved milking shed design, milk handling, hygiene and basic milk processing and marketing;

3. Assisting a community organization (women’s group) to improve the standard of nutrition and food security on an offshore island by improving small scale dairy production for supply to schools. This would include training and demonstrations in the same thematic areas as above. Potential for income generation would also exist from the sale of surplus milk;

4. Assisting small farmers in inland Viti Levu to meet similar objectives to those in locality 3 above, using technologies suitable for the different location.

Additional potential benefits include:

  • Improved standards of public health through the availability and better awareness of the benefits from consuming pasteurised milk;
  • More profitable, intensive and environmentally sustainable land use;
  • Better food security in remote areas through diversified production and decreased reliance on imports;
  • Employment in rural areas, particularly for women and youth;
  • By working with schools, the project will benefit students by exposing them to useful technologies and information. They in turn will act as disseminators of knowledge in their own communities;
  • Benefits to the dairy industry, particularly small commercial farmers, will accrue through improved farm management skills acquired through the project’s training programme;
  • Improved nutritional status of low income rural households (particularly women of childbearing age and children) as a result of increased incomes and consumption of dairy products;
  • Decrease in the need for internal migration. This is of major importance in Fiji where over the last 10 years the populations of the major urban areas have grown at a rate well above the national population growth rate.

2. OBJECTIVES

The project had the following objectives:
(i) create a group of small holder dairy farmers in rural areas, as well as livestock extensionists, trained in dairy husbandry particularly forage based production, animal and farm management, milk production, handling and basic processing;
(ii) improve the food security, nutritional and economic status of low income rural families;
(iii) increase the awareness and utilisation of non-forage feed resources for dairy cattle;
(iv) strengthen the capacity of Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement, Animal Health and Production Division to support small holder dairy development; and
(v) increase the total output of the rural economy by providing small farmers with a viable and profitable alternative to current agricultural practices.

3. OUTPUTS

The project outputs:

The project outputs were expected to be:

  • A core group of trained small holder dairy farmers (50) and Livestock Extensionists (12) in selected islands and production areas, able to provide industry leadership and share their expertise and the developed package of new technologies with other farmers;
  • At least 300 farmers exposed to new technologies through a series of training courses and field days;
  • Small dairy farmers more conversant with feeding of dairy animals and in particular the use of both forage and non-forage feed resources;
  • An increased Government capacity to support small holder dairy farmers through improved extension;
  • Increased milk production at the village and small farm level through improved cut and carry, grazed pasture production and management, and the use of locally available feed resources;
  • A better public health status in rural areas as a result of improved access to high quality dietary protein from milk which is pasteurised and of good quality;
  • Improved understanding of the current and potential market for milk products produced by small farmers;
  • A detailed plan for the Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement to sustain the project initiative and continue to expand assistance to the majority of the 18 000 families in the smallholder dairy sector.

4. IMPLEMENTATION

Various missions have been fielded in 2003 and 2004 and the project was completed in early 2005.

RESULTS

Training people
As an FAO Technical Co-operation Programme [TCP] project, technology transfer was a key focus. The main group of 60 farmers working with the project are smallholders dairy farmers in the Central Division, surrounding the City of Suva. The farmers supply the Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company, supply direct to townships or are just starting dairy production. The feature they had in common was low milk production, and consequently low income. The project has assisted farmers to increase production/income by way of improved feeding, farm management, animal husbandry and milk handling. Most training is being done in small groups on farms, where participant farmers can be sure of getting hands-on practical training from an international consultant. Larger group trainings are also held. By increasing their output and milk quality a number of smallfarmers have been able to become shareholder suppliers of the Dairy company, thus improving their income level and business security.

Schools
1 Boarding High School [St Johns College, Ovalau] was actively involved in the project. This is a High School on the island of Ovalau which attracts students from many parts of Fiji. They have, with project assistance, renovated a smallscale dairy unit to supply the school with milk and to give students practical experience. It is envisaged that in time students will become effective disseminators of information, by taking their new knowledge and skills home to their village and establishing dairy production for household supply or as a commercial activity. It was seen that there is considerable potential to further improve and assist vocational education in dairy production.

The Rural community
In the Western Division, where smallscale livestock and dairy production for home supply is part of the cane farming system, the project has been working with a broader group of farmers. In addition to the core group of project trainees, the project worked to engage the rural community and to inform people of the realities of smallscale milk production.

Finding out about smallholder production and milk marketing
The project has produced an in-depth study on marketing and production of dairy products in the Western Division. This is a valuable tool for the Ministry of Agriculture Sugar and Land Resettlement in planning agricultural diversification.

Better feeding systems
Given adequate levels of animal husbandry, feeding is the main key to increasing dairy production in Fiji. Training and demonstration centred around farmers developing a robust forage based system which is appropriate to their managerial level and local conditions. This is based on a combination of locally appropriate grass legume mixtures and cut and carry feeding using Napier and Guatemala grass with the use of supplements made from locally available feed resources, such as copra meal. The role and importance of drinking water was also emphasized.

Good extension material
A range of extension material, booklets, posters and a video are being produced with funding from the project. This will increase the capacity of the Animal Health and Production Service extension officers to provide assistance to many more small dairy farmers throughout the country and beyond the life of the project.

Simple milk handling and processing
In areas where farmers do not have access to the assured market of the Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company, the project has given assistance in smallscale milk processing. Simple technologies are demonstrated and a limited amount of appropriate equipment has been supplied. The focus areas were:

  • milk handling on-farm
  • milk transportation
  • micro milk processing
  • These technologies were most applicable to household milk supply and very smallscale commercial activity. Using simple equipment purchased by the project, farmers were trained in the hygienic handling, pasteurization, packing and transportation of fresh milk. Training and demonstration was also given in very simple "milk pasteurization in the milk can" technique. Sachet packed pasteurized milk has been promoted as a simple quality product for individuals and groups of farmers to produce and market. Training was also given in the production of other milk products such as frozen milk pops and yoghurt. Training emphasized the maintenance of hygiene standards at all stages of milk handling and processing.

    Detailed plan for assistance to other families in the smallholder dairy sector
    A detailed plan for the Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement to sustain the project initiative and continue to expand assistance to the majority of the 18,000 families in the smallholder dairy sector was completed in August 2005.

    Smallholder dairy farms in project areas.
    Photos by Steve Reynolds
    Chaffing Splenda Setaria for yard feeding of dairy cows.
    Photo by Steve Lee
    Improved forages and feeding as well as better housing increase calf growth rates and survival.
    Photo by Steve Reynolds
    Lead consultant and National Project Coodinator discuss dairy farm improvements (note the Gliricidia for yard feeding).
    Photo by Steve Reynolds
    Improved areas of Splenda Setaria and Guatemala grass on the farm of Mrs Chandra Lekha.
    Photo by Steve Reynolds
    TCDC expert, Noe Velasco and NPC [operations] Veresa Baya work with trainee farmers to prepare large sized urea molasses blocks.
    Photo by Steve Lee
    Almost finishing the drum full. Cows need large quantities of cut and carry feed to produce well.
    Photo by Steve Lee