Field projects

TCP/NEP/2901 (A)

Capacity Building for Fodder Oat Technologies in Nepal

1. Background

Livestock are a crucial component of farming systems in Nepal (from the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Terai, to steppe areas and temperate, sub-alpine and alpine areas). They contribute to household subsistence and incomes, draught power and recycling of nutrients essential for the fertilization of cultivated land. Increasing pressure on land, together with changing access rights to communal resources, has led to a decrease in the availability of off-farm fodder resources. Seasonal feed shortages are becoming more severe and according to farmers’ reports, this is limiting livestock productivity in many areas of the country and resulting in increased food insecurity.

Winter feed has always been the most difficult problem for bovine raising both in the Terai and Mid-hills regions of the country whereas the herds under transhumance systems are in need of conserved fodder (hay) during lean periods. In recent years there has been a considerable increase in demand for fresh milk, especially in major cities of the country, and this has resulted in a rapid increase in numbers of Jersey, Holstein, crossbred cattle and buffaloes.

Traditional systems are no longer able to fully satisfy the feed requirements of Nepal's bovine population; increased stock numbers, associated with population growth has increased pressure on natural pasture and the high-yielding exotic cattle require higher quality feed to be fully productive compared with local stock. The natural grazing, tree fodder and crop residues are no longer adequate, in quantity and quality, to feed the stock and over-lopping of forests is already evident. At national level the feed deficit is estimated to be 36% and a lack of winter feed is the major constraint to further increasing milk production for expanding urban areas.

In crop cultivation areas straw and crop residues are fed after harvest (September - October), but are low-grade feed and run out by January at the latest; thereafter there is little feed available, consequently milk production drops and all stock lose condition, contributing to a drop in household incomes and food insecurity. There is an urgent need for fodder to cover the winter-spring gap from September to April as inadequate feed supply and poor nutrition during these dry winter months (and especially December to April) is one of the biggest constraints to livestock development in Nepal. Malnutrition over this part of the year reduces the condition of the animals and adversely affects production levels. As there is a shortage of land, fodder growing would mostly have to follow paddy rice in irrigated areas. There is scope for sowing winter fodder, which can grow through the cool season and be off the land before it has to be prepared for the following rice season. Oats (Avena sativa L.) is among the crops, which would suit this purpose.

Cultivation of oats (Avena sativa L.) in Nepal was started some 100 years ago by landlords in the Terai region (bordering India) in order to provide green fodder during the dry winter months for their elephants. At present oat cultivation is concentrated mainly in Khetland (irrigated land) of the Terai and Low-hills and in the Bariland (rainfed) both in the Low and Mid-hills regions, but few cultivars are available and yields are relatively low as only single-cut varieties are available and seed quality maintenance has been poor. The introduction of multi-cut cultivars could greatly increase yields and benefit the poor farmers found in all these areas. The project would focus particularly on poor farmers in the Banke and Bardiya districts in the Terai, Kavre and Nuwakote districts of the Mid-hills and Rasuwa and Jumla districts in the High-hills.

Oats cultivation appears to be accepted by farming communities where it has been demonstrated yet a great deal still has to be done in screening new multi-cut cultivars which are much higher yielding and demonstrating the most promising at a range of altitudes, assuring seed production, introducing conservation technologies and working with farmers to further encourage uptake of the technology. At higher altitudes where fodder oats could be grown for making into hay, farmers have very limited crop options and the introduction of appropriate oat cultivars would increase choice and give the farmers and herders more options and have an important influence on food insecurity by providing an important source of winter feed. From work in Bhutan it is known that oats can grow up to 4000m and oat hay produced at these elevations in Nepal would considerably improve livelihoods.

The critical gaps for poor farmers are the lack of animal feed in the winter period which the introduction of new multi-cut oat cultivars and accompanying legumes should assist in overcoming and the need for fodder conservation technologies; to enable new cultivars and technologies to be introduced there is a lack of trained personnel and equipment and a need for farmer training. With the TCP assistance it is expected that the new multi-cut oat cultivars will be tested at a range of altitudes and the most promising multiplied for demonstration on farmers fields and wider uptake. Seed supply will be assured through local production; oats are mainly self-pollinated so farmers, with simple training, should be able to grow seed for their own use although some maintenance of pure stocks by national institutions will be needed for topping up their stocks. Most important, technical personnel and farmers will receive training on the incorporation of winter fodder into the cropping system and in production of clean, healthy, pure seed. The area sown to fodder oats would be expected to increase rapidly and this will promote milk production, especially during the period of winter scarcity and should boost livestock output, increase household incomes and result in generally improved livelihoods for many poor farmers.

2. OBJECTIVES

The main objective of the project is through training to build the necessary technical capacity in fodder oats (and accompanying forage legumes) technology so that better multi-cut oat cultivars are identified, management packages are prepared and demonstrated on farmers’ fields, seed supply is assured through local production, more livestock feed is available particularly during the critical winter period and poor farmer livelihoods are improved.

3. OUTPUTS

The five main outputs are expected to be:

  • Key technical and extension personnel (20) trained in fodder oats technology (from initial cultivar introduction, to management package evaluation with farmers and seed production).
  • Multi-cut oat cultivars (and associated legume mixtures such as vetches and fodder peas) evaluated for fodder production at 4 elevation ranges (1500-2000; 2100-2400; 2500-3000; and 3100-4000 m).
  • Fodder oat management packages, including haymaking, prepared and demonstrated on poor farmers’ (at least 200) fields.
  • Seed production potential evaluated, seed production areas established and selected farmers (25-50) trained in seed production techniques.
  • Extension (outreach research) services extending the new fodder oats technologies to farmers and a plan prepared for expansion of fodder oat technology to 500 additional poor farmers in new areas in the new cropping season.

4. IMPLEMENTATION

The first missions were fielded in May 2003 although from pre-project sowing in October - December 2002 at various sites some results were already available. Detailed evaluation of new cultivars was undertaken at 2 Research Station sites - Khumaltar at 1,320m and Dhunche Research Station at 1,800m. Sites for on-farm evaluation of “best-bet”new multi-cut oat cultivars ranged from Banke and Sunsari (at 3-500 m), Pokhara (720 m), Baireni/Bhaltar (850 m), Riyale (1870 m), to Rasuwa (1,500m - Dhaibung, 2000m - Bhorle, 3,500m - Langtang). Haymaking was undertaken at the higher elevations (high hills in Rasuwa District: 1,500-3,500m; Riyale at 1,870m and for demonstration purposes at Khumaltar at 1,320m and Dhunche at 1,800m) while green fodder production evaluation will be more in the Terai and low and middle hills up to about 1,900m. The lead consultant undertook 5 missions between May 2003 and March 2005, while the hay/silage consultant visited in 2003 and 2004.

In March 2005 a very successful concluding Workshop was held (including several participants from Bhutan and India) at which the results of the project were presented and discussed by researchers, extension workers and where also a farmers' forum was included to discuss the project results and obtain feedback from the participating farmers. The proceedings have been published.

5. RESULTS

The majority of activities were completed by the end of the project on 30 April 2005 and the expected outputs have been produced or exceeded and the stated objectives achieved. This has been a very successful project with direct impact on farm family livelihoods. The methodology of the project has been particularly noteworthy with research and extension colleagues in NARC and DLS working closely together, with carefully selected small farmer cluster groups, where all work undertaken was participatory with researchers, extensionists and farmers working together at all stages of the project and where farmers and researchers fully shared results and their cultivar preferences and the reasons for their selections and where farmers shared their records of milk production before and during project implementation so that the impact of the new technologies could be evaluated. Altogether some 100 new oat cultivars have been introduced into Nepal over the 2 year project period. Initially the 10 best bet cultivars were selected and tested at 8 locations in 5 districts using a farmer participatory approach. Others were introduced, tested and selected during the project lifetime. By project end specific oat cultivars were selected for specific sites and this is the first time that this has been achieved in Nepal. Recommended cultivars by site: Banke 83INC-19G3, NZ92169,01, Kent-Nepal; Inaruwa Awapuni, NZ92176,03, Canadian; Pokhara Kent-Nepal, Canadian, 83INC1943; Dhading Awapuni, NZ9217302, NZ9217603; Kavre Awapuni, Canadian, Kent-Nepal; Bhorle Awapuni, Hokonui, Longford; Dhaibung Awapuni, Stampede, NZ92169,01 (click to view Map 1). Training and the adoption of better techniques resulted in yields of green fodder oats being raised from the Nepal average of 12 tons to 41 tons/hectare. However the vetch did poorly after the first cut and farmers preferred pure stands to mixtures, so legumes need to be further investigated and particularly Trifolium alexandrinum in the Terai as suggested by the project hay consultant. Sustainability of cropping systems will require more attention to legumes and soil building practices.

Beyond the outputs are the important OUTCOMES of the project. After only 2 years did the project have any measurable impact on poor farmers’ livelihoods?
As well as introducing new technologies and the very comprehensive training programme the project carried out a survey among the cooperating farmers. While data remain to be fully analyzed results to date show that the net additional income of participating farmers using fodder oats for winter feeding is NRs 1,400-2010 per month per buffalo (per farmer) with an additional 2 litres of milk per day. Costs of concentrate inputs have been reduced by 50% because of the availability of good quality green feed. Where small bag silage (an additional simple technology that was added to the project and which farmers have quickly adopted) is used in the diet this is shown to give a net profit of NRs 1350 per animal per month.

Also, there are many other very significant but less apparent benefits such as:

- as cultivated fodder is now produced much closer to farmers’ homes there is a reduction in labour of up to 3.5 hours daily required by women householders to find and harvest fodder for feeding their livestock;
- women therefore have more time for child minding and vegetable growing for home use and cash sales, and maybe some rest;
- a reduction in the number of disputes arising from competition between fodder seekers on common areas;
- improved animal health;
- improved animal fertility;
- greater consistency in milk yield throughout the lactation;
- cultivar integrity and seed quality maintained because of the NARC seed buy-back system;
- better seed availability as farmers can trade seed or save seed for their own use. This should ensure that seed of new promising cultivars should be more readily available.

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Oat cultivar trials at Riyale (1870m) in Kavre District

Oat cultivars from New Zealand under evaluation at Khumaltar Kathmandu, Nepal

Oat cultivar trials at Riyale (1870m) in Kavre District

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Oat seed being dried by a farmer for his next oat crop

Oats cv Canadian on a farmers field at Bhaltar in Dhading District

Oat straw (in the shed) and wheat straw (in the stack to the left) for feeding buffalo, Bhaltar, Dading District

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NPC Dinesh Pariyar (NARC) and his team on oat plots at Dhunche Agricultural Research Station, Dhunche (1,800m) in Rasuwa District

In fodder scarcity periods women cut grass and tree leaves every day to feed the livestock
(illustrating the need for increased fodder oat and legume production)

The legume Vicia dasycarpa will be grown with the oat cultivars on farmers’ fields

Oat trials at the Khumaltar Research Centre
Photo by Keith Armstrong,
Crop & Food Research NZ
Seed storage at Khumaltar Research Centre
Photo by Keith Armstrong,
Crop & Food Research NZ
Riyale test-site Cultivars Awapuni (middle) grown by a woman farmer, with controls Swan and Kent in left and right plots
Photo by Keith Armstrong,
Crop & Food Research NZ
A good oat seed crop
Dhading, Nepal
Photo by J.M. Suttie
Oat hay drying
Dhading, Nepal
Photo by J.M. Suttie
Cutting oat for fodder
Kavre, Nepal
Photo by J.M. Suttie
Small bag (6kg) silage - 2 months old ready to feed to livestock - produced by one of the farmer-cooperators
Photo by Keith Armstrong,
Crop & Food Research NZ
Small bag silage storage unit
Photo by Keith Armstrong,
Crop & Food Research NZ
Silage farmer training,
bag filling
Khumaltar, Nepal
Photo by J.M. Suttie
 
Female farmers at a training course
Photo by Keith Armstrong
 
Farmer with recently harvested grean oats
Photo by Keith Armstrong
Photos by S.G. Reynolds unless otherwise indicated