Grassland and forage to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty
S.G. Reynolds, C. Batello, S. Baas and S. Mack
Keywords: pastoralists, development, smallholders, policy
The world’s population has doubled to over six billion in forty years (FAO, 2002a) and is expected to reach 8 billion by 2025. Unsustainable and environmentally unsound policies and practices have caused widespread degradation of the environment and increased people’s vulnerability to food shortages (UNEP, 2002). The crucial agricultural dilemma is how to satisfy the demand for food and at the same time sustain the natural resource base. In 1999 some 23% of the population of the developing world (1.2 billion people), had incomes or consumption levels below one US dollar a day; 2.8 billion lived on less than two dollars. Three quarters of these live in rural areas with nearly half in Southeast Asia and a quarter in sub-Saharan Africa, where the problem is growing (IFAD, 2001). In developing countries half the population is involved in agriculture compared to 5.5% in the developed world: it is highest in sub-Saharan Africa with 58.3%, 53.9% in east and southeast Asia and 49% in south Asia. The agricultural population is 87% of the rural population, although income may be diversified with other activities. FAO estimated that in 2003 some 840 million people lacked enough food to lead healthy, active lives. The share of international development assistance going to agriculture has fallen from about 20% in the late 1980s, to only 12% in 2000 (IFAD, 2001). Bilateral development assistance to agriculture from OECD countries fell from US$4.1 billion in 2001 to US$3.8 billion in 2002. Poverty is widespread and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000) include eradication of extreme poverty and hunger (Goal 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, with two targets, between 1990 and 2015, of halving the proportion of people whose income is less than US$1 a day and halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger). What role can grasslands and forages play in improving this situation?
Estimates of the proportion of the earth covered by grassland vary between 20 and 40%, depending on definition. Natural pastures cover more than twice the area of the world’s cropped land. Grasslands are a source of food, forage and energy, a wildlife habitat, a place for in situ conservation of genetic resources, for carbon and water storage, and recreation, while protecting the catchments of many major river systems. Grasslands contribute to thelivelihoods of over 800 million people (White et al., 2000) and for almost 200 million people in the more marginal areas (particularly arid and semi-arid regions) grazing livestock is the main source of livelihood. Much of the best land of the world’s major grassland areas is now under crops. Many of the world’s poor depend on mixed farming in humid and sub-humid regions where climates permit cropping and livestock contribute to intensification, nutrient recycling and diversification of income thus providing a buffer against risk (Thornton et al., 2002; Wright, 2005). Livestock feed is derived from fodder crops, crop residues, fodder trees and by-products and from marginal land, fallows, and roadsides.Dixon et al. (2001) emphasise that small farmers produce most of the developing world’s food but are much poorer than the rest of the population. Dealing with poverty and hunger means tackling the problems of small farmers in their daily struggle for livelihood security. FAO (2003a) notes “no sustainable reduction in poverty is possible without improving livelihoods in rural areas”. As well as listing five main strategies (income diversification; extension of land area; intensification of land use; increased non-farm income; and leaving farming altogether), Dixon el al. (2001) propose elements for reducing hunger and poverty: refocusing of institutions, policies and public goods; trade liberalisation and market development; enhancing agricultural infrastructure and human capital, and improving techniques and management of natural resources. The Oxford English Dictionary defines livelihood as “a means to a living”. Ellis (2000) suggests that “a livelihood comprises the activities, assets and the access to these that together determine the living gained by an individual or household”, and stresses that they alter as they adapt to change. In the context of grasslands, livelihoods mean not only cash incomes or higher livestock production, but livelihood outcomes may also be the provision of food for home consumption, or power to cultivate crops, as grasslands are multifunctional (Hervieu, 2002) providing goods and services as a common good.
This paper examines some opportunities for increased or alternative use of grasslands and forages to improve livelihood security and reduce poverty.
The most obvious indicator of opportunities is the likely rise in demand
for livestock products: per capita consumption in developed countries
will be relatively constant over the next 20 years but will increase in
developing ones (Delgado et al., 1999). Much of the demand is for
white meat (Delgado et al., 1999; Upton, 2004) but the projection
is for a doubling of beef consumption and a 2.3-fold increase in milk
consumption between 1993 and 2020 in the developing world (Table 1), especially
As indicated above, grasslands support a range of livestock systems in addition to other functions and therefore the opportunities (as well as the constraints) are numerous:
While there are major opportunities for increased or alternative uses of forage and grassland to improve livelihoods in developing countries, there are constraints, and a need for successful, applicable models wherein the factors for success and the actions needed can be identified.
Case studies and projects
This paper focuses on a number of the above opportunities and in particular stresses five areas for increased or alternative uses of forage and grassland to improve livelihoods in developing countries:
Examples are given of successful FAO projects and other case studies
to illustrate possibilities for livelihood improvement through grassland
and forage development and some of the problems faced. These are drawn
from various countries and regions:
i. Fodder production and livestock in small mixed farming systems
Mixed farming supplies over 90% of the world’s milk, 70% of sheep and
goat meat, and 35% of the beef (de Haan et al., 1997; Wright, 2005).
Most of the world’s poor are associated with small mixed farms, so this
area has the greatest scope for reducing poverty. In populous developing
countries natural pastures are being converted to crops. Rapid urbanization
is increasing the demand for cheap food - by 2005 over half the world’s
population will live in cities (FAO, 2002b). In the cities of the developing
world (with poverty rates often over 50%), urban and suburban farms supply
food to about 700 million – a quarter of the world’s urban population.
Dairying in and around cities is important in many countries where there
is a demand for fresh milk but no large-scale dairy sector. The greatest
development of smallholder milk for urban consumption has been in
Peri-urban dairying in
The winter fodders are Trifolium alexandrinum (berseem), and Avena
sativa (oats); summer fodders are: Sorghum bicolor (sorghum),
Sorghum x drummondii(Hybrid Sweet Sorghum), Pennisetum glaucum
(millet) and Zea mays (maize). Forage growing is popular and more
profitable than cash crops such as Triticum aestivum (wheat), Gossypium
spp. (cotton), Saccharum spp. (sugar cane) and Oryza sativa
(rice); cultivation is easier and cheaper as it requires less weeding,
sprays, and fewer inputs, and gives quick, regular income (Dost, 2003).
Straw and dried stover forms the bulk of dairy rations. Drying coarse
cereals is widespread in rainfed districts; they are bought by big stockists,
stored where they are produced then supplied to peri-urban dairies. High
forage feeding with low concentrate use is the best system for maximum
profit. Net income per hectare was highest for Sorghum x drummondii
(Hybrid Sweet Sorghum) (Rs 146 266) followed by Medicago sativa (lucerne)
(Rs 139 990) and T. alexandrinum (Rs 138 925), and was lowest for
Z. mays (maize) and Sorghum bicolor (sorghum) (Dost, 2003). Farmers
involved only in forage production and sale were satisfied with the business,
earning around Rs 100,000 to Rs 150,000 (April 2004, 1
Women farmers and milk production from Napier grass in Kenya
A typical farmer keeps 2-3 cows with followers on a hectare, and also grows crops (Orodho, 2005). Cattle are mixed exotic breeds or crosses with zebu. Stall feeding of residues and grass is widespread and increasing. Purchase of fodders or hay is common (Staal et al., 1998). There has been a rapid adoption of Pennisetum purpureum (Napier grass); other fodders include Ipomoea batatas vines, Vicia spp., Desmodium uncinatum, D. intortum and trees such as Calliandra calothyrsus and Leucaena leucocephala. Farmers buy grain, concentrates and by-products. Increased farm gate prices have encouraged feed conservation for the dry season when the milk price is highest, and hence an increase in forage production on small dairies. Smallholders with zero-grazing units take the dung straight to the P. purpureum plots. Many households with intensive dairying hire labour, usually from surrounding areas. Increased milk production increases home consumption, and it was noted that the incidence of chronic malnutrition was significantly lower among children of households with dairy cattle than those without. Dairying is evenly spread across income categories (Nicholson et al., 1999). Women are particularly involved in dairying and decision-making in dairy households and do most of the work (except spraying and herding). The contribution to dairy work on small farms was: women – 30%; children – 26%; men – 25%; and hired labour – 19%. Women control income from milk while men deal with cash crops and decisions regarding animal sales and purchases (Staal et al., 1998). A survey of 202 households showed that intensive dairying substantially increased household income, generated secondary employment and improved the nutrition of pre-school children (Nicholson et al., 1999). Profits obtained by farmers growing forages for intensive dairy production are high. However, the currently used clones of P. purpureum are over fifty years old, and Orodho (2005), has indicated an increased incidence of diseases and pests, in particular head smut and stunting. The pressing need is to develop disease resistant P. purpureum cultivars and identify alternative fodders.
ii. Grazing under trees in agroforestry systems
There is considerable opportunity for increasing livestock production
through grazing under tree crops in the millions of hectares of agroforestry
systems worldwide (Reynolds, 1995). Systems include Elaeis guineensis
(oil palm), Hevea brasiliensis (rubber), Cocos nucifera (coconut),
Syzygium aromaticum (clove), Anacardium occidentale (cashew), Juglans
regia (walnut), citrus and various other fruit trees as well as sylvopastoral
systems in both temperate and tropical areas. However, it is in Southeast
Asia that livestock-tree crop integration is likely to provide a considerable
increase in production for improved livelihoods and poverty reduction,
as the large tree crop areas produce as much forage as the region’s pasturelands
(Wong et al., 2005). Elaeis guineensis (oil palm) covers 5.2 million
hectares, Cocos nucifera (coconut) 6.6 and Hevea brasiliensis (rubber)
5.7 million hectares; young Tectona grandis (teak) plantations
are also suitable for grazing and vast areas are presently ungrazed. Over
90% of Cocos nucifera (coconut) are grown by smallholders. Stock
raising in plantations can be by cut-and-carry or grazing. Grazing under
tree crops and in plantations is not new, and is often a supplementary
enterprise to diversify and stabilize income (Reynolds, 1995). Traditionally,
grazing cattle in plantations has often raised tree crop yields through
weed removal and dung returns to improve soil fertility. Also, low copra
and oil prices are a good reason for integration, and in
iii. Grazing systems with winter fodder in temperate areas
Thirteen percent of the world’s pastures are temperate grazing systems
on natural vegetation (de Haan et al., 1997), mainly in
Winter-feed and transhumant herding by Kazakhs in Altai, Xinjiang, China
Altai prefecture has an extreme continental climate. Transhumant herding is the main land use, and lack of winter feed is a major problem (Li-Menglin et al., 1996). Several countries have tried to settle herders, often with undesirable social results; the Altai project has maintained herd mobility while providing settled bases for herders, where fodder is grown and education and social services for their families are available. Over half the population of Altai follow transhumant herding (cattle, sheep, horses, goats and camels). Traditional herders have good summer grazing on land above 1,300m only between late June and September. In spring and autumn the transition routes are heavily grazed; winter grazing (December to the end of March) is on desert plains.
Winter feed problems have been solved by developing irrigated land. From 1988 to 1997 over 32,000 hectares were developed for M. sativa (lucerne) hay rotated with crops; the work was assisted by World Food Programme and UNDP/FAO. By 1997 some 6,100 households had been voluntarily settled; a further 26,700 hectares of M. sativa have been established bringing the total to more than 50,000 hectares, and another 20,000 were foreseen in the Ninth Five Year Plan. The project, which transformed desert into farms and herders into herder-farmers, is accepted as a model for further voluntary settlement schemes. Food security of the region and the target population has been dramatically improved without dismantling the socio-economic basis of transhumance. Family incomes have increased steadily as has access to education and medical facilities. In 1999 and 2000, transhumance patterns and socio-economic conditions of project herders and nomads following the ‘old ways’ were studied (Suttie & Reynolds, 2003) and compared. Settled groups were able to over-winter more stock and sold more animals. There are clear income differences between the groups as shown in Table 2.
The herder-farmer group’s herds are increasing; they have good access to services and are investing in production equipment and household goods. Although M. sativa yields are far below their potential because herders are loath to provide inputs for ‘grass’, winter weight loss in sheep has been converted to gain; flocks are mated earlier and lambs slaughtered in their first year. The nomadic group had lower incomes, little access to services and own what they carry in their baggage train; their sheep have to be kept through a second summer.
New forages, winter feed and benefits for smallholders in Pakistan’s Northern Areas
The Northern Areas of Pakistan cover 72,500 km2 of steep, broken land with some of the highest mountains in the world. Cultivable land is very scarce, but there are three million livestock, which spend summer on alpine pastures but rely on crop residues in winter (Dost, 2001). Cereals and orchards are the mainstay of cropping systems and fodder legumes such as M. sativa (lucerne) and Trifolium resupinatum (shaftal) are intercropped with trees. After harvest there is a potential fodder-growing period of three months in double-cropping areas (1,200-2,000 m) and two months above 2,200 m. Traditionally all lands are open to grazing between autumn harvest and sowing the winter cereal, a serious constraint to fodder growing which has to be addressed by communal agreement.
FAO fodder crop activity began in 1994, and integrated with work of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). Traditional fodders were Z. mays in summer, a winter-dormant landrace of M. sativa which gives only three cuts, and T. resupinatum which produces only in late spring and gives 2-3 cuts by late April; green T. aestivum (wheat) was cut in time of scarcity.
Introduced forages and cultivars have had a striking impact. Non-winter-dormant M. sativas are well adapted to much of the area and cv ‘Sundar’ provides 7-9 cuts in double-cropping areas and 4-6 in single crop areas. T. alexandrinum, which was not grown in the region before the project, produces from November-January to late April, and gives 5-6 cuts and 2-3 times higher yields than T. resupinatum which gives 2-3 cuts in March-April. ‘Agaiti’ T. alexandrinum yields 135 tonnes/ha green matter compared with 80 tonnes for T. resupinatum. A mixture of Avena sativa (oats) with T. alexandrinum improves yields and provides feed at a time of great scarcity; improved Avena grow much earlier and are more productive than other winter-green cereals. Multi-cut Sorghum x drummondii(sorghums) produce three or four times as much as local Z. mays. Adaptive research continues along with demonstration, and fodders for the highest areas are still sought. With green feed and hay it is now possible to ensure year round fodder for dairying. By 1997 some 7,000 farms were using improved forage and cereal varieties and these numbers continue to climb. Local merchants stock seed on project advice. Depending on the area under improved fodder, farmers saved between 6,000 and 10,000 Rs per annum on winter-feed; many also earned 3,000-5,000 Rs from sale of hay. Daily milk yield increased from 1.4 to 4 litres and, in addition to improved family nutrition most farmers earn 5,000-8,000 Rs annually from sale of milk and butter (exchange rate 1US$=Rs 64.25 - September 2001).
Nepalese farming ranges from the tropical Terai to the High Hills where only one crop a year is possible; farms are small. Urban demand for milk has risen, as has the numbers of improved and crossbred cattle and buffaloes. In Brahmin areas not only milk but cow dung and urine are essential in domestic rituals. Straw and crop residues are fed from September/October but run out in January. Avena spp. are grown on Oryza land but have to be off in time to get the land ready for the new Oryza crop; a few single-cut cultivars are used, but seed quality maintenance is poor (Pariyar, 2002). An Avena improvement project has focused on poor farmers in the Terai, Low and Middle Hills. Avena is well accepted by farmers and new multi-cut cultivars being screened and demonstrated are high yielding. The project assures seed production, works with farmers to assure uptake and is introducing fodder conservation. At high altitudes, where crop choice is very limited, Avena could be grown for hay. Avena provides green feed in the winter lean period, from the Terai to the Middle Hills. Seed supply is through local production with maintenance of stock by local institutions. Hay cannot be made in wet conditions and ensilage is a better method at lower altitudes. To avoid wastage associated with small silos a ‘small bag’ system (Lane, 2000) has been adopted and is rapidly becoming popular. Bags are of 6 or 12 kg (a daily ration for one or two buffaloes). Silage can be made in summer when fodder is available but conditions are very wet; a few bags can be made at a time using slack periods in the farming day. A number of farmers have reported significant increases in milk production and income with little additional production cost. This technology is applicable to like situations in the Himalayas.
iv. Extensive grazing systems and protected areas
Extensive grazing systems are the only feasible form of agriculture in much
of the arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, Latin America, the Near East
and Central Asia where the climate is harsh, rainfall unreliable and the risk
factor is high (Upton, 2004; Suttie & Reynolds, 2003). On communal grasslands
there are often problems of grazing rights and pastoralists have difficulty
in managing grazing resources sustainably when there is continual likelihood
of trespass and conflict. Each grassland system has its characteristics,
cultures and problems but the practical problems associated with production
often depend on their method of ownership and management; the problems of
commercial stock-raising on privately-owned land require a very different
approach from those of pastoralists on communally owned pastures (Riveros,
1993). In some Near East countries, such as
Participatory range rehabilitation, wildlife and biodiversity awareness in Syria
Rising population and livestock numbers, and a high degree of mechanisation
have caused severe deterioration of large areas of the Al-Badia steppe.
Many recognize a dramatic degradation of the environment over the past
30‑40 years, but show little awareness of the causes and the possibility
of remedial action. A project for the rehabilitation of degraded range,
re-introduction of wildlife and establishment of a wildlife reserve, biodiversity
awareness raising and the re-establishment of sustainable grazing management
based on community participation began in 1996. Activities included re-seeding
and shrub planting, closure to grazing, preparation of management plans,
assessment of alternative energy sources and income generating activities.
Training and capacity building among the stakeholders was stressed, and
they participated in planning, maintenance and management of the Talila
Wildlife Reserve to which gazelle and oryx have been re-introduced. A
holistic approach to resource management and involvement of all stakeholders
is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the reserve and its surrounding
rangelands; community participation and Bedouin extension were emphasised.
The Palmyra project has changed people's attitudes to biodiversity from
indifference to awareness (Serra et al., 2003). This has occurred
at a local level through formal training, involving hunters and nomads
in the work and through the results of the project, in the form of the
reserve, the gazelles and the oryx, and education. At national and international
level the spectacular rediscovery of the Geronticus eremita (Northern
Bald Ibis) created widespread awareness of the value and significance
Grasslands in Patagonia: desertification, depopulation and diversification
On Patagonia’s cool semi-arid grazing lands (approximately 750 000 km2) extensive sheep farming is a monoculture (Borrelli & Cibils, 2005). Supplementary feed is not used and there are mortalities during big snowfalls. Over half the sheep farmers are poor and own less than 10 percent of the sheep; for the rest farm income no longer satisfies their economic expectations. About 400 sheep farms are economically viable and own approximately 40 percent of all sheep. A drought in 1983, followed by a harsh winter when 1.5 million sheep died showed that an ecological threshold had been crossed; grasslands could no longer provide enough forage for sheep survival. Recommendations for grazing management were released, but few farmers followed them. Scientists realized that there was a serious problem, politicians and farmers did not. Displaced persons moved to the cities, looking for aid, not drawn by economic activity. The government tried to keep the farmers and their personnel in rural areas. However, because farmers were paid in relation to labour use, not sustainable land use, this attenuated the signal and maintained the status quo; so more farms were abandoned and rural depopulation accelerated. In Santa Cruz 100 000 km2 have been abandoned in the last decade; half could re-start farming if they combined into large operations or included other economic activities, but the rest are too degraded to support sheep.
Carefully managed sheep do not damage the environment, and can be compatible
with range conservation and alternative uses if proper grazing is imposed.
Some Government policies address this:
Risk management for herding in Mongolia
A good example of a livelihood-based approach to grazing land development
is the World Bank Sustainable Livelihoods Project in
Grazing and wildlife - multiple land use in the Czech Republic
After 50 years of collective organization, land is being returned to its original owners or given to new owners; as a consequence of this change some agricultural holdings will be small and not economically viable, and in marginal areas may be abandoned. Marginal areas often favour biodiversity and form the basis of an attractive landscape, which are assets for eco-tourism and suitable for extensive grazing. A project to provide training and introduce pilot techniques on this ‘abandoned’ land provides a model for converting this resource into sustainable grasslands, and promoting and enhancing biodiversity (FAO, 2004b). Breeding game in reserves has a long tradition in the Czech Republic; currently there is a move to change game reserves to zones of extensive ecological agriculture, which would protect the landscape on the one hand and produce sport and develop agro-tourism on the other. Livestock may be managed to co-exist with the wildlife. Grassland in the forest provides fodder and shelter for game; temporary grassland is species poor and regular bush control is necessary. Maintaining a balance between the forest and the food requirements of the wildlife requires careful management. Feed for game, grown near to forests, will be managed as crops or permanent grassland, and the needs of specific game must be considered, including cover. Where storms damage trees, and gaps in the canopy result, this will provide increased herbaceous cover with beneficial effects on wildlife. Various institutes, which have strengths in the biophysical and socio-economic attributes of land-use systems need to collaborate to provide farmers with the advice they need to manage these areas.
v. Grasslands as a source of traditional food in the semi-arid/arid tropics
A wide range of plants is used as emergency and seasonal food in the Sahel,
Key factors for success in improving grassland livelihoods and reducing poverty
In the past, failure of development projects was usually blamed on the reluctance of farmers or pastoralists to take up the proposed techniques, on problems of land tenure, or on the inadequacies of administrations; it was rarely attributed to project formulators who did not consult the beneficiaries and failed to understand their needs and expectations. While the situation has improved, the importance of understanding the role of local institutions and community regulatory mechanisms is still insufficiently stressed. A review of 800 projects (LID, 1999) found that most had failed to bring about significant sustainable improvements in the livelihoods of the poor, and concluded that “the key lesson is the importance of institutions in defining the success of pro-poor measures”, and the need to respect property rights which provide incentives for land conservation and improvement. IFAD (2004) recently focused on the failure of present-day policies and practices to consider the needs of rural smallholders, and proposed strategies to help provide rural livestock keepers with the tools they need to overcome their poverty. Whilst different lessons were learned in the various case studies included in this paper, a number of key features emerged:
1. Project duration, government commitment and farmer/herder participation
2. Technologies, market access and opportunities
3. Government policies
The way forward
This paper has identified a number of opportunities in developing countries and presented various case studies. A vast amount of research has been carried out on pastures and range management, but uptake by small farmers and herders has been limited. The present challenge is how to put this corpus of science to better use, integrating it into the users’ knowledge and needs, working with the farmers and herders in collaboration with other disciplines to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. Attention is needed in particular in three areas:
An initial target is the Development Goal of the 2000 UN Millennium Declaration, which seeks to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” with the aim of halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day, and those who suffer from hunger. Making progress towards this target depends on many factors, not least of which are international political will and the mobilization of additional resources; to this can be added a greater appreciation of the role that grasslands and forages can play in improving livelihoods and reducing poverty. While some of the answers may be contained in the UN Millennium Project's Investing in Development report (UN, 2005), this operational framework will need technical inputs from many areas including those from grassland scientists.
The contribution of Mr Jim Suttie, former FAO officer, to the preparation of this paper is much appreciated.
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|1A territory administered by Pakistan comprising the disputed territories other than Azad Jammu and Kashmir - the old Gilgit Agency|