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A novel approach to postgraduate training in sustainable tropical livestock systems

Course work
Research projects
Proposed changes for 1994-1996

R. Brian Ogle

The author is the M. Sc. Course Director, Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 7024, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.

This article describes an M.Sc. programme in tropical animal production financed by the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA) and administered by the Department of Animal-Nutrition and Management at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in cooperation with Centro pare la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria (CIPAV), Colombia.


Existing university teaching programmes in tropical animal production tend to concentrate almost exclusively on large-scale conventional production systems, usually emphasizing sophisticated and expensive technological solutions that have proved successful in industrialized countries. The attitudes of senior administrators, managers and scientists in developing countries usually reflect this bias, which explains the ready acceptance and promotion of so many livestock development projects that are totally unsuitable for developing countries for socio-economic reasons and are often directly damaging to the environment. This kind of educational background also explains the lack of interest of many senior government officials, project administrators and agricultural scientists in the tropics in resource-poor farmers, who usually make up the majority of the population. More serious considerations, however, are the lack of appreciation for the role of livestock in integrated smallholder systems and the environmental degradation that results from inappropriate animal production technologies.

The primary objective of the project, which was approved for funding by SIDA in 1991, is to promote sustainable livestock-related technologies for resource-poor farmers in tropical regions threatened by environmental damage caused directly or indirectly by livestock. In response, a postgraduate (M.Sc.) training programme was developed with the students cooperating closely with a so-called "technology transfer" village-based component of the project.

Vietnamese, Colombian and Tanzanian students interviewing farmers in a zero-grazing project, Kondoa, central Tanzania - Etudiants vietnamiens, colombiens et tanzaniens interrogeant des agriculteurs dans le cadre d'un projet de zéro pâturage à Kondoa (Tanzanie centrale) - Estudiantes vietnamitas, colombianos y tanzanianos entrevistan a agricultores en un proyecto de estabulación permanente en Kondoa, Tanzania central

Colombian student working on his restricted suckling project, Mpwapwa, central Tanzania - Etudiant colombien au travail sur son projet d'allaitement restreint - Estudiante colombiano trabajando en su proyecto de lactación restringida en Mpwapwa, Tanzania central

Colombian student giving a seminar at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden - Etudiante colombienne donnant un séminaire à l'Université suédoise d'agronomie à Uppsala [Suède] - Una estudiante colombiana imparte un seminario en la Universidad Sueca de Ciencias Agrícolas de Upsala


The first group of 13 students arrived in Uppsala, Sweden, in March 1992 from the United Republic of Tanzania (4), Colombia (4), Cambodia (1) and Viet Nam (one each from the Institute of Animal Husbandry, Hanoi, the University of Hue, the University of Agriculture and Forestry, Ho Chi Minh City, and the University of Cantho). All but two of these were financed directly by the SIDA project. One of the objectives of the programme is to have equal representation of men and women from each participating country. Candidates should also have experience with integrated farming systems and an interest in working directly with smallholders. The current group of students all have animal science academic backgrounds, but this requirement will be dropped for future inscription.

Course work

The emphasis in all the courses completed so far has been to activate the students through problem solving, group work, literature surveys and seminars and discussions, as well as to encourage them to integrate ideas from across conventional subject boundaries.

Course work includes:

· Seminars on livestock production in the students' home regions and smallholder systems and work schedules.

· Tropical ecology gives an overview of ecological concepts, emphasizing energy flows, nutrient cycles and aspects of conservation in relation to agricultural systems.

· Renewable energy systems for the tropics describes energy resources and consumption in tropical agricultural systems, emphasizing the development of renewable, environmentally friendly sources.

· Sustainable livestock systems gives an overview of the environmental and socio-economic problems associated with current conventional livestock-based systems and outlines the principles of alternative sustainable systems, with examples appropriate for the humid, subhumid and semi-arid tropics.

· Draught animals covers patterns of draught animal use, feeding and management and traditional and modern techniques.

· Range ecology and management and livestock production focuses on the problems of pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa, covering principles of range ecology, pastoral systems and associated environmental problems, land use, range management and rural appraisal methodologies.

· Farmer communication and extension mainly examines farmer-researcher relationships and, in particular, the difficulties of identifying the problems of small farmers and influencing their acceptance of new technologies.

· Integrated farming and environmental management introduces traditional and improved integrated systems in the humid tropics, in particular, the low-input pond-dyke systems of southern China.

· Statistics covers methodology and experimental design, with special reference to livestock research.

· Tropical animal nutrition and feeding assumes a basic knowledge of animal physiology and nutritional principles and covers in-depth nutritional characteristics and analytical methodology for tropical feeds (including laboratory practicals) and basic and applied tropical livestock research.

· Farming systems analysis covers the theoretical background to sustainable farming systems, systems analysis and simulation, appraisal methodologies and in-depth studies from Africa and Asia.

· Interactions between reproduction and nutrition in domestic species under tropical conditions focuses on physiology of cattle, buffalo, pigs and sheep with specific emphasis on how nutrition and climate affect reproduction.

Each student was also given a personal computer and word-processing, statistics and graphics software programs along with a one-week familiarization course.

Research projects

An important feature of the programme has been its close cooperation with research institutes and universities that the Department of Animal Nutrition and Management is already involved with through research cooperation programmes financed by the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC), including the four Vietnamese institutions, Sokoine University of Agriculture and the Mpwapwa Livestock Production Research Institute (LPRI) in the United Republic of Tanzania, and CIPAV, Colombia. In many instances problems arising from the SAREC programmes formed the basis for the research, and in all cases a precondition was that the project results should be of direct value to small farmers. The studies consisted of both on-station and on-farm work, with the latter being primarily concerned with the promotion and evaluation of techniques and systems introduced into villages as part of the technology-transfer part of the programme. Another of the stated objectives of the programme is to improve South-South cooperation, through, for example, students carrying out their thesis work in a developing country other than their own. The majority in fact did so, and preliminary impressions have been overwhelmingly positive, particularly with respect to the exchange of technical solutions and ideas, end not least with respect to exposure to novel cultural and social experiences. The students began their research in February 1993 and returned to Sweden to write up their results in November 1993.

Vietnamese student preparing meat samples in the laboratories of the University of Agriculture and Forestry Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam - Etudiante vietnamienne préparant des échantillons de viande dans les laboratoires de l'Université d'agriculture et de foresterie à Hô Chi Minh-Ville (Viet Nam) - Estudiante vietnamita preparando muestras de carne en los laboratorios de la Universidad de Agricultura y Silvicultura de la ciudad de Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam

Vietnamese student measuring the effect of work on reproduction in cows and buffaloes in Buga, Colombia - Etudiant vietnamien mesurant l'effet du travail sur la reproduction des vaches et des buffles à Buga (Colombie) - Un estudiante vietnamita mide él efecto del trabajo sobre la reproducción en vacas y búfalas en Baga, Colombia

Vietnamese students interviewing farmers in Colombia's Cauca Valley - Etudiants vietnamiens interrogeant des agriculteurs dans la vallée de Cauca en Colombie - Estudiantes vietnamitas entrevistan a agricultores en el valle del Cauca, en Colombia

Vietnamese student checks his growing pig as part of a project evaluation African oil-palm - Un étudiant vietnamien contrôle la croissance de ses porcs dans le cadre d'un projet évaluant l'huile de palme africaine - Estudiante vietnamita comprueba el crecimiento de sus cerdos como parte de un proyecto de evaluación del aceite de palma africano


· "Adoption and socio-economic analysis of livestock-related technologies recently introduced into villages in the Cauca Valley region of Colombia," reported by Antonio Solarte (Colombia). The work consisted of on-farm surveys and biological and socio-economic evaluations of pig-feeding systems based on traditional carbohydrate sources, sugar-cane juice and African oil-palm residues.

· "Comparison of African oil-palm and sugar-based diets for growing pigs," by Le Duc Ngoan (Viet Nam), Instituto Mayor Campesino (IMCA), Cauca Valley. Oil-palm residues were evaluated in a series of on-station and on-farm feeding trials carried out in the Cauca Valley.

· "Effect of work and supplementation on the reproductive performance of cows and buffaloes," by Nguyen Van Thu (Viet Nam), IMCA, Cauca Valley. The work outputs of cows and female buffaloes were compared using load cells attached to a sugar-cane press and the effects on reproduction parameters were determined. Multinutritional blocks were distributed to local farmers and evaluated.

United Republic of Tanzania

· "Evaluation of Acacia tortilis and Sesbania sesban as potential feeds for sheep," by Stella Bitende (Tanzania), LPRI, Mpwapwa. Village work consisted of studies on the multiple uses of trees and shrubs in central Tanzania, including evaluations of the nutritive value of the leaves and pods for ruminant livestock.

· "Effects of restricted suckling versus artificial rearing on milk production, calf performance and reproductive efficiency of Mpwapwa dual-purpose cattle," by Carlos Mejia (Colombia), LPRI, Mpwapwa. On-farm activities consisted of studies of traditional systems of calf-rearing in villages in the Mvumi area of central Tanzania.

· "Development of feeding systems for growing steers based on crop residues," by Deogratius Mlay (Tanzania), LPRI, Mpwapwa. Multinutritional blocks were distributed to local farmers and evaluated.

· "Effect of Magadi soda treatment and offer level of maize stover diets for dairy cows," by Bakari Msangi (Tanzania), Tanga Livestock Research Station. Molasses-urea blocks were distributed to smallholder dairy farmers in the humid coastal region around Tanga and evaluated.

· "Effects of restricted suckling and supplementation on fertility in crossbred cows," by Mai Van Sanh (Viet Nam), Sokoine University of Agriculture. Biogas digesters were installed in the village of Turiani near Morogoro, and multinutritional blocks were distributed and evaluated. In addition, farmers were assisted in the training of draught animals to power sugar-cane crushers.

· "Harvesting techniques of leaves from growing maize and sorghum for use as fodder for livestock," by Eligy Shirima (Tanzania), LPRI, Mpwapwa and Pasture Research Institute, Kongwa. Investigations were carried out on traditional techniques for using green maize foliage in villages in the Kilimanjaro region of northern Tanzania.

Viet Nam

· "Effect of protein supply in sugar-based diets on the performance of growing fattening pigs," by Bui Huy Nhu Phuc (Viet Nam), University of Agriculture and Forestry (UAF), Ho Chi Minh City.

· "Effect of protein supply in cassava-based diets on the performance of growing- fattening pigs," by Liliana Ospina (Colombia), UAF, Ho Chi Minh City.

· "Evaluation of Azolla and Lemna in diets for growing ducks," by Maricel Becerra (Colombia), University of Cantho.

· "Evaluation of water spinach and sweet potato leaves in diets for growing ducks," by Naren Toung (Cambodia), University of Cantho.

The last four students recently conducted an extensive survey to determine the impact of the technology-transfer section of the programme in Viet Nam, in particular the introduction of plastic biogas digesters and sugar-canebased feeding systems for pigs in Tuyen Quang Province in the north, Hue in central Viet Nam and in villages around Ho Chi Minh City and Cantho.

Proposed changes for 1994-1996

One of the stated project objectives is to promote the development of universities and research stations in the participating countries so that the course work may be transferred from Sweden to the University of Agriculture and Forestry, Ho Chi Minh City, and the University of Cantho in the Mekong Delta region of southern Viet Nam.

In an attempt to encourage a broader understanding of the complexity of the integrated crops/livestock/agroforestry/aquaculture systems managed by smallholders, less emphasis in the course work will be placed on animal science-based subjects and more on a systems approach. As a result, students trained as crop scientists, economists, socio-anthropologists, etc., will be accepted on future courses. To reflect this change in emphasis the title of the M.Sc. course will become "Integrated livestock-based systems for sustainable use of renewable natural resources".

In order to promote regional cooperation, and to train a critical mass of researchers regionally, student intake for the next course will be expanded to include Ethiopia, Kenya and Nicaragua, as well as the original three "core" countries, the United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and Colombia, where the thesis work will be carried out.

Increased emphasis will be placed on village work, on-farm trials and problem- oriented research, and it has been proposed that the next course start with participatory rural appraisal studies made in villages in Colombia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam.

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