Training in Crop Residue Preservation Helps Families Weather the Storm
Raho Mogol, an agro-pastoralist who lives in Maragacho Kebele of Ethiopian Somali Region, is a mother of six children, four of whom are under five. Raho’s children could be much better off if they could obtain milk throughout the year; milk plays a critical role in the diet of pastoralist children and families. Milk, however, is hard to come by during the dry seasons due to lack or absence of animal feed, exacerbating the food and nutrition security of the pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities. The dry season for Raho and her community is the time of hardship when people “worry about keeping the animals alive” rather than getting milk from them. Obviously, when the going gets so tough, children are the ones who primarily bear the brunt. Somali children are no exception.
The good news is that studies have come up with ways of coping with nutrition issues in the pastoralist communities by mitigating the shortage of animal feed during the dry season. The findings of the USAID Milk Matters project that demonstrated a direct link between availability of and access to fodder during the dry seasons and child nutrition is an example of such studies.
Informed with these findings, The Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO) through the USAID-PRIME project trained three agriculture extension workers and 32 model agro pastoralist community members in crop residue preservation technique for agro pastoralists in Kebribeyah and Erergota districts. The crop residue preservation technique is a process of conserving crop residues to use them as animal feed during time of scarcity, especially for milking-cows. Preservation of crop residues involves cutting, chopping and putting crop residues in a plastic bag, and burying them in a silo for about six months. In six months, the residues, which otherwise would have been wasted are turned into nutritious animal feed.
PRIME’s trainees who applied the technique have started to reap the benefits. They reported that crop residues, which otherwise have been wasted, have come to the rescue of their children and family. Families who had to live on only sugar and hot water in the previous dry seasons are able to feed their milking cows and get some milk for their children. In brief, the introduction of the feed preservation for this community is a dream come true. Mohammed Ibrahim, one of the trainers in the crop residue preservation technique, sums it up, “The crop residue conservation technique became a solution for their sufferings during the dry season.” Thanks to the preservation technique, the nutritional status of their children has improved a lot; their cows are in better shape and life for families is much better.
Crop residue preservation is so successful that neighbors have already started emulating the practice from the PRIME trainees. USAID-PRIME will further work with communities, government and the private sector to facilitate the introduction of the technology, diffuse the technology to neighboring communities, and ensure sustainability of the use of the technology even after the project has phased out.