Stories

MITIGATING DROUGHT IMPACT: KENYAN LIVESTOCK FARMERS TRANSITION TO SILAGE PRODUCTION

Narok, Kenya Business, Technology, Science & Environment, Climate Change 06 Sep 2023

Parts of the Eastern Horn of Africa have endured consecutive seasons of little to no rainfall over the past two years, resulting in poor harvests of staple crops, including maize, and severe repercussions for both people and livestock.
In 2022, an extended drought wreaked havoc across the Eastern Horn of Africa, leading to the loss of over 9.5 million livestock, upon which pastoralist communities depend for sustenance and livelihoods. This devastating toll included approximately 4 million in Ethiopia, 2.5 million in Kenya, and more than 3 million in Somalia, as reported by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In response to these challenging conditions, Kenyan livestock farmers are increasingly turning to silage production as a means of generating and stockpiling sufficient animal feed to prevent malnutrition and fatalities during unpredictable droughts.
In many Kenyan counties, such as Narok, the planting of maize typically occurs only once per year. Traditionally, during the harvesting period, the maize plants are left to dry completely before the crop is collected. Subsequently, farmers permit their animals, including sheep and cows, to graze on the remaining plant material.
However, a significant issue arises when it is observed that the majority of the remaining crop is overly dry, offering limited nutritional value. In fact, merely 30% of the crop is suitable for consumption by animals. This results in a substantial 70% loss of the maize harvest, which could have otherwise been used to feed the animals during droughts. This loss means that farmers must wait another year for a potential bumper harvest, squandering opportunities to secure adequate animal feed.
Urbanisation and land subdivision have further compounded the challenges faced by livestock farming in Kenya, particularly in pastoralist counties, significantly reducing available grazing land.

A solution to this predicament is emerging as some forward-thinking farmers are embracing silage production to mitigate post-harvest losses. They produce silage during the maize harvesting season, ensuring a stable supply of livestock feed during droughts and markedly reducing the 70% loss experienced previously.
Farmers are coming together to form cooperative groups and engaging in digital social forums to learn the art of silage production and pool resources for necessary services. The positive outcomes of this approach include safeguarding animals during drought periods and preventing panic-driven, low-priced sales of livestock at the onset of dry spells.

The story can work for TV news package or long feature, digital package or a text piece for the web.

I have access to the following contributors including locations to film the B-Rolls.

Interviews:
• A Kenyan farmer who has harvested maize and has let the maize stalks dry and rot in the farm due to lack of knowledge and equipment to make silage.
• A Kenyan Farmer who has switched to silage making
• A silage making business person who is a member of a farmer’s cooperative talks about the awareness and service provision and benefits of silage.
• An agricultural expert from FAO sheds light on impact of livestock farmers making silage for their animals in areas that receive poor rainfall and are prone to drought due to climate change to give the story a pan African perspective.

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