Production and economics of Arado and Barka cattle in Eritrea.
Tedla, Rezene Teweldemedhine.
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Grazing lands in Eritrea are degraded due to decades of overstocking and consequent overgrazing. Since the rangelands are accessible to entire village communities, organisation and coordinated decision making regarding the management of these resources is not often achieved. Farmers are not motivated enough to make investments to improve a communally owned resource due to the prevailing common access grazing systems. A field survey was undertaken interviewing 12 farmers in the private access commercial and 80 farmers in the common access subsistence grazing using face to face interviews in the Barka and Arado cattle farming communities in four out of the six regions in Eritrea. Debub, Gash-Barka, S. Keih Bahri and Maekel regions were selected using stratified and simple random sampling methods. The regions were chosen based on various agroecological zones where the representatives of different grass species and the two most common cattle breeds in Eritrea (Arado and Barka) are found. The survey included the collection of data on village and household characteristics focusing on rangeland grazing management systems and additional sources of supplementary forage. The study uses several stages of analysis like principal component analysis accompanied by regression analysis together with descriptive statistics and ordination diagram. The commercial farmers addressed grazing constraints by investing in improved grazing through planting 258 ha per farmer of drought resistant seeds and 1767 vs. 8 cactus slices per farmer and covered 75% vs. 40% of forage requirements from grazing resources compared to the subsistence farmers, respectively, during 2002. These results were achieved because 78% of the commercial farmers adopted controlled stocking rates. In common access grazing, the costs of collective action to control cattle stocking rates are high, making imple mentation of stocking rate controls difficult. As a consequence, 65% of the subsistence farmers were forced to migrate their cattle looking for grazing forage in the dry season during the year. The outcomes of migration were evidenced by the results of severe overgrazing and degradation on the rangelands proximity to villages in Debub and Maekel regions and the populated area of Gash_Barka region. The increased number of animals resulting in high grazing pressure was the consequence of migration. Ten vs. six percent of mortality rates was reported for the subsistence systems compared to the commercial systems respectively. The lower results of milk yield, calving rates and off- take rate productivity indicated in the different stages of analysis for the subsistence farmers were the consequences of the lack of the adoption of controlled stocking rates primarily constrained by the migration. The Barka and Arado cattle farming systems are kept under common access grazing systems. Compared to the Arado cattle farming, the Barka cattle farming region had relatively better access to grazing forage. The better quality of grazing in this region is attributed to a naturally low stock density in the region. During 2002, the Barka cattle farming had 1087 vs. 721 Lit of milk yield, 63% vs. 53% of calving productivity and 9.3% vs. 10.9% of mortality rates than the Arado cattle farming regions respectively, due to access to a wider area of grazing lands and more labour inputs. The Barka cattle area farmers are agro pastoralists and usually focus on grazing dairy cattle farming than crop farming. They increased calving rate productivity and decreased mortality rates by increasing the proportion of lactating cows and decreasing the proportion of oxen compared to the Arado cattle farming. The Arado cattle farming had higher offtake rates and income from cattle sales compared to the Barka cattle farming region. The higher off- take rate, which is an index of percentage of cattle sold, for the Arado cattle was probably linked to the shortage of grazing forage and increased herding costs. The Barka and Arado cattle farmers had a shortage of quality and quantity crop residue winter forage during 2002. Farmers were dependent only on rain fed cropping. The application of crop rotation, fallow and chemical fertilizers were low to enhance soil nutrients. Out of the total crop residues forage produced, only 22% and 15% of legumes residue DM forage was produced for the Barka and Arado cattle farmers respectively. Agro- industrial and crop farming by-products supplementary feeds were also limited due to the shortage of feeds in the country during the year. In general, government intervention is important to bring institutional changes to promote the adoption of controlled stocking rates to alleviate the shortage of grazing forage.
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