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Zambia requires a robust animal nutrition implementation plan if the outbreak of diseases is to be contained and the health of animals sustained.

In the recent past, the country’s animal population has experienced diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), East coast fever (ECF) and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBBP). This has affected farmers at large and has been a huge cost on Government to help mitigate the effects on the animal population in the country.

Government through the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has rolled out an animal nutrition programme as one of the many ways of ensuring good animal health and income generation for farmer’s country wide.

The Enhanced Smallholder Livestock Improvement Programme (E-SLIP) is promoting Forage seed production and giving support to farmers who want seed to grow fodder throughout the country as a means of improving animal nutrition and raising the income portfolio of farmers.

Acting District Fisheries and Livestock Officer in Kawambwa said farmers are very interested in growing of forage and fodder especially that the weather pattern in the district supports the activity. Further, farmers are also embracing livestock production.

“Production of natural pastures begins with the rain and by April, these pastures tussle and become less nutritious. It is at this time that farmers should supplement what they feed their animals and forage and fodder production is the answer to this” says Moses Sikazwe.

Mr. Sikazwe says ESLIP has trained two farmers on forage seed production which will form the basis for other farmers to buy and grow their own fodder.

Judith Musonda of Finsundo area of Kawambwa is one of the farmers trained by E – SLIP on forage seed production and has since started production from the year 2018.

Ms. Musonda is happy with this new project on her farm, saying that her animals are healthier, her income has increased and living standards improved.

“I used to grow maize, cassava and other crops and my income was quite low compared to the two seasons that I have grown forage seed which I sold to E- SLIP and the income realized from this has raised my standard of living”

She planted three Lima’s of lablab and a lima of velvet beans. From this Musonda realized about K3, 000.00 which saw her send her children to school, and buy two goats.

Apart from selling this seed to E- SLIP, Ms. Musonda was trained on how to feed her animals from the fodder grown and has since seen the difference in the nutrition of her animals.

Livestock raring has for a long time been the preserve of the Southern, Western, Central and Eastern parts of the country.  Farmers in the northern circuit have realized that livestock raring is good for wealth creation and also a means of nutrition to the family.

In Kawambwa, Bombesha Cooperative approached the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock in 2019 seeking advice on how they can be helped in venturing into livestock production as a means of income generation and household food security.

Government promised the group that it would consider giving them livestock but on condition that they first get trained on how to grow fodder for their animals and also train them on the benefits of doing so before the animals are released.

Chairperson of the Cooperative, Osward Mwenya says they had to look for land where they would grow this fodder. The land was sourced in Kaani area of Kawambwa district where the Cooperative operates from.

Mwenya says in January 2020 the group received the fodder seed from E- SLIP and has since planted it on one hectare. The seed received was Pancam, velvet beans, cowpeas and sunhemp.

“The difference between wild grass and what we are growing is that, wild grass is not controlled while our fodder is, the life span is short while fodder can be preserved and will retain its nutrients which are good for our animals” Mwenya says.

He says feed for animals becomes a problem in the dry season and it is during this period that animals get diseases due to poor nutrition and the growing of fodder is critical as farmers can supplement feeding animals in a more nutritious manner.

“In the same manner that human beings enjoy good health by eating nutritious meals so should our animals if we are to get the best out of them” Mwenya says.

Mwenya says livestock raring is good for income generation and food security and therefore calls for good animal husbandry practices if farmers have to benefit from them.

He says on an individual level he has seen the benefit of belonging to a cooperative and as a result  he is building a house this year as iron sheets have already been procured, two of his children are going to school without problems.

“Belonging to a cooperative is beneficial to farmers as Government is helping us through these groups in different forms” Mwenya says.

He called on farmers who are not members of cooperatives to join as this will see them alleviate poverty and maintain household food security.

Forage seed production and fodder growing is critical to the nutrition of animals and also good for soil improvement as it leaves nutrients in the soil. Farmers will benefit greatly from this activity as their animals will be healthier and their soil improved for crop production.-NAIS

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