PRIME Achieves Encouraging Results of Reducing Post-harvest Grain Loss

Global food loss, according to Postharvest Education Foundation, is estimated at 30 to 40 percent. The figure is much higher for developing countries due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems. Although data related to postharvest losses in Ethiopia is limited, a recent study by Addis Ababa University and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in two highland communities estimate postharvest loss to be as high as 30 to 50 percent, rendering food and nutrition security fragile. Understandably, the rate of crop loss is even higher in agro-pastoralist areas where crop production is being introduced and knowledge on postharvest management is very limited.

Mercy Corps Ethiopia, in collaboration with local partners and the private sector, implemented an OFDA funded Enhanced Post-Harvest and Seed Storage (EPHSS) project that sought to address postharvest grain loss problems agro-pastoralists face. The project tested different storage options. After a series of on-farm demonstrations and evaluations with farmers and extension agents, pit storage bag (PSB) was selected as the most innovative and efficient storage technology. The impact assessment showed that the technology reduced grain loss to less than one percent from the 31.4 percent loss when the traditional pit was used. PSB is made of a highly durable, readily available rubberized-canvas. During the initial pilot stage, the technology was promoted through a market system approach, with temporary subsidy, in which private sector actors were involved in the manufacturing, marketing and disseminating the product. The product was modified and fine-tuned with subsequent trials. Overall, the PSB technology proved to be effective, affordable, adaptable, and scalable.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

Against the backdrop of such a successful trial, USAID-PRIME, in collaboration with the private sector and partners, started promoting PSB technology in January 2014 in Afar Cluster to agro pastoralists of Bonta kebele, Amibara woreda on cost-sharing basis. Activities in the promotion included training of 160 agro pastoralists and woreda extension experts in proper use and installation of PSB technology. Fifty model and interested households were selected for scaling up piloting of the technology. The trainees stored their grains following the instructions and guidelines provided during the training.

USAID-PRIME monitored the status of the stored grains in Amibara to learn how the technology was doing. The findings disclosed that after nearly two months of storage, the grains and the bags were intact. Community members who were skeptical of the technology were relieved and were excited about the prospects of the technology. A community member said, ‘Now we are confident to speak about the technology and anxious to share the experience with others’.

If this technology is introduced sucessfully, PRIME anticipates an encouraging result of improoved incomes and nutritional status of the pastoralist communities in Zone three of Afar Region. The project expects to reach xxx houeholds through this technology. The project will work with the government, development agents and the private sector to facilitate capacity building efforts of making and using the technology.


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.[read more =”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

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.


The services of community animal health workers (CAHWs) is making a difference in livestock health

Ahmed Mohammed Sirad, 58, lives in Galmarodi Village in Fafan Zone of the Ethiopian Somali Region. Ahmed owns 50 cattle and five camels. His livelihood, like his ancestors, has always depended on livestock for as long as he remembers. The more animals he has the better off he and his family are. Drought and animal diseases are the two worst tragedies that could happen to him and his community.

Drought is still a problem, but animal health issues are changing for the better. Talking about the animal health situation a few years ago, Ahmed says, “Our lives were uncertain.” Pastoralists did not have control over their animals’ health. The latest tragedy he remembers happened about five years ago when he lost three cattle (estimated at about 23,000 birr) to diarrhea. In those days, a lot of his community members lost livestock to various diseases. Ahmed says, “There was nothing we could do about the diseases. We just had to look on our animals die. It’s so heartbreaking.” Diseases did not only claim the lives of animals but also undermined their productivity, resulting in less milk and meat. Ahmed and family did not have enough to eat. All that has changed thanks to the start of animal health services by community health workers (CAHWs).[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

In an effort to build resilience among pastoralist communities through strengthening animal health services, Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion project (USAID-PRIME) has been working with government, the private sector and FAO to improve the animal health services in the Ethiopian Somali Region. Among other things, the project is facilitating technical training to community animal health workers (CAHWs). In the Eastern Cluster, PRIME delivered a ten-day training of trainers (TOT) to 19 government health officials so that they can cascade the training to community animal health workers (CAHWs). Based on the National Minimum Standard Guideline, the training was focused on diagnosing animal diseases, community mobilization, adult learning, livestock disease incidence, morbidity and mortality, and sustainable community animal health. Since then, the TOT trainees cascaded the training to about 150 CAHWs in two rounds. The start of the animal health service delivery at the grassroots level is beginning to bear fruits.

According to Ahmed, pastoralists who take their sick animals to CAHWs and get the necessary vaccination do not lose any animal to diseases any more. “CAHWs are not only keeping animals alive, but also making them healthier and more productive. Families are getting more milk, more meat and more money. Ahmed, his family and community are better off. “My children drink more milk,” says Ahmed. He continues to narrate his story happily, “Today, I have more and healthier livestock and I can afford to sell some so that I can buy fodder for my animals and more food for my children. My children are eating pasta and sugar.” In all, Ahmed and his community are better prepared to weather the storm in case of droughts or other emergencies. “In case of drought, we can sell older animals,” points out Ahmed confidently.

The 150 CAHWs trained in this intervention are serving 1200 to 1500 in twenty woredas. The services they provide are improving the health of animals in these villages, raising the average income, nutritional status and lives of households.


Expo Participation Created Trade Links, Increasing Livestock Export

For Mahmud Haji, a livestock trader in the Ethiopian Somali Region, “A poor market linkage among the value chain actors is one of the reasons for poor performance of livestock markets.” The Ministry of Agriculture also recognizes that lack of reliable market for live animals and animal products, weak linkage between livestock exporters and international buyers, and lack of competitiveness in the Ethiopian livestock sector are important bottlenecks for Ethiopia to meet its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) goals in the livestock sector.

In an effort to improve livestock marketing and competitiveness, Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion (PRIME) coordinated with the Ministry of Trade to facilitate the participation of four export abattoirs and live animal exporters from pastoral and agro pastoral areas and a government official in the Gulfood Expo held in Dubai from ) February 22-26, 2014. The visit presented an opportunity not only to expose the companies to state-of-the-art technologies, new practices, latest products and reputable suppliers in the livestock sector, but also create lucrative and rewarding trade links with prominent companies in the region.[read more=”Continue Reading” less=”Less”]

Ato Zenebe Kassa, General Manager of Rez Agro-Vet Trading Company and one of the participants of the visit, describes the visit as “valuable to gain experience and create linkage with potential livestock importers from different parts of the Gulf States.” The visit triggered some companies to revisit their strategic directions. Some signed a number of concrete trade agreements with new clients. Others revised their marketing strategy and learned more about importers needs and requirements, which they are working hard to meet. Rez Agro-vet Trading Company, for example, entered into an agreement with Ard Eneaam Company to export 330 camels per quarter to Egypt. The Company had also discussions with more than ten livestock traders and made a deal with four livestock importing companies: Yazdan Food Service to export 2000 sheep per month, Bahrain Group to export 5000 sheep and 200 cattle per quarter, Nile Union Meat Cop to export 3000 cattle per two months, and Euro Star to export 1500 camels every forty-five days. Faisal Guhad established business links with more than 20 companies and he is having negotiations with the companies to sign MoUs and business deals. Overall, the visit was key in meeting PRIME’s livestock productivity objective of improving trade of live animals and improving meat trade.

PRIME staff are supporting the participants continually in following up on the new trade links to support the companies in either executing export transactions or increasing competitiveness by adopting new technologies and quality standards that the potential buyers require.