Feed scarcity in smallholder systems is a key constraint to improved livestock production in developing countries. However, development efforts which have taken a narrow technology-focused approach to dealing with feed scarcity have had limited success. In the Fodder Adoption Project, we experimented with the use of local stakeholder forums in our sites in Ethiopia to bring local stakeholders together to deal with feed scarcity issues.
In this Technical Advisory Note we describe our experiences in combining stakeholder forums with introductions of improved forage varieties at farm level. The note shows how innovation approaches worked well in a site with good market potential for dairy and where diverse actors were present. In a food insecure site dominated by public sector actors things were more challenging.
We draw a number of lessons from our experiences:
- Local stakeholder forums required some practical action on the ground to stimulate interest and enhance credibility – in our case the “engine of change” was planted forage but other practical entry points could work equally well.
- Diversity of actors seems to be a key element of successful stakeholder forums.
- Enhancing productivity at farm level is a good first step but needs to be quickly accompanied by actions to deal with other value chain constraints such as input provision and marketing arrangements.
- In food insecure environments the use of local stakeholder forums for value chain development can be challenging. In such cases a different thematic focus such as food-security, capacity building or improving livelihoods might be more appropriate; this may also require a different set of actors including social welfare and health actors.
- Establishing a coherent livestock innovation system requires experimentation, learning from mistakes and careful adaptation. During the pilot phase some external resources may be required to cover the costs of workshops and meetings, training and other support and to underwrite new interventions that carry some risk until proven.