Right to Food- The Pasture seed model

Although pastoralism is compatible with dryland conditions, pastoralists are among the most food-insecure of the world’s people. Pastoralists are particularly vulnerable to droughts. The long dry spells reduce water and forage availability on the rangelands, which creates an imbalance between the number of livestock and available fodder. In pastoralist areas, the livestock become emaciated and die or have to be sold preemptively. Different land actors, government and pastoralist organisations like Food and Agricultural Organisation, Ministry Of Agriculture and COPACSO have been engaging pastoralists on pasture growing. COPACSO under the right to food project worked with partners and pasture growing group members in Karamoja to engage in pasture growing to increase pasture production food security. Click here for detailed copy

Project background

Coalition of Pastoralist Civil Society Organizations (COPACSO) is a membership organization that seeks to provide a platform for civil society organizations to engage with policy formulation and advocacy for the recognition of pastoralism as a way of life.

In 2016, COPACSO supported by Oxfam with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA)  started implementation of a Right to Food (R2F) project to encourage pasture growing through a model called pasture seed model. Different pasture varieties such as centrosema, Rhodes grass, and glyricidia were piloted in Kaabong and Kotido involving (5) pasture growing groups with total membership of 160 pastoralists. The varieties are climate resilient, fast maturing, palatable to livestock, and commercially attractive. This was aimed in the long run for pastoralists to embrace pasture growing and processing to improve availability of hay for livestock throughout the year and increase their (livestock) health productivity which will lead to household food and nutrition security. The project contributes to strengthened knowledge and capacity of the pastoralists in planting, storing and harvesting, storage and postharvest handling of pasture varieties for their livestock there by increasing their productivity.

During the project period Pasture demonstration gardens were established in five sub counties of Rengen, Nakapelimoru and Panyangara in Kotido district and Sidok and Loyoro sub counties in Kaabong district. Currently, there are five pasture growing groups in the two districts involved in pasture growing.

COPACSO is aiming at scaling up of pasture growing to enable more pastoralists both direct and none project participants engage in pasture growing so as to increase feed supply for their livestock. It is organizing an engagement with pasture growing group members to establish pasture seed banks. As part of the establishment of the seed banks, the pastoralists will revisit and redevelop their visions and sustainability plans. The seed banks in their communities will be a center where selected good quality pasture seeds will be stored, marketed for sale. During the engagement, a pasture seed security committee will also be selected with the aim of ensuring increased access to seed. The committee will include the production team, quality control and marketing. These will be charged with ensuring that members focus on producing quality seeds in bigger quantities and the marketing team will create linkages with Nabuin ZARDI so that they are able to access market for their products.

Current Situation

Over 160 Pastoralists from different families in Kotido and Kaabong have been engaged in the Community Pasture Seed Model.  It promotes pasture seed (a climate resilient, fast maturing, palatable to livestock and commercially attractive variety) and the pasture is currently being promoted by Nabuin ZARDI. It promotes community resilience through availing pasture for livestock especially during droughts and seeks to minimize trans-boundary animal diseases and conflicts among the pastoralist communities

This has been done through trainings in processes of pasture management from planting, harvesting, post-harvest handling and feeding livestock and now they have capacity to have a practical and harmonized approach to community-led seed security, have technical capacity to identify, multiply, improve and distribute or share good quality seed and get alternative source of income through sale of surplus seed.

 Justification

Increasing demand for pasture/feed for livestock especially during droughts to increase community resilience, Pastoral migrations, transhumance leading to spread of animal diseases both within the country and across boundaries and conflicts among the pastoral communities, Low livestock productivity and animal health supply of animal feeds affecting food security- 50% Karamoja people are food insecure, High poverty levels that call for alternative income sources by sparking commercial pasture seed and pasture as tradable commodities

The critical challenges in the pasture model promotion among pastoralists is limited to limited access to nutritious seeds from research institutions by pastoralists, Inadequate  extension services, financial and limited market access i.e. Seed companies in Uganda are not interested , thus, not investing in pasture seed production and marketing.

Emerging challenges and Opportunities:

Pasture seed is a key resource for pasture improvement. It is necessary for development of productive grazing pastures particularly to support dairy production which is extremely demanding in terms of feed resource requirement, Production of pasture seed in Uganda has not received much attention due to absence of a pasture seed production scheme. Seed companies in Uganda are not interested in investing in pasture seed production and marketing. As a result, there is consistent shortage of pasture seed in the country, The existing seasonal pasture seed stocks produced by small-scale farmers (usually research groups) are often very limited in quantity. Furthermore, only small quantities of pasture seed are usually produced at the agricultural research institutes, The scarcity of pasture seed also renders it costly and hence unaffordable for smallholder farmers. As a result, farmers fail to improve their pastures and depend on natural ones which cannot produce the desired levels of livestock productivity, Pastoralists have for millennia lived in rangelands that are characterized by highly variable natural resource allocation in time and space, making pasture along with other natural resources like water, some of the key assets of pastoralists, Demarcation of local government and international boundaries has increased competition for land and water resources by both pastoralist and non-pastoralist populations, Appropriation of pastoralist land for public and private investment has also impacted negatively on the availability and accessibility of pasture for pastoralists’ livestock.

However, strengthening pastoralist communities by technically equipping them  to produce their own pasture seed and manage their own pasture, they can sustainably produce and manage pasture for their animals and also contribute to their household food security.

The group has earned income from selling pasture seeds and they started Village Saving and Loans Association which is helping us to support in generating school fees for children. The conflict with the Turkana and cattle rustling have been very much in Karamoja last year this forced many households to keep calves at home for security purposes. At this moment they needed pasture and it was a dry season. As a group, we divided the pasture garden among us and everyone was able to feed the calves throughout the period until the rain season started. By Lochoch Lokwi – Group leader-Panyangara Pasture Growers

Conclusion:

We are calling upon the pastoralists to embrace pasture seed growing for rangelands management, restoration and protection. At same time as the government of Uganda through ministry of agriculture to priotice pasture growing especially in the cattle corridor.

Published by COPACSO Uganda

The Coalition for Pastoralist Civil Society Organizations (COPACSO) was formed to provide a platform for member organizations to engage in policy formulation and advocacy for recognition of pastoralism and the right of pastoralists to benefit from national and local resources.

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