Animal Production / ASSP / Cattle / Dairying / DFATD / East Africa / Ethiopia / ILRI / LIVES / Livestock / LIVESTOCK-FISH

Smallholder dairy farming systems in the highlands of Ethiopia: System-specific constraints and options

Blanket recommendations of technologies and improved practices could be one of the reasons for low adoption of interventions by agricultural systems which are highly diverse in agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions. The purpose of classification of farming systems is to develop strategies and interventions relevant to the various systems which may vary in the type and degree of severity of constraints, resource base and enterprise patterns.

Dairy farming systems in Ethiopia have been extensively characterized. However, a comprehensive characterization of dairy systems in the highlands across the value chain supported with quantitative data and a valid statistical analysis is rare in the literature.

The LIVES project has initiated case studies through its MSc sponsorship program to characterize dairy systems in the highland states of Ethiopia, namely Amhara, Tigray, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region (SNNPR) and Oromia. This working paper synthesizes and analyses two case studies in five districts of Amhara and Oromia states.

This working paper identified characteristic features of smallholder dairy farming in the highlands of Ethiopia, reclassifies sample farmers to the highland dairy farming systems with quantitative data and statistical analysis, and identifies system-specific constraints and leverage points for developing the dairy value chain.

The study found that smallholder dairy farming in the highlands is diverse in characteristics and constraints. A multinomial logistic regression analysis was conducted to re-classify the sampled farmers in the study areas into rural, peri-urban and urban categories based on five categorical and seven covariate variables representing scale of production, production resources, production practices, breeds and genotypes used, marketing objective and contributions to livelihood.

The statistical model classified 83.5% of the sampled farmers correctly to their observed categories of dairy farming systems. The variables that significantly contributed to the classification were the breeds and genotypes kept, daily milk production, earning from livestock, and cow feeding practice. However, the peri-urban and urban systems classified poorly with 50–65% correct classification, indicating the two systems might share some similar characteristics.

The importance of livestock in general and dairy production in particular varied across systems. While livestock production is most important activity for nearly 100% of the urban dairy farmers surveyed, its role as the most important or sole source of livelihood declines to 3.3% and 13.1% of the farmers in rural and peri-urban areas, respectively.

The contribution of livestock to the annual farm income is highest for the urban farmers. However, livestock is also very important source of farm cash income in rural areas, where cropping plays a major livelihood role, for some 44.2% of the interviewed farmers who earn ETB 20,000–40,000 annually. Annual cash income from crop production is lower than ETB 9000 for almost all the urban and peri-urban farmers interviewed, whereas about 84.5% of the rural farmers earn more than ETB 9000 per annum from crop production.

Another classifying characteristics is the type of breeds and genotypes kept by farmers. Using a generalized multinomial regression model, it was found that the rural dairy farmers are 3.3 times more likely when compared to urban farmers to keep low grade crossbred cows with exotic blood level of less than 50%. On the other hand, peri-urban farmers are significantly more likely (P<0.05; odds ratio = 0.94) to keep medium-grade cows than urban farmers. Urban farmers are more likely to keep high grade cows with exotic blood level of greater than 75%, but the difference between urban and peri-urban systems was not statistically significant. The urban, and in some cases the peri-urban, systems are generally described as landless dairy farmers. The urban farmers in the major cities and owns are less likely to practice crop farming. On the contrary, urban farmers in regional towns in the current study are sort of mixed livestock-crop farmers, albeit on very small plots of land, the average crop land holding being 0.025 and 0.15 ha in West Gojam and West Shoa.

The major constraints identified included low scale of production, low productivity that varies across systems, failure to maintain exotic inheritance at farm level resulting in herds with mixed genotypes which are not amenable to recommendation for value chain interventions, least access by the rural system to artificial insemination (AI) service and questions by the urbanites on its efficiency, heifer supply least satisfactory among breeding services, concentrate feed cost threatening urban/peri-urban dairies, unhygienic milk handling and consumption, particularly in rural areas, price of milk generally too low for producers, especially for rural farmers. Leverage points corresponding to the challenges were suggested for developing the dairy value chain in the highlands.

Download the working paper:

Gizaw, S., Megersa, A., Muluye, M., Hoekstra, D., Gebremedhin, B. and Tegegne, A. 2016. Smallholder dairy farming systems in the highlands of Ethiopia: System-specific constraints and intervention options. LIVES Working Paper 23. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

One thought on “Smallholder dairy farming systems in the highlands of Ethiopia: System-specific constraints and options

  1. I enjoyed reading this article as it is informative in compiling current and existing knowledge comprehensive way. However, it is high time to implement the findings including that of previous studies at dairy household level for the benefit of smallholder dairy producers and dairy industry at large. Therefore, LIVES with its partners and GO/Livestock & fisheries Ministry/ need to go quickly into intervention/action to support dairy farmers such as improved heifer supply, forage production, concentrate feed utilization, improving AI and veterinary service efficiency, improving milk quality, manure management, milk market development (strengthening dairy cooperative), maintaining indigenous breed, facilitating establishment of urban dairy parks and water development. These may include input supply, training and other support services. Some of the technologies need also to be directly adopted from other countries rather than wasting time/resources in doing research. For instance, Local feed/home formulation from in India; simple milk/dairy recording from Malawi/Kenya.

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