Integrating crop farming with livestock improved my soil. And my life!

    | November 22, 2010

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    Notes to broadcaster

    Millions of rural villagers worldwide do not integrate livestock keeping with their crop farming activities. Despite the possibility that they can improve their soils and earn a lot by integrating these practices, many farmers don’t follow this way of farming.

    The high cost of both farming and livestock keeping today – which are becoming harder as a result of climate change – has meant poverty for many farmers and pastoralists. Thus, integrating these two activities has great promise.

    This script talks about improving soil health by integrating livestock with crop farming. Keeping livestock helps farmers to have more sustainable farms. It also provides farmers with better incomes.

    This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.

    Signature tune

    Presenter: Welcome, dear listeners. In today’s program, we will talk about how farmers can conserve and improve soil fertility by integrating animals with crop agriculture.

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    Presenter: Today we will speak with Mr. Lomayani Kuyan Mollel, a farmer from Ekenywa Village, in Arusha, Tanzania. He will share how he changed his life by integrating livestock with crop farming.

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    Presenter: Conserving soil fertility means using different practices to keep the soil in good condition. These practices retain and enhance nutrients in the soil. Healthy soil supplies nutrients to crops on a sustainable basis.

    Mr. Lomayani Kuyan Mollel lives in Ekenywa Village, in Ngaramtoni, near Arusha, Tanzania. He is married and has five children. Mr. Lomayani is a Maasai who grew up in the typical Maasai pastoralist life. During his late father’s life, the family owned a lot of cows. They didn’t do any farming, but got everything they needed from the cows.

    But as the population grew, the area available for pasturing became smaller and smaller. Unfortunately, after ten years of pastoralism, all Mr. Lomayani’s cows were gone and the land had to be used for farming. This was a challenge because his family was not used to farming. Our interviewer speaks with Mr. Lomayani about this time in his life.

    Interviewer: How would you describe your life at that time, Mr. Lomayani?

    Farmer: We had been rich but then we became poor. The crops from the farm couldn’t meet our food needs and all the other needs in the family.

    Interviewer: What was the impact of this poor production on your family?

    Farmer: My father couldn’t pay for school uniforms and transportation costs to school. The school was far from where we lived. The cattle were finished and we didn’t have very much land to grow crops. Later on, because of poverty and lack of food, my father died. We were orphans. I had to look after my mother, my young sisters and brothers. I needed to continue in school. But who would pay for me?

    Interviewer: So what did you do?

    Farmer: I was a poor Maasai, just struggling to get enough to eat, or sometimes nothing at all. I remember it was a hard life. Anyway, I later decided to marry and have children in that poor life.

    I had five children because I didn’t know how to have well-spaced childbirths. With five children, I suffered even more than before. Sometimes we went to sleep at night having only eaten porridge or sometimes just a cup of black tea during the whole day.

    During my time at school, education was free – the government paid everything except clothing and transportation to school. But during my children’s time, not a single shilling came from the government. And if you didn’t take a child to school, you would be taken to court. I couldn’t afford to buy school uniforms for my children. That was the biggest challenge I ever faced in life.

    Interviewer: How did you introduce the new practice of integrating farming and livestock keeping?

    Farmer: I decided to take one step ahead – to try farming in a professional way. I had only two acres after the division of my father’s land, because my father had a lot of children.

    The government sent some professionals to teach villagers how to harvest many bags of crops from a small plot. I was very much attracted by that. We started a small group of farmers. The professional person was called an agriculture extension officer. He helped by teaching us about farming.

    It was good. We started practicing farming under the guidance of the officer. After harvest, we found that we had improved a lot. We harvested 10 bags of maize per acre. In previous years, we had harvested only four or five bags.

    He told us we needed to put manure on our crops, and that in order to make farming sustainable, you need to keep cattle and crops. This is called integrating livestock and agriculture. This was a very good idea. You see, we couldn’t access manure because people let their animals roam free. So you couldn’t collect animal manure.

    Interviewer: What were the challenges in feeding animals?

    Farmer: The challenge was to get grass. All farmers in the country, especially those of us who were new to agriculture and liked to keep animals, were required to keep animals penned inside, which means zero grazing. We didn’t have livestock and we couldn’t afford to buy them, so the government granted each of us in the group one co and one goat. There were ten of us in the group and we set an example to other farmers in the village.

    I started feeling hope for survival. I thought that at the very least, I might get milk after nine months. I planned to sell the milk and make money. I encouraged myself. I also saw some hope and respect from my wife and children.

    And it came true! After nine months, my cow gave birth and I started enjoying milk. The cow gave twelve litres in the morning and twelve litres in the evening. I sold the milk and got enough money to pay school fees for my children. Other villagers who saw such benefits also wanted to join the group. They visited us to ask questions about how they could join in this new way of farming. After only one year, we started seeing a lot of advantages.

    Interviewer: What are the advantages to integrating livestock and farming that you have seen in your life?

    Farmer: Personally, I have had a lot of advantages compared to practicing one type of agriculture only. First, I have cow dung which I use as manure on my farm. As a result, I added fertility to my soil. Also, I have protected my soil from erosion by planting grasses along the  contour lines on my farm to provide feed for the animals. I have also planted some trees. Next, my children got healthy because they eat enough food, milk and even fruits. With the extra income I get from milk and crops, I was able to build a house roofed with iron sheets. I used to have a grass-roofed house.
    I have been able to send my children to school. I have one who has completed school and one who is in advanced secondary education. Another one is in form two, while the others are in primary school. I can now get 15 bags of maize per acre, which is enough to feed my children. Also, I get trees for timber. My wife and I don’t go far to look for firewood now, because we planted trees on the farm. We just prune them every six months.

    So, if farmers need to have better soils, better animals, and good income, they need to integrate livestock with farming.

    Presenter: Up to this point, we have talked about the zero grazing system which Mr. Lomayani practices. But there are benefits to integrating crops and livestock for farmers who pasture their animals too. Pastured livestock eat grass, herbs and browse from grazing lands. This diet can be supplemented by grazing crop residues in farmer’s fields after cereal grains are harvested. The manure left in the fields by grazing livestock benefits the farmer by fertilizing the soil.

    But there is one thing to watch out for: Grazing of crop residues normally takes place at the beginning of the dry season. But then the manure is exposed to heat, sunshine and drying winds for several months before it is incorporated into the soil. This means that the manure loses nutrients. Therefore, this system is poor at improving soil fertility.

    Night parking is better for improving soil fertility. Night parking happens when crop residues are consumed by cattle tethered on the crop field overnight for two or three nights. This happens immediately before the rainy season. As the rains approach, the rising humidity stimulates fresh growth of grass and better quality fodder. When cattle eat better quality fodder, the quality of their manure improves. So more nutrients are added to the soil with their droppings each night. To avoid compacting the soil, animals are tethered in the same location on the fields for only two to three nights at a time.

    By doing this, you have fertilized the soil and strengthened the grasses for your animals. And this will also provide you with the best crops.

    Interviewer: Are there any other benefits when livestock and crop farming are integrated?

    Farmer: Yes. First, in a zero grazing system, you will spend a much shorter time getting grass for your animals when you integrate livestock and crops. Second, you can produce sufficient grass for your animals on a very small part of your land. Third, some of the crops give a direct benefit because they feed animals, who then produce manure. Fourth, you can store your animal manure safely and it won’t get lost. So you have cared for your farmland, you have cared for your domestic animals, and you have stored manure.

    Interviewer: How do animals benefit from the crops?

    Farmer: When domestic animals walk, they use a lot of energy. But when they rest in one place as in zero grazing, the amount of milk they produce increases.

    For example, if you have a cow which normally produces six litres of milk, it can produce 10 litres of milk when resting in one place. So, when you integrate livestock and crop farming, you have enough grass for your animals and yet you can get plenty of food crops.

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    Presenter: Integrating crop farming with animal keeping has a lot of benefits. The potential to use cereal crop residues as animal feed is enormous when you consider all the different types of cereal crops. Legume crop residues such as groundnut haulms, cowpea vines, and cowpea husks, are high in protein and can be used as supplements to natural pastures and cereal crop residues. When these residues are fed to animals, they can give milk and other products and even bring income in the market when sold.

    When leaves from leguminous plants drop on the soil and decompose, they produce nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients. All this enriches the soil. When animals are fed leguminous plant residues, they give good quality milk and meat. They also produce droppings which give a lot of nutrients to the soil. This becomes a virtuous circle for the soil. The soil is fertilized and well-maintained and there is a flow of nutrients between the soil, the plants and the animals.

    Growing legumes is good for both pastured and zero-grazed animals. Pastured animals can feed on legume residues and drop their manure in the field. In zero grazing, farmers can cut and carry legume residues to tethered animals.

    Poor soils will never give good production of crops or animal feed. We should expect to have poor animals if we have poor soil. The health of animals will deteriorate and farmers will earn little from animal products if the soil is poor.

    Keeping livestock like dairy cattle, poultry, rabbits, sheep, or goats can be beneficial to farmers because it’s like a circle. The animal droppings fertilize the crops, and the crop residues feed the animals. When livestock keeping is integrated with farming, farmers will enjoy many advantages.

    For more information, ask any agricultural worker or your fellow farmer who has already benefited from integrating animals and crop farming.

    Till next time, at the same time on the same station, I am your presenter, Lazarus Laiser. Bye for now.


    Contributed by:  Senior writer Lazarus Laiser, Radio Habari Maalum, Arusha, Tanzania, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.

    Reviewed by: John Fitzsimons, Associate Professor, University of Guelph, Canada.

    Information sources

    Interview with farmer Lomayani Kuyan Mollel, Ekenywa Village, Ngaramtoni, Arusha, 13th July 2010.

    Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)