Enhancing post-harvest storage and quality improvement of crop residues as livestock feed in arid and semi-arid areas : Post-harvest storage practices for crop residues | Livestock and Fisheries Management (Livestock Feeds)

Ruminant livestock is the mainstay of a majorityof smallholder rural farmers in the ASALs. Therefore, any factor affectinglivestock production has far-reaching consequences on the livelihoods ofcommunities living in the ASALs. Although livestock mainly rely on naturalforages, crop residues such as cereal straws (maize, sorghums an Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

Ruminant livestock is the mainstay of a majorityof smallholder rural farmers in the ASALs. Therefore, any factor affectinglivestock production has far-reaching consequences on the livelihoods ofcommunities living in the ASALs. Although livestock mainly rely on naturalforages, crop residues such as cereal straws (maize, sorghums and millets)constitute a major feed resource after crop harvests. However, crop residuesare inefficiently utilised partly due to their inherently low nutritional valueand poor post-harvest management practices adopted by farmers. Livestock aresubjected to severe nutritional stresses that not only affect milk productionand live weight growth but also lead to loss of animals, especially during dryseasons, with serious implications on livelihoods. Conservation and improvingthe quality of crop residues are therefore good buffers to help farmers reducevulnerability and sustain nutritional, environmental and financial securityduring times of change including severe climate variability such as prolongeddroughts and floods

Assessment/reflection on utilization, dissemination & scaling out or up approaches used

Technologiesaimed at improving storage and quality of crop residues for use as livestockfeed have been tested and promoted in Mbeere, Tharaka, Nanyuki and Kituicounties of Kenya, which are characterised by arid and semi-arid conditions.These areas of eastern Kenya are mainly inhabited by resource-poor farmers. Theregion has intrinsically low soil fertility and poorly distributed bimodalrainfall patterns. Droughts are a common phenomenon. Crop production, whichmainly comprises sorghums, millets and maize, is at subsistence level.Livestock is the main source of cash income. Average farm sizes are variable,averaging 0.5 to 40 ha.


Thetechnologies entail:

1)   Useof appropriate post-harvest storage practices for crop residues (e.g. maizestover) by use of wooden tripods while in the field, or storage insidesheltered sheds. These practices help to reduce nutrient loss due to rainfall,wind and termite attack.

2)   Useof the appropriate gender-friendly baling box to ease in transportation andstorage of the rather bulky crop residues. The baling box is a collapsible typenamed “jisaidie” (self-help). It deviates from the traditional baling box thatresults in much drudgery and is therefore unsuited to women and children. Thebox can be easily managed and used by one person.

3)   Improvingthe quality of the crop residues for feeding the livestock by treating withurea.


Scaling-up approaches

Thetechnologies developed are applied by ASAL communities keeping local breeds ofcattle and shoats in the designated areas where technologies were promoted.However, there is increased emergence of improved livestock rearing systemsinvolving exotic cattle and goat breeds. There is therefore a greater need forimproved feeds due to the higher genetic potential of the breeds.


Critical factors

1)    Adequate agricultural reforms/support:Strengthen and expand knowledge intensive extension system to enhance scale ofreach by extension personnel to communities but also be able to articulate broaderissues of climate change and variability.

2)    Policy support:

§ Supportaimed at improving access to credit providing institutions, markets with goodprices, and improvement on relevant infrastructure.

§ Subsidisingcosts of inputs needed for storage structures and treatment, accessingaffordable credit at local level and ensuring that markets for livestock/products and infrastructure function well so that ratio of prices of inputs tooutputs at farm level is sufficiently low and will attract greater adoption oftechnologies.

§ Governmentshould enhance the capacity of the ASALs to cope with effects of adverseclimatic changes (droughts, floods) by providing buffers such as strategic feedreserves of crop residues and paying greater attention to resource conservationincluding community mobilisation in the policy papers.

§ Governmentshould enhance literacy levels of local communities in ASALs, including adulteducation, to improve local capacity for technical knowledge.

3)    Farmer capacity: existence of a literatecommunity is essential to enable members to articulate technical aspects of thetechnology such as the need for post-harvest storage, urea treatment andsupplementation and strengthening capacity for knowledge sharing at thegrassroots.

4)    Research/extension focus:

§ Engagingfarmer participatory research–development process from identification ofconstraints and development of interventions to implementation and (re)evaluation are critical elements to consider.

§ Aparadigm shift is required from a focus on production aspects alone tomultifunctional approaches that enhance farmers’ capacity for resourcemanagement to cope with emerging challenges of climate change.

§ Understandingthe vulnerabilities and constraints faced by livestock farmers will help addresstheir needs better, including development of appropriate interventions forpromotion of technologies.

Facilitate establishment of strong stakeholder forums;these are very useful in catalysing dissemination due to the comparativeadvantage in terms of shared resources which make these more efficient and easetransfer of technologies.

Current situation and future scaling up


§  Inadequate understanding by potentialbeneficiaries of the full range of benefits of the technologies, consequentlytechnologies do not generate much interest among the target groups. Benefitsshould range from socio-economic, environmental conservation, ecologicalresilience/sustainability to overall livelihoods change.

§  Inadequate capacity to promotetechnologies in terms of poor technical capacity among farmers and extensionstaff and shortage of extension staff, coupled with inaccessibility tofarmer-friendly extension materials.

§  Cultural beliefs that underrate feedvalue of crop residues, subjecting these to alternative uses. Cereal straws areextensively used as mulches, trash lines along contours for soil and waterconservation, and sources of household energy (cooking fuel).

§  Unavailability of water resourcesadversely limits the component of urea treatment of crop residues.

§  Lack of capital, especially cash incomefor purchase of inputs such as urea for treating crop residues or investing inappropriate storage facilities.

§  Crop residues are generally poorlyutilised where land tenure rights are not defined (customary grazingarrangements), since most feed is obtained from outside farms.



§  Provide adequate information duringpromotion of technologies on benefits accruing to the entire production systemranging from socio-economic, environmental conservation, ecologicalsustainability/resilience to overall livelihoods transformation.

§  Build local institutional capacitythrough technical empowerment of farmers, regular extension staff and otherpartners as sustainable technical support especially in processing (ureatreatment).

§  Forge proactive linkages among farmers,researchers and extension personnel.

§  Establish informal farmer linkage groupsat grassroots level, such as farmer extension groups (FEG).

§  Appropriate farmer-suited extensionmaterials should be developed and disseminated widely.

§  Promote the technologies through anintegrated resource management approach /practice to enhance sustainableproductivity increases and provide capacity to beneficiaries for climate changeadaptation and variability.

§  Create/promote consortia of strategicpartnerships and facilitation as platforms for widespread dissemination oftechnologies.

§  Adopt a multifunctional approach toreduce the need for crop residues for alternative uses through the integrationof multipurpose agroforestry trees in the ASAL agroecosystems, especiallyleguminous species. These will not only provide complimentary fodder, but theiruse as contour hedgerows will replace trash lines thus releasing more materialfor livestock feeding. Agroforestry systems sequester carbon and provide aunique opportunity to reconcile the objectives of adaptation to and mitigationagainst climate change and variability.

§  Farmers’ capacity for use of localadaptable tree species for fodder (such as Acacia tortilis and A. albida)should be strengthened.

§  Government should provide a conducivepolicy environment that includes subsidising cost of inputs and facilitatingaccess to rural credit through microfinancing that will enable investments inareas such as construction of storage facilities and make urea treatment ofcrop residues more affordable.

§  Water harvesting initiatives should bepromoted to access water for livestock feeding and complimentary use in ureatreatment of crop residues.



§  Involvement in collaborative activitiesby many stakeholders providing different technologies helps to attract widergroups of beneficiaries as has happened during collaborative agricultural fielddays.

§  Facilitating the establishment offarmer-centred extension approaches (farmer networks) helps to increasecritical mass of interaction among potential beneficiaries, including thoseoutside the initial technology testing areas.

§  Engaging in other non-traditionalmethods such as use of print and audio media has far-reaching impacts on thepromotion of technologies.

§  Forging strategic partnerships withother stakeholders, especially non governmental organisations (NGOs) andfacilitation provides a good platform for catalysing widespread disseminationof technologies.

§  Scaling-up of technologies is influencedby the perceived benefits accruing and observable by other farmers, and ittherefore becomes necessary to showcase technologies through various forumssuch as farm visits, field days, demonstrations and agricultural shows.

Gender considerations

§  Encouraging the inclusion of women andyouth in training and other activities aimed at evaluation and promotion oftechnologies.

§  Targeting end users in research, takingon board aspects that may hinder adoption given the extra roles andresponsibilities of women. Special consideration was given to aspects relatedto: (i) water access, given that the component on urea treatment requireswater; (ii) practicality in baling of the crop residues to ease transportationand storage; and (iii) access to complimentary feed resources such as foddertrees that can be grown within farms thereby making forage readily harvestable.

Application guidelines for the users

1)    The maize stover is chopped, weighed to100 kg and spread on a polythene sheet or tarpaulin.

2)    Water measuring 4 to 5 litres in awatering can or garden sprayer is then mixed with 400 to 500 g urea and sprayedon the crop residues.

3)    The treated materials are compactedinside a polythene or plastic bag, which is tied and kept for one to two weeksafter the treatment, after which it is ready to be used as feed. The followingphotographs illustrate different aspects of the technology.