Availability of animal feed resources at farm and village scale in Umurera, Rwanda

Submitted by charlotte.schilt on Mon, 09/24/2018 - 10:01

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, resulting in intensification of farming systems and overexploitation of natural resources, the latter leading to food insecurity. In an attempt to solve the problem, the government initiated the ‘One farm, one cow’-program. The main idea is to distribute cows to the poorest families, to provide them with milk and manure. Before animals are distributed farmers need to develop a stable and cultivate fodder. The objective of this research is to examine the viability of the program, leading to the following research hypothesis: ‘Is it possible for each farmer in Umurera, Rwanda to produce sufficient fodder to keep cattle?’

On-farm measurements of both fodder production and livestock diet and outputs were performed. Based on these data, current and future possibilities for farmers in each of the three wealth categories to produce livestock fodder were assessed. The village Umurera is representative for the Central Plateau area in Rwanda.


The fieldwork-measurements revealed a large range in land-availability (0.10-2.86 ha). Most important fodder for cattle were: grasses (56%), parts of the banana plant (21%) and residues of several crops (15%). One quarter (25%) of the feed consisted of uncultivated grass. The farmer from WC-I (which is the lowest wealth-category occurring in the area) fed a lower percentage of grasses, but larger quantities of marshland-herbs and crop residues. The feed composition for cattle of WC-II and WC-III is almost equal. Some cattle in Umurera was underfed. The amount of fodder on offer for cattle ranged between 42 kg and 179 kg fresh weight per animal per day. The fodder-amounts on offer for local cattle of wealth-category II were substantially lower than amounts on offer for improved cattle, which is in agreement with literature. The same trend was not visible in the data from wealth-category III. The amount of refusals and the results of the chemical analysis of plant samples indicated a low quality of some fodder. On average farmers fed 3-4% Cyperaceae and 1-4% banana leaves. The milk yield in Umurera ranged between 1.33-4,58 l/d. The highest amount of milk was produced by an improved cow.


Calculations about the current possibilities for farmers to produce livestock fodder resulted in a negative conclusion for each of the three farmers from wealth-category I. The analysis also explored the effects of five scenarios in which the quantity of three cultivated fodder-plants was either increased, decreased or kept equal. The calculated annual fodder production (kg DM) per farmer indicates that in several scenarios two of the poorest farmers are likely able to keep local cattle. However, the GoR intends to distribute improved cattle, therefore the ‘One farm, one cow’-program in its current set-up, is not viable. To be able to keep local cattle, the farmers need to make substantial investments, which might not be realistic in the first place. Furthermore, the annual production of fodder in Umurera is also likely to differ from the numbers used in calculations, which can directly affect the conclusion of this study. The viability of the program would increase in case the breed of distributed cattle would change from B. taurus to B. indicus.

Lotte (C.J.) Klapwijk


Mark van Wijk, Prof. Esron Munyanziza, Charles Bucagu