Climate Smart Brachiaria Grasses for Improving Livestock Production in East Africa – Kenya Experience

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The agricultural sector is the main driver of Kenya’s economy and livelihood for the majority of Kenyans. The sector accounts for 65% of Kenya’s total exports and provides more than 70% of informal employment in the rural areas. Livestock contributes about 30% of the agricultural gross domestic product. One of the research agenda of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) is development of improved technologies for increased agricultural production. Therefore as the country focuses on poverty alleviation, employment creation and food security in the rural areas, improved livestock technologies contributes towards this goal. Improvement of livestock productivity through access to high quality feeds can significantly contribute to the Kenya’s Vision 2030 through ‘equity and wealth creation opportunities for the rural poor.’ On the anticipation that Brachiaria grasses can be integrated into the agricultural systems to address increased livestock productivity, a collaborative research project was initiated between KALRO and Biosciences eastern and central Africa - International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub in 2012. Laboratory and field research were conducted simultaneously. The objective of the laboratory studies was to identify role of endophytes and associated microbes in enhancing adaptation of Brachiaria grass cultivars to drought and low fertility soils. The field research focused on the integration of the grasses into smallholder mixed crop-livestock system and assessing their contribution to milk and meat production. Studies were conducted in Kwale and Kilifi Counties in coastal lowlands, Machakos and Makueni Counties in mid-altitude eastern region, Nyandarua, Nyeri and Embu Counties in central highlands and in Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Busia Counties in western Kenya. At the end of the project, a workshop was held which brought together researchers from diverse backgrounds, from KALRO and BecA-ILRI Hub. The research findings presented in the workshop are important in; (i) elucidating roles of endophytes in enhancing adaptation of Brachiaria grasses to drought and low fertility soils, (ii) demonstrating the role of Brachiaria in enhancing livestock productivity in terms of milk and meat, (iii) assessment of contribution of the Brachiaria to soil health and mitigation of climate change, and (iv) evaluating the potential of Brachiaria seed production in Kenya. The information presented in these proceedings will benefit farmers, researchers and development partners in Kenya and East Africa. This document will have an instrumental role in promoting forage research and development programs in the region for sustainable development of the livestock sector.
Climate Smart Brachiaria Grasses for Improving Livestock Production in East Africa – Kenya Experience