Sunday, February 3, 2013
Calliandra: a Protein Source for Kenyan Dairy Farmers
During our visit in Kenya we have learned that a household will often have small number of cows to supply the family with milk. If there is excess milk, then the family can sell that milk for a profit ($0.22-0.26 CDN). Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) has a goal to improve dairy cattle nutrition, so that they can produce more milk for the family. Farmers in Kenya tend to offer feeds high in energy, but not protein. Milk production depends on a healthy balance of energy and protein, so FHF have started encouraging farmers to grow fodder shrubs, particularly Calliandra, that can range from 20-30% protein.
By feeding fodder shurbs, farmers can decrease the amount of dairy ration, as 1kg of dairy ration can be replaced by 3kg of Calliandra. This saves the farmer money, as dairy ration can be quite expensive.
Calliandra is also a leguminous shrub, therefore it can contribute nitrogen to the soil and support other vegetation nearby. Leaf fall from the shrubs and their roots can also improve the soil quality. Their roots extend deep into the soil, which can help prevent soil erosion. In the rainy season this can be exceptionally advantageous to the farmers.
Unfortunately, collecting the seed from the Calliandra shrub can be challenging. However, for those farmers that can succeed in this endeavor, selling seed can be rather profitable. FHF is pursuing many ways to encourage farmers to grow Calliandra, these include supplying seeds, supplying seedlings and growing demonstration plots.