Sunday, 15 February 2009

Sudanese Hamerenya cattle help Eritrean pastoralists earn a better living

South of zoba Debub in Eritrea, lies Adi Quala, an agricultural town with 14,000 inhabitants. Here, a special breed of cattle imported from neighbouring Somalia has led to benefits for Eritrean pastoralists.

To help improve the livelihoods and enhance the food security of poor farmers in Eritrea, the IFAD-funded Post-Crisis Rural Recovery and Development Programme distributed 113 Sudanese Hamerenya or halfa breed cattle to small-scale farmers in four sub-zobas, including Adi Quala.

"This is a very special breed: it is docile, it is resistant to disease, it provides an aboveaverage milk yield, and it can be milked during pregnancy", says Gbazghi Kefle, the programme coordinator.

The households in Adi Quala that benefited from the distribution of the Hamerenya cattle have experienced a dramatic improvement in their living conditions in both economic and nutritional terms. This special breed produces twice the milk yield of local breeds. Thus the farmers produce enough for household consumption, ensuring an adequate level of protein and calcium intake for their families and still have a surplus to sell.

The Adi Quala farmers are too far away from the Debub milk collection centre to benefit from the cooperative's services. They have therefore created an informal trading network and sell a daily average of 3 litres of milk per day at 10-12 nakfa per litre to private consumers, restaurants and tea houses. Some farmers also make butter and sell it at 250 nakfa per kg.

Although the Hamerenya breed is highly resilient, good animal management is nonetheless of prime importance. The programme is providing the pastoralists with support to help them manage their cattle in the best possible way.

"We have sensitized the farmers to the need for good animal management if they wish to retain their current levels of income", says Kefle. "We encourage farmers to save and to use their savings not only to repay the loan for the cow, but also for vaccination and other activities related to animal management."

"As part of the animal management scheme, a vet visits the farmers on a monthly basis. Furthermore, the Adi Quala pastoralists are lucky enough to be able to avail themselves of a veterinary centre, just 30 minutes away from their farms", Kefle explains proudly.

To safeguard their investment and increase their income possibilities, the farmers have fully embraced good animal management. They regularly vaccinate their animals and have started to produce good feed such as alfalfa, which they are planting in their plots.

"The farmers are keen to manage their heads of livestock well, especially Hamerenya cattle because this breed is a good source of income and they need to repay their loan", explains Kefle. "The farmers have two options to repay their loan. They can either repay in cash (Nakfa 25,700) over a period of six years or repay it in kind over four years by giving a pregnant heifer ".

The Adi Quala farmers and pastoralists know that the livestock sector plays a crucial role in the Eritrean rural economy. They know that productive and healthy cattle and other livestock are the most important capital asset and a viable form of insurance in times of crisis. This is why they are committed to good animal management, are promoting livestock ownership, and are striving to increase production. Having heard about the success of the Debub milk collection centre, they are keen to replicate the cooperative's model in their own sub-zoba.

"In the coming years, the Ministry of Agriculture, with support from the Post-Crisis Rural Recovery and Development Programme, will provide the farmers with further capacity-building so that they can meet their objectives and fulfil their vision", says Abla Benhammouche, IFAD country programme manager for Eritrea.

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