group photo
Mrs Mushinge and her family
Inspiring change, stories from the field

A simple intervention to minimise fodder wastage improves smallholder farmer's productivity

The Zambia Dairy Transformation Programme is drawing on international skills and experience to improve the lives of smallholder dairy farmers in Central and Copperbelt Provinces. For one farmer and her family, a simple new system is having an impressive impact.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best – a mantra the Zambia Dairy Transformation Programme or ZDTP lives by.

For smallholder farmer Theresa Mushinge of Fisenge in the Copperbelt, that means some tree branches and bamboo held together with nails.

The result? A platform to put hay or "hay rack", saving her family a significant amount of time otherwise spent collecting hay from the bush.

“Whatever hay they give to their animals is now eaten without much wastage,” says ZDTP Extension Officer Wesley Chilambe. “They used to go in the bush to collect hay about 2–3 times per day because a lot of the hay was being stomped on by animals. They now collect hay once a day.” 

A member of the Mushinge family fills up the hay rack.

Mrs Mushinge and her family are among 468 households currently participating in the ZDTP.

Funded by the New Zealand Government, the programme is working with six carefully selected dairy farming cooperatives to improve the quantity and quality of milk produced for commercial sale. The Programme aims to show how improved dairy systems can enhance small-scale farmers’ productivity and milk quality and allow them to meet the needs of Zambia’s growing and increasingly discerning local market.

The Mushinges started dairy farming in 2007 to support a family of five and own two Friesian cows, two bulls, and one heifer. After receiving farm visits and advice from Wesleye, who provides extension services to farmers supplying the local Milk Collection Centre based at Fisenge, the Mushinges decided to build five hay racks for their animals to eat from.

Mrs Mushinge says an estimated 40% of the hay the family collected for their animals previously went to waste on the ground. Now, their animals are eating 80–90% of the hay given to them – enough to meet their nutritional needs on a single gathering. The new system is allowing the family more time to do other things on the farm, such as learning how to grow fodder and make silage.

Now, the Mushinge family is looking forward to learning more about milk hygiene and calf/heifer rearing.

Keeping hay off the ground minimises its loss and allows the family to use the time formerly spent gathering fodder on other farm activities

ZDTP Programme Manager Tania Thomson says all activities implemented under the ZDTP have sustainability in mind, with a focus on interventions being affordable, available, accessible, and appropriate for/adapted to the smallholder farming context. “As the ZDTP has a defined time limit, sustainability beyond the term of the programme is central to our activities,” Mrs Thomson says.

The programme has a strong focus on “seed to feed” initiatives and, as a result, many farmers have implemented new silage-making practices through the use of fodder and pasture crop demonstration plots. According to Mrs Thomson, farmers are also adopting new technologies, including using mechanised choppers that allow them to produce pit silage with a minimal labour requirement.

The programme is also training farmers in record-keeping in order to improve financial management at both farmer and cooperative levels, through for example the monthly calculation and reporting of milk incomes and gross and net profits.

The five-year ZDTP is being implemented by Prime Consulting International Ltd in partnership with NIRAS. Both partners hope the results of the programme will eventually help inform improved dairy practices throughout the whole country.

For further information on the ZDTP, please contact Programme Country Manager Tania Thomson on tania@primeconsultants.net or +260 96 456 4206.