Location of the project: Nepal
Organization that sent the volunteer: Catholic Relief Services
I was impressed to work with Small Farmer Agriculture Cooperative, Limited (SFACL) a union of 450 farmer groups with 2258 members. It was established in 2002 and has become a pioneer in marketing, processing and serving its dairy farmer members. The farmers have small tracts of land for growing fodder and green forages to feed their cattle. Average milk production per cow in their region is significantly higher than for the country as a whole with many cows producing 8 to 16 liters per day compared to less than 4 liters per day for all cattle in Nepal. Income from selling milk provides the main source of income for the farm families in this region.
During summer and rainy seasons of the year, farmers cultivate sorghum/Sudan grass, maize and Napier grass while in winter they grow Berseem clover to supplement straw from wheat or rice. The dairy producers have observed that feeding improved forages results in higher milk production per cow compared to traditional Nepali feeding programs consisting of rice straw and rice bran, neither of which promotes high milk yield due to poor digestibility and low nutrient content. The farmers look for ways to preserve the higher quality forages from sorghum/Sudan grass, maize and Napier grass.
It was my pleasure to teach principles of silage production to members of SFACL and to give them hands-on experience of selecting when to harvest forages for best nutrient composition, how to conduct a field test to estimate proper moisture content of fodder, how to chop and pack the fodder into storage units to provide anaerobic fermentation into silage. More than 45 members of the cooperative actively and enthusiastically participated in classroom learning for two days and one day of making silage by ensiling into plastic bags. The cooperative plans to host follow up activity in 45 days to evaluate success of the process when the bags of silage will be opened and inspected to observe odor and quality. Members were also taught how to use silage in feeding programs in conjunction with concentrate feeding for winter time.
Cooperative board members were briefed on ways to continue to support interest in silage making. They will consider making plastic bags, tape, and covers available by cooperative purchasing. Additionally they are looking at ways to provide mechanical packaging as a service to their membership.
It was a privilege for me to work with SFACL and to observe their willingness to learn new techniques of managing forages and to provide improved nutrition to their dairy herds. The livelihood of Nepali farmers will be impacted in significant ways as a result of two weeks spent in this assignment.