Study Links Ethiopia Forage Diet with Emission Reductions
This post is written by the S34D team. It is extracted from the Cabi Reviews journal article "Realizing economic and environmental gains from cultivated forages and feed reserves in Ethiopia" (Dey, et. al., 2022).
The Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS) and the Center for Ag-Led Growth help ensure seed accessibility, a critical input for food security. The Feed the Future Global Supporting Seed Systems for Development (S34D) Activity, implemented by Catholic Relief Services and jointly funded by RFS and Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), works in both formal and informal seed sectors, including emergency contexts. S34D enhances the full range of formal and informal seed systems to support access to and availability of quality seed. S34D’s latest forage seed and cultivated forage efforts in Ethiopia will ultimately improve livestock feed and create alternative incomes while supporting climate change mitigation. Somali, Oromia, Afar, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP), Dire Dawa and Harari regions of Ethiopia are generally affected by droughts. With 18 million cattle in the drought-affected regions, the estimated monetized loss per drought period is valued between USD 99 million and USD 198 million.
The livestock sector in Ethiopia is characterized by low productivity due to inadequate supply of affordable high-quality animal feed year-round, with more acute gaps in the drought-prone regions of the country. S34D calculated the economic benefits and studied the role of cultivated forages, such as densification into pellets, in bridging gaps in feed supply. S34D’s study looked at the nutrient requirement calculations for feedlot and dairy animals and meeting those requirements using cultivated forage-based diets. The study found that a balanced forage-based total mixed ration (TMR) can be prepared for the animals either using a single grass, a combination of two or more grasses or a mix of forage grasses and legumes. However, forage crops need a viable forage seed supply system to assure access to quality-assured seeds. The S34D study also explored the role of forage seed systems in Ethiopia.
Results suggest that diets containing greater than 85-percent cultivated forages can sustain daily body weight gain up to 1 kg in growing animals. The costs of nutrients from cultivated forages are up to 15-fold lower than those from conventional feed resources. The diets based on pelleted cultivated forages decrease costs of feeding animals during a 100-day drought period by 4-fold, fattening animals by 2.3-fold and cost of feed for milk production by 4-fold. Meeting nutrient requirements of animals would be more cost-efficient if they are fed diets based on cultivated forages.
S34D monetized the benefits using the social cost of carbon (as CO2) put forth by the current U.S. administration. The social cost of methane is $1,500 per ton. Using cultivated forages could significantly reduce methane emissions with abatement value ranging between USD 165 and USD 240 per 1,000 kg of body weight gain in the fattening sector. For dairy sector, the abatement value would be between USD 1,350 and 2,400 per million liters of milk production. For the drought period of 120 days, the value of methane reductions would be between USD 5,500 and USD 11,400 per 1,000 animals. With 18 million cattle in drought-affected regions, the monetized value per drought period could be between USD 99 million and USD 198 million.
Given that millions of animals are fattened, and billions of liters of milk are produced in Ethiopia (Shapiro et. al, 2015), these figures represent significant opportunities for climate mitigation and adaptation and must be taken into consideration while estimating benefits from adoption of cultivated forages in the livestock sector. Forage-based feeding offers a triple win: economic, social as well as environmental gain, and is one of the promising climate-smart feeding interventions. S34D believes this would add value in the policy and advocacy dialogues around climate change mitigation strategies.