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Tropentag, September 19 - 21, 2016 in Vienna, Austria

"Solidarity in a competing world - fair use of resources"

Sustainable Milk and Beef Production in Nicaragua: Actions and Opportunities for an Inclusive Value Chain

Rein van der Hoek1, Martín Mena1, Roldan Corrales 2, Maria Alejandra Mora1, Julie Ojango3

1International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Nicaragua
2National Agrarian University (UNA), Integral Systems of Animal Production, Nicaragua
3International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya


In Nicaragua the cattle sector accounts for 36% of agricultural exports and presents an important opportunity for smallholder farmer livelihoods. Current extensive dual-purpose (milk and beef) cattle production leads to soil degradation, deforestation, high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of product, and a shift of the agricultural frontier towards the vulnerable Caribbean region. The CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish is implementing activities to make the dual-purpose cattle value chain more efficient, competitive and inclusive, with a specific focus on gender equality.
Feed and forages work has improved the productivity of forage-based livestock production (up to 100% in terms of kg milk/ha), increased carbon accumulation and at the same time reduced its ecological footprint (by over 50% in terms of GHG emissions per unit of product) as part of LivestockPlus. This concept addresses sustainable intensification in three ways: socioeconomic – market opportunities and policy application; ecological – improved farm and natural resource management practices; and genetic – improved forage cultivars.
Work on genetic improvement of cattle has included establishing an information, input, and service data platform linked to breed improvement in a wider farm-household context. It involves continuous monitoring and assessment of the performance of the predominant breed-types reared by 155 farmers in central Nicaragua as an initial step towards informing development of breeding strategies for dual purpose cattle in mixed farming systems. In collaboration with a farmers cooperative, capacity development in Farmer Field Schools and on-farm research involving 1000 farmers has resulted in increased productivity (milk by 40%, liveweight by 70%), income (by 20%) and natural resource integrity (establishment of 4,000 ha of silvopastoral systems). Strategic alliances have been developed between value chain actors (farmers' organisations, NGOs, research, private sector with a focus on value addition to livestock products while increasing gender equity.
In general, however, adoption of improved technologies and practices is still low. There is therefore a strong need for an increased policy incidence on sustainable livestock development and incentive mechanisms for farmers and other value chain actors, including certification of sustainable livestock products.

Keywords: Dual-purpose cattle, genetic improvement, Nicaragua, value chain

Contact Address: Rein van der Hoek, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Central America, Managua, Nicaragua, e-mail: r.vanderhoek@cgiar.org

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