Developing and piloting business models to achieve impact at scale with mechanized forage processing in Tunisia
The North Africa region is home to marginal ecosystems with a large rural population which depends on rain-fed farming systems for their livelihoods. In these ecosystems, food security is a continuous challenge, exacerbated by climate change and variabilities. Most farmers are smallholders rearing small ruminants (grazing animals, such as sheep), which are considered an important source of income.
Provision of animal feed is not always reliable due to low fodder potential coupled with rangeland degradation. The situation is exacerbated by the high proportion of feeds (20%-30%) rejected by the animal due to its selective behavior. In Tunisia, hand-chopping of cactus for livestock feeding is a common practice carried out by children and women. This is a laborious and time-consuming activity. Mechanized chopping of cultivated fodder crops and cactus would make better use of these feed sources by increasing their consumption by animals. It would also reduce children and women’s workload and drudgery.
Up until recently, feed processing machines have been available on the international market, but they are not affordable for smallholders. Now INRAT (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique de Tunisie – the National Institute for Agronomic Research of Tunisia) has designed a small electric chopper for gross forages and cactus. This machine was manufactured by a private local company at a reasonable cost. The results of on-station experiments revealed an increase in meat and milk production in comparison to farmers’ traditional feeding practices.
Business models allowing the manufacture and adoption of these feed choppers will be designed, piloted, and scaled up to reach at least 5,000 farmers adopting this technology. Because the general objective of this project is to enhance food security and livelihoods of smallholders in arid and semi-arid rain-fed farming systems by increasing livestock productivity, it is expected that its results will be relevant to the two neighbouring countries of Algeria and Morocco.