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  International Fund for Agricultural Development

Changing Traditional Practices in Animal Husbandry

In order to increase the off-take from livestock activities, many projects include methods of upgrading the technology used by the beneficiaries; these improvements may also be for other reasons, for example to protect the environment. Such changes can involve introducing improved breeds, regular vaccination programmes, changing what is fed and how it is fed, improving veterinary services etc. In addition, draught animals can bring changes to the cropping methods and patterns used on mixed farms. These changes can bring about significant benefits, and farm budgets often have rather optimistic rates of uptake for these interventions, whilst project experience suggests that in fact these improvements tend to be neither readily adopted nor to produce the increased productivity predicted.

One of the most important factors which seems to affect the rate of adoption is the unwillingness to change traditional practices; where traditions are weak (see example of 171-ID) then new methods are more accepted. This is perhaps not really surprising given that most farmers are by nature conservative and the poorest sectors (i.e. the project target groups) are the most cautious. However, this does pose a dilemma for project designers, because with IFAD's participatory approach, the uptake of technological improvements becomes much more difficult to predict, and the method of demonstrating and extending new practices becomes more complex.

In 171-ID (Indonesia) there was excellent acceptance of project plans, mainly because the transmigrant settlers had limited preconceived traditions and were willing to accept the proposed systems, including stall feeding. The project also exercised a lot of control over the quality of animals supplied, and the conditions under which they were provided (draught animals on the basis of in-kind loans). However, in 075-WS (Western Samoa) farmers would not change their production habits and buy imported feeds; problems on this project were compounded by government moves to promote privatisation and also to reduce import tariffs on meat, and the main intervention (goats) had to be abandoned. Various projects in Ghana included livestock components (198-GH, SRS-002) but initially uptake was very limited (for bullocks and implements) even though considerable efforts were made to explain the economics, technology, management and nutritional benefits which could arise; the component was reduced to a pilot programme and extended to cover other species.

In 172-BL (Belize) a dual purpose cattle and improved pastures settlement programme for Indians proved unpopular and was modified to include more traditional pigs and poultry. In 076-BT (Botswana) increased draught power and new planting techniques were intended to increase household food security, but this proved unpopular with the beneficiaries and had a disappointing uptake.

In NE-208 (Nepal) improved livestock breeds proved particularly susceptible to a range of diseases and suffered from unacceptably high mortality rates. In 175-TN (Tunisia) forage improvements were based on planting acacia, but there was a general reluctance to implement this activity and it is to be re-planned to include greater involvement of the beneficiaries.

In the evaluations of the projects used as examples above, with the singular exception of 171-ID, the uptake of the livestock component has fallen short of expectations; in most cases this has been for very project-specific reasons. This means that there are a large number of possible factors which have led to the projects falling short of achieving their objectives, but the common theme is the failure of the method used to persuade poor farmers that their farming practices should change.

Changes in cropping techniques or systems are generally introduced by a period of adaptive research followed by extension of the new message, backed up by on-farm demonstrations. Improvements in livestock activities are rarely treated in this systematic way, (with the possible exception of forage trials) and generally have much less back up. The participatory approach may also lead to beneficiaries choosing to undertake interventions for which they are not really suited or for which they are only partially equipped.

- It should be accepted that even when the degree of change is limited, the uptake is likely to be slow and probably only partial. The degree and speed of change achieved will depend on the effectiveness of the instruments of change. Where change is identified as being critical to project success, then the method of introducing such change and the support services included must be given special emphasis. This probably means that the project will need to fund the re-training of extension workers and support them operationally, at least until the new practices are established and accepted.

- Where changes involve an element of risk (or perceived risk) the project should try to mitigate this risk for the beneficiaries. Perhaps the best example in present designs is the use of insurance schemes for livestock purchases, however, these tend to be for the benefit of the organisation providing the loan, rather than being concerned with, say the production increase expected by the borrower.

- Particularly with participatory approaches the possibility of selective and partial acceptance should be considered, for example more animals but no more forage. Project experience is that loan covenants are not effective in limiting the conditions under which livestock activities take place, and the minimum necessary controls should be made practical and implementable at the local level.

- A composite approach covering research, on-farm demonstrations and beneficiary participation needs to be the evolved, over a period of time, in order to "carry" the consensus for affecting changes to traditional practices.


1. Belize - Toledo Small Farmers Development Project, 172-BL% R172BLBE, Interim Evaluation, 1994.

2. Botswana - Arable Lands Development Project, 076-BT% R076BTBE, Interim Evaluation, 1992.

3. Ghana - Smallholder Rehabilitation and Development Programme, 198-GH%R198GHAE, Mid-Term Evaluation, 1990.

4. Indonesia - Smallholder Cattle Development Project Phase II, 171-ID%R171IDCE, Completion Evaluation, 1995.

5. Nepal - Production Credit for Rural Women, 208-NE%R208NEBE, Interim Evaluation, 1995.

6. Tunisia - Projet de Développement de l'Agriculture en Sec à Sidi-Bouzid, 175-TN%R175TNAF, Mid-Term Evaluation, 1991.

7. Western Samoa - Livestock Development Project, 075-WS, Completion Evaluation, 1992.


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