FAO Country Report

Farm Animals Genetic Resources Country Report

Distribution and Roles of Livestock in Major Production System


a. Mixed crop-livestock system

Mixed farming system is predominantly found in highland agro-ecological zones where the climatic factors are conducive for farming of crops and raising livestock. In this system, livestock and crops are maintained as complementary enterprises. The average land size per household is often less than two hectares. Consequently, the intensity of farming practices often moderate to high albeit the production is mainly subsistence in nature. The relative importance of livestock products and services within species has not been properly quantified. Thus, Annex Tables 4.1 and 4.2 could not be completed.

The major species of farm animals of the country, except camels, are found in this farming system. Although dominated by cereal crops production, the diet of the people is composed of cereals, vegetables, meat and milk.

Compared to other farming systems, this system is more conducive to crossbred dairy cattle production. The system is characterized by land scarcity, severe resources degradation and recurrent drought. Former productive grazing lands are gradually turning into crop fields. Therefore, major feed sources are grazing marginal lands, crop aftermath and crop residues. Crop residues are the major sources of feed, particularly during periods of feed shortage. In the rural areas, dung is the major source of fuel.

b. Agro-pastoral system

In the agro-pastoral system, human pressure on natural resources is relatively lighter than that observed in higher altitudes. Household landholding is often greater than in the mixed farming system. Livestock are important components of the farming system. Crops are produced both for subsistence and market. Livestock are kept for draft, sale and generation of other primary products. All of the major species of Ethiopian farm animals are possibly found in this system, but with variable species composition. The lower the altitude the higher will be the proportion of small ruminants, especially goats. Livestock are mainly kept in communal grazing lands and the use of crop residues and aftermath grazing is not uncommon. The diet of the people is composed of cereals, vegetables, meat and milk. The use of dung for fuel is not as intense as in the mixed crop-livestock production system.

c. Pastoral system

Pastoralism is practiced in vast arid agro-ecological zones of Afar, Somali and Borena rangelands. Land ownership at household level is not a common practice. Areas like the Somali rangelands are mostly held by different clans. Despite their vast size, pastoral areas are sparsely populated compared to the other farming systems. As a result, they are subject to intrusions from the highlanders and large-scale commercial plantation schemes. Crop production is not a feature of the system and subsistence is almost entirely based on livestock and livestock products. The main source of food is milk. Consequently, pastoralists tend to keep large herds to ensure sufficient milk supply and income. Although most of the farm animal species, excepting horses and mules, are reared in this system, it is dominated by goats, cattle, sheep and camels.

Species of indigenous farm animals found in this farming system, except for insignificant cases in chicken, is not diluted by exotic blood. Distribution of exotic chicken is still being promoted and carried out. Water and feed shortage are the most limiting factors of production and productivity of the system.

Water development activities, if available, are limited mainly to accessible areas. Entire sources of feeds are rangelands. Herdsmen have virtually no control on their productivity. Therefore, pastoralists are forced to move constantly to different areas, sometimes even into the neighboring countries in search of feed and water for their animals. Cattle are often moved out of their area during such times. Camels are used to transport mobile houses of the herdsmen. Such movements are considered the life-saving strategies adopted for decades. However, they have also some undesired effects such as triggering of conflicts between the occupants of the areas and the newcomers. They also create the opportunity to the mixing up, around potential watering and grazing/browsing areas, of formerly separated herds of different stocks and species that came from various areas. This results in interbreeding. In addition to several other factors, gradually increasing human and livestock populations are further deteriorating the productivity of rangelands and severe droughts frequently occurring in the area are worsening the situation. Moreover, some of the productive rangelands are being invaded at an alarming rate by exotic weeds such as Prosopis juliflora.

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