Participatory Rural Appraisal used to evaluate dairy farming at the Kanihari Union in Bangladesh

A participatory rural appraisal (PRA) was recently conducted by the scientists at the Field Fertility Clinic, IAEA collaborators at the Bangladesh Agricultural University. The PRA was held at the Kanihari Union, a large farming community near Mymensingh. The major objective of the study was to use participatory planning and monitoring to evaluate the current and potential impacts of Regional TC Project RAS5044 on breeding, health care and feeding management of zebu cattle and buffaloes.

Background and Methods

Farmers and experts discuss the various services available related to dairy production Dairy farming in the Kanihari Union is unique in Bangladesh with regard to resource availability, level of production, management practices, market facilities and farmers’ socioeconomic conditions. The selected farm families broadly represent the dairy farming in the District of Mymensingh. This union is located about 22 km south from the Mymensingh city and is located along the west side of the Old Brahmaputra River. This river basin is used as pasture land. More than 200 milk traders are running their business from this union.

The target group included 200 farmers who rely heavily on cattle and/or buffalo farming for their livelihood. The farmers had at least 2 breedable cows and/or buffaloes and were selling 80-90% of the milk produced. The 200 selected farmers were divided into 10 groups, each with an appointed leader. These group leaders were invited to participate in the PRA. A group of housewives were also selected from the same farm families, for a separate set of meetings. In a couple of sessions to build up a rapport, these farmers agreed to be involved in the development process of buffalo and zebu cattle breeds and improved production systems. These farmers will continue to interact with the university during the duration of the TC project and any subsequent development activities for sustainable improvement of dairying.

The study team consisted of 7 men and 2 women. The members were from four sectors: “PRA promoters” – an agricultural engineer with long experience of applying participatory tools in social and field research, veterinarians, animal science personnel, livestock extension workers and gender issues. The study used a number of PRA tools, including rapport build-up, participatory social mapping, changing trend/time line, activity profiles for men and women in separate sessions, seasonal calendars, system analysis diagrams, preference ranking and scoring, matrix ranking, pie charts, mobility diagrams, focus group discussions, and semi-structured interview.

Major Findings

The farmers mapped the lay-out of the community, identifying major landmarks and resources related to dairy and buffalo farming. The resources associated with inputs to farming identified were residues of rice (straw and milling byproducts), cattle feed shops, dispensaries, the cattle market and village doctors. With regard to outputs, the local milk markets, sweetmeat makers, contract consumers and tea stalls for selling the milk produced were also identified. The respondent farmers knew their locality and resources well.

The farmers participating in the PRA primarily practiced mixed farming systems. Livestock production and agriculture was their major source of income generation. Dairy contributed the highest percentage of family income generated in the area studied. Eighty percent farmers (8 out of 10) depended on dairy and buffaloes for more than 50% of their family income. The land was mainly dedicated to crop cultivation and no land was used specifically for forage cultivation. Although most of the land was utilized for crop production, the proportion of income from dairy and buffalo farming was 52%, versus 42% from crops.

Separate sessions were held with housewives to discuss their contribution to farming activities Like other business, rearing cattle and buffalo requires skill, cooperation and commitment. Both men and women are usually involved in cattle and buffalo rearing. It was found that husbands spend 34%, 12%, 25% and 29%, respectively, of their time for personal, recreation, cattle-buffalo rearing and other pursuits. The milking and milk marketing, purchase of dairy necessities like straw, concentrate, and fodder were the major jobs for men in the dairy farms. The housewives spend 47%, 4%, 15% and 34% of their 24 hours time for personal, recreation, cattle-buffalo rearing and other activities, respectively. Cleaning the yard, feeding (especially concentrates) and looking after the cows are the main farming chores of the women. The variation in the involvement of men and women in dairy activities is due to the nature of production as well as social and economic factors. The cultural tradition of the area restricts rural women from being involved in outdoor jobs like marketing.

Farmers’ choice on buffalo breeds was studied by using the ranking matrix method (Table 1). The farmers identified three types of buffaloes, 1) local non-descript, and 2) Surti and 3) Murrah crossbreds. The Surti and Murrah crossbreds have the local names “Nepali” and “Gujrati”, respectively. In general, the three breeds ranked similarly. The Murrah crossbreds were ranked highest (42 points), followed by the indigenous buffaloes (40) and the Surti crossbreds (38 points). Each breed had advantages for particular traits. For example, the Murrah had the highest milk yield, highest market value, and best temperament. The Surti was the best for meat production. The local buffalo was the most resistant to disease and most adapted to poor quality feeds. The local animal also had the most regular reproduction, but had the poorest temperament.

Participants identified the services currently available and those expected in the future, and then were asked to vote for the three services were considered the most important. The votes were weighted by red, blue and white colored ballots, worth 3, 2 and 1 points, respectively. The most important services among those currently available the feed store and village doctor. The veterinary and artificial insemination services to be provided by the project were judged to be the most important services in the future.

The farmers identified 7 constraints currently limiting dairy development in their community. Lack of veterinary clinics and AI were ranked as the biggest problems for Kanihari union. Farmers also indicated that deficient training, lack of capital, poor availability of forage and milk marketing were limiting factors. Farmers also identified that poor integrity by various practitioners and marketers can restrict dairy and buffalo development by making farmers suspicious to invest in new products and technologies.

Conclusion

The Kanihari Union has resources for sustainable dairy and buffalo development. Institutions related to dairy and buffalo farming, like a veterinary hospital, AI centres, dispensaries, feed shops and milk markets need to be established or expanded, however, to allow for this development. The RAF5044 project will have a direct role in improving AI service and its impact may help improve the environment for sustaining the other services as well.

Source: Mohammed Shamsuddin m.shamsuddin@gmail.com Jayonta Bhattacharjee jayontabhatta@yahoo.com Field Fertility Clinic, Department of Surgery and Obstetrics, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh.
Md. Manjurul Alam mmalam@royalten.net.bd Department of Farm Power & Machinery,Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh.