Multipurpose fodder trees in the Ethiopian highlands: Farmers' preference and relationship of indigenous knowledge of feed value with laboratory indicators
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Agricultural Systems;96(1-3): 184-194
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/30007
In the tropics, numerous organizations have promoted multipurpose fodder trees (MPFT) with an emphasis on exotic species. These species have generally been selected and recommended by the research system through the conventional nutritional and agronomic experimentation for use as animal feed and soil conservation. In Ethiopia, the introduction of exotic MPFT started in the 1970s. However, despite its apparent benefits, the adoption of exotic MPFT by smallholder farmers has been slow and in some cases farmers ceased using exotic MPFT in their farming systems. The objectives of the present study were to assess farmers' preference criteria, compare their preference between exotic and local MPFT, and evaluate the relationship of farmers' knowledge of feed value assessment with laboratory indicators. Focus group discussions and preference ranking and scoring by a total of 40 farmers were conducted in two districts representing two production systems (cereal and coffee-based livestock production systems) in the Ethiopian highlands. The comparison between exotic and local MPFT for their benefits and desired tree characteristics showed that farmers preferred local MPFT to exotics for biomass production, multi-functionality, life span, and compatibility to the cropping system. In terms of feed value, ease of propagation, and growth potential local MPFT were ranked lower than or comparable to exotics. There was also a strong correlation between farmers' feed value score and laboratory results. Farmers were able to discriminate effectively MPFT species that had high and low protein and fibre content using their indigenous feed value indicator system for all pairwise comparisons. We concluded from this study that farmers' preference criteria encompass multiple objectives beyond feed value and soil rehabilitation. The different merits that farmers associate with exotic and local MPFT could provide the opportunity to use both MPFT types and to improve farm bio-diversity. Hence, incorporating locally available MPFT, farmers' indigenous knowledge and preference criteria at the research inception process is vital to maximize the likelihood of farmers' adopting and maintaining these technologies.