Assessment of environmental-livestock interactions in crop-livestock systems of central Ethiopian highlands
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Alemayehu, N. 2013. Assessment of environmental-livestock interactions in crop-livestock systems of central Ethiopian highlands. PhD thesis in Environmental Science. Pretoria, South Africa: University of South Africa.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/45982
The study was done in Adaa district which is one of the 12 districts in East Shoa zone in Oromia regional state of Ethiopia. It is located southeast of Addis Ababa at 38o51’ 43.63’’ to 39o04’ 58.59’’ E and 8o46’ 16.20’’ to 8o59’ 16.38’’ N, on the western margin of the Great East African Rift Valley. The altitude ranges from 1 500 to ≥ 2 000 meters above sea level. The district has a high potential for mixed livestock and crop production systems. The purpose of this study was to make up for the paucity of information on livestock and environment interaction by assessing the relationship of livestock, soil, water, land, climate and crops under mixed crop-livestock production systems in central Ethiopian highlands. The objectives of the study were: (a) to assess the effect of change in land management on carbon storage and the contribution of livestock to carbon storage; (b) to examine the impact of livestock on natural resources and the environment; (c) to assess the effects of the change in traditional agricultural practices, expansion of factories, slaughter houses, greenhouses and flower farms on water and soil quality; (d) to evaluate the effect of climate change on livestock production under small-scale agriculture; and (e) to recommend options for mitigation and adaptation to environmental changes. The research design was non-experimental and did not involve the manipulation of the situation, circumstances or experiences of the interviewees. The design was comparative research that compared two or more groups on one or more variables, such as the effect of agricultural land use management, tillage type etc. on carbon storage in the soil. This research also applied a longitudinal design that examined variables such as the performance exhibited by groups over time. Purposive sampling was often used to measure the effect of agricultural, industrial effluent and human interferences on the environment by measuring nutrient contents at sources in the soil, water and manure. Biological data were complemented by key socio-economic survey by interviewing individual farmers and focus groups from sampling sites. Secondary data were also reviewed to measure soil degradation and run-off attributed to livestock. Results showed that animal waste and farmyard manure had the highest contribution in the addition of carbon in the soil. This implied that for most of carbon inputs livestock products and by-products had a greater place in the carbon sink. Therefore, livestock production could be considered as one of the major agricultural production systems in soil carbon storage. Similarly, livestock production systems also play an important role in maintaining the eco-system balance through nutrient recycling. On the average, the number of livestock per household for most species increased during the Derge regime in the 1990s compared to the Haile Sellassie regime in the 1970s when people did not own land; and then the number declined in the 2000s except for equines, crossbreeds and oxen. The change to crop intensification led to the change in the purpose for livestock keeping. Farmers started keeping certain types of animals for specific purposes unlike before when livestock was kept for prestige and economic security. The major drive for the change of attitude towards the purpose of keeping livestock was scarcity of resources, mainly feed and water. Equine ownership has significantly increased due to their low off-take rate and their feeding habits which allowed them to survive in harsh environments where feed resources were extremely scarce. There was a significant difference in crop response to manure application. Vegetables produced higher yields with manure than chemical fertilizers. Cereals on the other hand responded more to chemical fertilizers than to manure. Therefore, combining manure and chemical fertilizers was the best option for the sustainability of crop production in the study area. Some of the limitations to the use of manure as an organic fertilizer were inadequate manure production, high labour cost, bulkiness and high cost of transport to the fields and weed infestation. Manure management systems in the study area were affected by livestock husbandry practices. Only crossbred cattle (5%) were zero-grazed and used; and manure was stored in pits as slurry. Indigenous cattle were grazed outdoors in the fields during the day and at night they were kept in kraals near homesteads. There was a substantial loss of nutrients during the day when animals were grazing in the fields through leaching and trampling of dung and urine patches. Indoor or zero grazing of livestock could reduce nutrient losses. The use of manure as fuel in the study area had no significant effect on CO2 emissions at household or local level, but had a negative impact on soil organic carbon storage and soil fertility. Therefore, for improved yield and balanced eco-systems manure burning has to be replaced by other alternative energy sources such as bio-gas and kerosene. The largest carbon equivalent emissions were from CH4 (72.6%), N2O (24%) and CO2 (3.4%) which indicated the need to improve livestock and manure management systems under smallholder agriculture. Overall, there was an indication of a decline in water resources on per capita basis. The major contributing factors were combined pressure of human and animal population on natural resources that led to excessive deforestation, loss of biological diversity, overgrazing, soil degradation and various forms of pollution and contamination. The global climate change also played a role in the decline in water resources due to the decrease in annual precipitation and increasing temperatures. Urbanization and economic growth increased the demand for milk and meat, which required additional water use for each unit of increased animal protein. The demand for milk and meat is expected to double in the next 20 years with an annual growth rate of between 2.5 to 4%. From the sixty-year meteorological data (1951-2009) there was an established increase in rainfall by 2% per annum; and maximum and minimum temperature by 0.08oC per decade, which amounted to a cumulative temperature increase of 0.5oC in the last decade. The increase in precipitation and temperature favoured the adaption of lowland crops like maize and sorghum to highland agro-ecology. Climate prediction models forecasted that most of the highlands in Ethiopia will remain suitable for cereals like wheat and Teff for the next 50 to100 years. However, the perception of farmers indicated that they felt more heat and warm weather than they have experienced before. They reported that rainfall is now more erratic or comes late and stops earlier before plants completed their vegetative growth.