Competitive smallholder livestock production conference participants with Botswana’s Hon Patrick Ralotsia, acting Minister of Agriculture (photo credit ILRI/Muthoni U. Njiru).
By Andrew Wangili
On 4-6 March 2015, over 100 scientists, development agents, government institutions staff and private operators from Africa and other parts of the world converged in Gaborone, Botswana to discuss policies for competitive livestock production.
The conference was organized by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). It discussed the following thematic areas in smallholder livestock production:
Measures of competitiveness in smallholder livestock production and policy advocacy
This sub-theme featured two stories and presentations contributed by ILRI staff on ‘Measurement of competitiveness in smallholder livestock production and policy advocacy’ by Sirak Bahta and Patrick Malope, and ‘Technical efficiency and technological gaps among smallholder beef farms in Botswana: a stochastic meta-frontier approach’ by Sirak Bahta, Derek Baker, Patrick Malope and Hikuepi Katijuongua. A third presentation was made by Tebogo Seleka of BIDPA on ‘International competitiveness of Botswana’s beef industry.’
Competitiveness of smallholder livestock producers is indicated by levels of productivity (stocking rate, calving rate, birth rate and mortality rate), profitability (quality of products, prices) and efficiency (cost of production). Although there are indicators of competitiveness, smallholder livestock producers continue to be affected by poor policies, little support from institutions and government, lack of subsidies and little training of farmers..
Participants suggested the following measures to enhance competitiveness of smallholder livestock producers and policy advocacy:
- Equipping farmers with skills and knowledge through frequent capacity building sessions.
- Providing subsidies to smallholder livestock producers.
- Participatory approach to policy formulation where all stakeholders in livestock production are consulted.
- Private-public partnership in policy implementation.
Role of collective action in enhancing competitiveness in smallholder livestock farmers
This sub-theme featured a story by Patrick Malope and two presentations on the ‘Role of collective action in enhancing the competitiveness of smallholder livestock production: Case of Namibia’ and ‘Dairy business hubs as collective action in enhancing competitiveness of smallholder producers in Kenya’.
Participants said that functional and vibrant smallholder livestock groups need:
- Farmers to be trained on the benefits of collective action and mentored in creating groups.
- Visionary leaders to guide the groups towards a common goal.
- Governance structures that facilitate group decision-making, coordination and management.
- Financial support by government providing incentives and lowering lending/interest rates.
- Government and other stakeholders to set up and support farmer-to-farmer groups benchmarking, where farmers share best practices.
- Effective policies that protect smallholder farmer groups from unfair competition.
- Government to improve transport systems and encourage the use of technology in disseminating information to farmers.
If implemented, the recommendations from this meeting could boost the competitiveness of smallholder livestock producers in Africa.