Agriculture, both crop and livestock farming provides rural livelihoods for majority of the population in the country in general, and OSRA’s operation areas. However, the rural communities at project areas depend on traditional and unsustainable practices of local resources utilization (animals, pasture, farming, finance, knowledge etc.). Environmental and land resource degradation, deforestation, shirinkage in farm land size and productivity of cropping and pasture lands, decline in productivity of animals, among others, have increased year after a year.
Increasing population and expansion of boundaries of urban areas have resulted in the change of households’ land-use patterns. Like in most of the highland parts of Ethiopia, OSRA’s project areas, almost every plot of farmland is allotted for crop husbandry leaving no or marginal lands and road sides for grazing. Besides, the fact that children, who are traditionally responsible for livestock herding, are going to school has made the traditional type of livestock husbandry more difficult. As more and more land is put under crop production, livestock feed becomes scarce and crop residues particularly cereal straws remain the major feed source for the animals particularly during the dry period of the year.
Though livestock are the main source of livelihood of the households in the project areas, the return from the traditional livestock rearing is meager and declining overtime. Various interrelated factors are attributed to this situation. Some of the major factors are poor knowledge and skills about improved livestock management; low genetic makeup of the local breeds and poor husbandry practices. Furthermore, heavy dependence on traditional system of production and poor access to information and services, and breeds due to local economic status exacerbate the situation of the rural households.
These situations, among others, necessitated the introduction of improved breed and intensification of management of the local breed through adopting zero grazing approach.
This entails shifting from the traditional type of livestock husbandry, in which number of the livestock owned than their economic and traction power performances, is given importance to improving the quality and performance of the animals by reducing their number to a level that could be supported by the available resource (feed, space, manpower, finance, etc.).
With the overall objectives of improving the livelihood of target communities, OSRA in collaboration with its partners is implementing zero grazing and improved heifer production in twenty selected kebeles of the Akaki and Ada districts.
Zero grazing (ZG) is an intensive dairy production system in which cattle do not graze but are confined in a shed or stall where feed and water are brought to them. It has been proved in many areas that zero grazing has many advantages over traditional animal production system based on free grazing.