The relatively low cost of the feed and ease of production make this feed ideal for use by vulnerable self-reliant farmers, including women
Natural disasters such as heavy monsoon rains, droughts, and cyclones are recurring events in Bangladesh. The affected population often seeks refuge in temporary shelters. However, they often have to leave behind their productive assets, including livestock and poultry.
Throughout the year many of these vulnerable households experience shortages in accessing grazing lands for their animals and are faced with increased prices for animal haylage.
Mindful of this climate related challenge through its work with poor and extremely poor households from the Char and Haor regions, USAID's SHOUHARDO III program implemented by CARE, has explored alternative animal feed production opportunities.
In recent years, Bangladesh has experienced bumper production of bananas. It is expected across upcoming seasons more farmers will cultivate this nutritious fruit due to its low production costs and growing demand.
The SHOUHARDO III program has found that a nutritious, compact, and easily storable cattle feed can be generated from the banana stem - a waste product generated during the banana harvesting process.
Each banana plant can be harvested only once in its lifetime, and therefore after harvesting the banana plants are left to die. The fresh and matured banana stem can be collected after harvesting the banana crops from farming households and used for haylage production.
To produce this animal feed, fresh and mature banana stems are collected following the harvesting of the fruit. A multi stage process is undertaken to reduce the moisture level of the feed to safe levels for animal consumption.
In the first step the stems are cut into small pieces and dried to reduce their moisture level to 60-70%. A small amount of wheat bran, molasses, and common salt is then mixed with the partially dried banana stem.
This mixing process is done manually or with a mixing machine. The combined mixture is then fermented for 14-21 days inside airtight plastic containers or polythene wraps.
In the second step the fermented mixture is further dried under sunlight or with a drying machine until the moisture content is further reduced by 30-40%.
The generated banana stem haylage can then be used by households directly as cattle feed, sold to other farmers or stored in airtight containers for use during times of hardship.
The cattle feed generated through this process is found to be highly nutritious and suitable for long-term storage. The feed can be stored in loose polybags for three to four months, and in airtight containers for nine to twelve months. The relatively low cost of the feed and ease of production make this feed ideal for use by vulnerable self-reliant farmers, including women.
In order to verify the suitability of this haylage, the SHOUHARDO III program ran an eight-month pilot study to explore the viability of producing animal feed from the underutilized banana stem.
“Banana stem haylage production technique is a cutting-edge 21st-century bio-engineering technology for sustainable livestock production and environmental preservation. This technique is safe for the environment, commercially feasible, and socially acceptable,” said Professor AKM Ahsan Kabir of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, who was the technical lead for the pilot initiative.
Kabir also found that Farmers and entrepreneurs have welcomed the idea, implying that it has improved the growth of their livestock. “This initiative has the potential to empower women, develop youth skills, and offer employment opportunities,” he said.
Ten farmers from the Binoder Char village in Jamalpur were selected to feed banana stem haylage to their cows. For comparison purposes, ten more farmers participated in the study and were asked to feed their cattle regular animal feed.
Data was collected on a daily basis about both groups of cattle. The data generated covered changes in weight, feed intake, and feces output.
Farmers who fed the banana stem feed to their cattle noted the increase in weight provided by the banana stem haylage. Amena, one such farmer, stated, "We can't produce grass during the monsoon, so haylage is an excellent alternative for keeping our cattle healthy. For the past two months, I have been feeding this banana stem haylage to my cow, and it has been much healthier. The cow initially needed two to three days to adjust to the new feed. During this adjustment period her feed consumption was comparatively low but now she is growing well”
After eight months, the pilot study noted an increased average weight gain of 553.93 grams per day for cattle group who were fed the banana stem haylage. Cattle given regular feed were found to have an average daily weight gain of 265.7 grams.
Following the success in Jamalpur, the SHOUHARDO III program is looking to increase the production of banana stem haylage in Gaibandha and Kurigram.
This cattle feed is expected to maximize the advantages of livestock farming and address the shortage of feed and grazing land in the northwest districts of Bangladesh.
It will also ensure the security of animal protein during natural disasters, reduce labor time associated with feed production, empower vulnerable women, and provide much-needed entrepreneurship development opportunities for vulnerable households.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared October 13 as International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) to encourage a global culture of disaster risk reduction.
This year's theme is about showcasing excellent practices and examples of collaboration that positively impact people’s lives and well-being living in disaster-prone areas of the world.
CARE is transitioning DRR service provisioning by engaging local service providers and beneficiaries to continue the best practices even when the SHOUHARDO III Program phases out.
The Program seeks to use suitable measures to reduce the negative effects of natural disasters' and create appropriate response mechanisms. The adoption of banana stem haylage as livestock feed provides an excellent economic alternative for the poor and vulnerable people from disaster-prone areas.
To share the findings and disseminate the learning of the pilot study, CARE Bangladesh organized a learning sharing event on September 8, 2021. The learning event can be accessed by scanning the QR code. The recorded live event is also available here: https://rb.gy/qjazvq
Aniqa Bushra and Iffat Khan are both working for CARE in the Knowledge Management, Research & Learning (KMRL) unit of USAID’s SHOUHARDO III.