Abstract: Smallholder dairy farmers in the Kenya highlands face persistent seasonal fodder scarcity, which limit their participation in fodder and milk market opportunities to earn income and better their livelihoods. The study was conducted in Mosop Sub-county of Nandi County to assess the effects of strengthening farmers’ capacities to innovate by facilitating joint learning and actions for addressing seasonal fodder scarcity and low market participation among smallholder dairy farmers. Data on fodder availability, milk production, and market participation and strategies of addressing fodder scarcity were sourced from a random sample of 176 farmers in a cross-sectional survey. The innovation capacity needs, participatory joint learning and changes in the fodder innovation were solicited inFocus Group Discussions (FGD) and in Key Informant Interviews (KII) with farmer groups and value chain actors. Quantitative analyses with descriptive and inferential statistics estimated fodder scarcity, milk production, and market participation while qualitative analyses explained stakeholders, institutional, Social Network and structural-functional aspects of fodder innovation system. Results revealed that a farm had an average of 60.5% fodder deficit, with greater scarcity experienced during rainy (77.6%) compared with dry (37.4%) season, but a smaller milk yield gap in rainy (113 %) relative to dry (131 %) season. An increase in fodder deficit was associated with a decline in milk yields (β=-6.33, p=0.007) and sales (β=-.95, p=0.002), leading to an increase in the quantity of purchased concentrate feed (β=0.17, p=0.038) and in milk price (β= 0.59, p=0.024). Farmers addressed fodder scarcity by engaging in fodder production and conservation strategies and by group membership affiliation. Fodder production was the most preferred strategy (χ2=164.111, p=0.000).Farmers needed a coordinated stakeholder engagements in research, a change in mindset, access to credit and technical knowledge and fodder equipment to adequately address fodder scarcity and market participation. Facilitated stakeholder interactions triggered fodder multiplication, farmer networks, resource mobilization, visioning, market access, entrepreneurship, and knowledge diffusion. The study recommends policies and investments to support stakeholder coordination mechanisms for collaborative research, extension and participatory learning to build capacity of producer groups on networking, entrepreneurship, fodder production, utilisation and commercialization through fodder business centres. This would be supportive to all year fodder availability, better access to input and output markets and innovations.
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