Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses for improved livestock production in East Africa


1c730.jpgAcross many parts of Africa effects of climate change and increasing pressure on land is forcing farmers to intensify and improve their farming systems. Rural poor communities rely greatly for their survival on agriculture and    livestock    that    are    amongst    the    most climate-sensitive economic sectors.

Inadequate supply of forage and poor forage qualities are two major impediments of livestock production across Africa. This problem is particularly severe in the acid and low fertility soils of the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of eastern Africa regions of Kenya and Rwanda.

Brachiaria grasses a native of eastern Africa, are extensively grown as livestock forage in South America and East Asia, and is believed to occupy about 80 million hectare in South America alone. Besides their use as livestock feed, Brachiaria are known to contribute significantly to carbon sequestration, ecological restoration and soil erosion control, and they play important role in reducing greenhouse gases and nutrient losses from soils. Therefore, in their adopted homes in South America and Asia, there have been several research and development efforts to improve the productivity, nutritive values and other agronomic characteristics of these grasses.

How will the project contribute to research and development for Africa?

The program intends to use high quality, persistent and productive Brachiaria genotypes to alleviate feed shortages, increase income to resource poor farmers, improve soil fertility, adapt to and mitigate climate change, increase milk and meat production, and as a result improve livelihoods. Specifically, the program has four main objectives:

  1. To determine  the  role  of  endophytes (symbiotic microorganisms within the plants) in improving adaptation  of  Brachiaria  grasses  to  climate change (drought) and to develop novel methods to detect endophytes;
  2. To quantify the contribution of drought and low soil fertility adapted Brachiaria grasses to mitigation of climate change;
  3. To integrate improved Brachiaria grasses in mixed smallholder crop-livestock systems and determine their role in improving milk and meat production in grazing and cut-and carry forage systems while reducing land degradation; and
  4. To facilitate the creation of forage seed production enterprises with guaranteed markets among poor farmers, mainly female farmers.

What is special about this project?

This program is involving farmers right from the start to determine  their needs and preferences as we develop a product that they will eventually use and includes proven private-public sector partnerships, strong collaborations with African National  Agricultural  Systems  with  a strong  technical support from a center for excellence in agricultural biosciences.

Project Partners

  • The BecA-ILRI Hub
  • International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia
  • Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI)
  • Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB)
  • Grasslanz Technology Ltd, New Zealand



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