Talking pictures: new tools to boost smallholders’ milk production
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|Optimising Knowledge and Information transfer: Novel Approaches for Stimulating Innovation as a Poverty Reduction Entry-point|
New tools have been developed and tested in Bolivia, Tanzania, Kenya and India to help smallholder dairy farmers manage their animals better and greatly boost the amount of milk they produce. The improved breeds of cattle now available can produce up to 25 litres of milk per day, but many are producing similar amounts to local breeds simply because of poor management. To overcome this, researchers have produced software like the dairy rationing system for the tropics (DRASTIC), which trained users can use to predict what effect a particular mix of feeds will have on milk production. Another tool is Talking Pictures – Dairy (TP-D) which can be used to generate pictorial guides that local producers can easily understand and relate to.
Project Ref: LPP02:
Livestock Production Programme
Relevant Research Projects:
R6282: Development of a practical dairy feed rationing system appropriate for use in developing countries (DRASTIC – A Dairy Rationing System for the Tropics).
R7431 / R7855: Development and testing of the Talking Pictures – Dairy decision support tool in Tanzania, Kenya and India
Small-scale dairying with a commercial or semi-commercial focus has been widely promoted in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These systems offer a number of benefits to producers (increased, regular income; reduced vulnerability) and associated communities (increased labour engagement for the poor; improved nutritional status, particularly for children). Relatively good animal genotypes are now available to the dairy farmer with the potential to produce around 25 litres of milk per day during peak lactation. However, these yields are rarely achieved indicating the extent to which the development of effective managerial capacity amongst dairy producers has lagged behind the provision of good stock, veterinary services and marketing channels. Indeed, it is common to see improved animals producing no more milk than is achievable from indigenous animals – but at a much higher cost.
R6282 developed, tested and produced a software-based implementation of a novel feed rationing system for dairy cattle (DRASTIC). This system was designed specifically to generate information that would be relevant and accessible to extension services and farmers trying to improve the nutritional status of dairy cattle managed by poorer households in developing countries. It achieved this by:
packaging the complex calculations required to describe accurately the relationships between nutrient intake and production levels;
Implementation and testing of DRASTIC in Bolivia and Tanzania indicated that that it could be used effectively – by trained technical staff – to formulate dairy rations that were more appropriate for the needs of resource-poor dairy producers.
Work undertaken by projects R7431 and R7855 built upon the successes achieved with DRASTIC by improving accessibility to end-user and thus its potential for widespread application. This was achieved by adding the capacity to produce locally-customisable pictorial guides for dairy cow management that could be used directly by farmers (or front-line, field extension staff) in relation to their own animals. The resulting tool, Talking Pictures – Dairy (TP-D), has now been widely tested at a number of locations in East Africa and India. It has proved very robust in supporting appropriate management decisions for both problem-solving and implementing routine improvement to the levels and efficiency of production.
Milk and milk-products in developing countries.
However, the Talking Pictures methodology (i.e. using locally-available data to run a core-model that can generate customised pictorial guides to support management decision-making) is generic. As a result it could be easily adapted to support innovation in the production and post-harvest handling of a wide range of agricultural and other commodities. In the past, we have had informal discussions with a range of potential collaborators about the suitability of the approach for such issues as forest nursery management, animal health management, crop disease assessment and management and backyard poultry production.
Promotion of Exogenous Innovation. TP-D has proven itself as an effective tool for strengthening the capacity of farmers to manage and innovate (see under “Who are the Users”) in a way that intrinsically meets their own needs and objectives. We have been wary of promoting its use to support the implementation of specific technologies as:
a. inappropriate use of the tool could potentially distort farmers’ perceptions of technologies being promoted, encouraging adoption at the expense of more effective indigenous innovation.
b. the great power of TP-D lies in its adaptability to a wide range of management situations and options. Piggy-backing specific technologies onto its use could divert farmers from accessing the full versatility of the tool.
Notwithstanding these caveats, there probably is a r�le for TP-D in allowing farmers and extension officers to conduct their own ex ante impact assessments on exogenous technologies that they may be considering. A number of LPP outputs might fall into this category e.g. R5188, R5732, R6153, R6610, R7010.
Integration with other Innovative Approaches to Information Delivery. A number of other LPP projects have developed evaluated and implemented innovative approaches to knowledge management and information delivery that could complement these outputs. These include ZC0261 (Development of a Dairy Toolbox) and R7637 (Integration of indigenous and biological knowledge for improved dry season feeding strategies in hill farms in Nepal) which produced a tool capable of integrating indigenous and biological knowledge of fodder quality into customisable extension delivery documents. An integrated approach to the more widespread implementation of these tools might yield a number of synergistic benefits.
Application of the Talking Pictures Methodology to Other Management Issues. See project R7376outlining the potential for a Talking Pictures enhanced version of the Oxfeed decision support tool for draft animal management.
How the outputs were validated:
Technical Validity. The technical validation of DRASTIC and TP-D was undertaken by project partners with support from the project team in Bolivia, Tanzania, Kenya and India. These activities used a range of longitudinal monitoring approaches conducted on-farm with end-user participation to demonstrate the basic predictive accuracy of the tools.
Acceptability of Tool Formats to End-users. The format of the TP-D guides was developed, form scratch, with the participation of end-users from Tanzania. It was then tested by formal and informal questionnaires with other end-users in Tanzania, Kenya and India.
Capacity to Support Innovation. Detailed case studies conducted by project team and partner organisations (NARS, Dairy Development Project) in Tanzania and partner organisations (NGO, Dairy Cooperative Union) in India. These provided strong evidence of the capacity of TP-D to support farmers and / or extension staff to respond to changing circumstances and to innovate effectively in managing their dairy animals:
Where the Outputs were Validated:
* None of the validation work targeted specific social groups but, as a result of the mandates of partner organisations, some groups were disproportionately represented at some locations.
Who are the Users?
Extension workers and farmers associated with the partner organisations are using TP-D both alone and in concert to:
During the development of TP-D a number of obvious management problems were identified that the tool might assist farmers with; e.g. identification of the most efficient levels of supplement feeding, management of the quality of forage resources. In practise end-users have identified rather more wide ranging uses than we had envisaged including:
We have observed high levels of acceptability. Current evidence suggests that adopters are continuing to use the tool in this manner. In addition, project partners are continuing to train staff to implement TP-D more widely in their client communities where resources and local priorities allow.
Where the outputs have been used:
TP-D and its components have undergone widespread application and detailed testing and monitoring in Bolivia, Tanzania, Kenya and India. Initial acceptability rates have been high with at least 70 per cent of end-users, trained in the use of the tool being able to apply it to useful purpose. Formal follow-ups on some of the project’s earlier activities in Kenya and Tanzania has indicated that more than 60 per cent of farmers continued to make use of the tool after 18 months.
We have not had the resources to promote the use of TP-D more widely. However a number of “ad hoc” adopters have been able to download the software and training materials from our website and are currently incorporating its use into a range of dairy development activities. These include:
These initiatives appear to be reasonably self-supporting based on the easy accessibility of the software and supporting manuals and training materials.
Scale of Current Use:
With the exception of India, where funding was available to follow-up on some of the training and dissemination activities undertaken during the project’s later stages it is difficult to accurately judge current usage. The following represent our best guesses:
India: Approximately 1500 users trained during the projects lifespan. Based on our conservative estimate of adoption and persistence of at least 50 per cent, this would mean that at least 750 producers would still be using the tool, although others are likely to continue to benefit from innovations implemented as a result of its earlier use. In Rajasthan, in particularly, training of trainers in other districts has been undertaken and these are currently promoting wider use amongst end-users.
Tanzania and Kenya: Approximately 250 trained users at least 50 per cent still routinely using the tool after 18 months (in 2003). Current adoption and use continues in NGO supported youth projects in Tanga Region.
Ad Hoc Adoption: These are relatively new initiatives and we do not currently have any figures on usage.
As far as we are aware, there has been no external evaluation of these activities by the donor that could provide further information on current usage.
Policy and Institutional Structures, and Key Components for Success:
The project has benefited from strong linkages with some highly competent partner organisations (government agencies, NGOs and cooperatives) that have facilitated an examination of the key issues influencing the adoption of TP-D by end-users. As a result, we have been able to establish a number of significant facilitators for successful adoption:
TP-D was basically designed to strengthen the capacity of farmers and extension workers to make effective management decisions based on the underlying biology and economic factors that govern the system. There are two principal reasons for its success in achieving this:
Lessons Learned and Uptake Pathways
Promotion of Outputs:
Currently, there are no directly funded promotional activities being undertaken. The integrated version of the DRASTIC and Talking Pictures – Dairy software along with instructions for its use and various training materials designed to support the implementation of programmes using the approach may be downloaded from http://www.stirlingthorne.com/. Currently downloads of the software run at approximately six per month based on relatively minimal promotion (search engines / word-of-mouth). We have little information on the extent to which each download stimulates further percolation within organisations.
We aim to support, where possible, the activities of any ad hoc adopters (see under “Where the outputs have been used” for details) although funding is also a constraint here as our aim has been to ensure that the outputs of these projects remain freely available.
Potential Barriers Preventing Adoption of Outputs:
Lack of awareness: Although available free-of-charge, TP-D is a product that requires wider marketing to members of the development community. We do not currently have the resources to do this.
Resources to support training of trainers and implementation: Effective implementation of a tool like TP-D requires properly costed investment in activities that are directed at establishing a critical mass of trained trainers and pilot-level implementation with end users. We have been able to achieve this on a limited scale in India but funds to complete a similar task in East Africa have not been forthcoming. We now have a strong network of potential partner organisations but funding will be required to operationalise the tool within these organisations to a level that will be sustainable in the long-term.
How to Overcome Barriers to Adoption of Outputs:
We do not see any major problem with the capacity that is generally available to implement TP-D or similar tools. TP-D has designed to be implemented within existing information delivery frameworks and has many features that are directed at compensating for the well-documented difficulties that may be experienced by these organisations. That the tool is effective in this respect has been clearly demonstrated (see sections under Validation and Poverty Impact Studies).
The major need is for a properly costed programme of wider implementation this would need to cover:
A number of key issues arise from our own experiences and the observations of the team that conducted the final impact assessment:
Impacts On Poverty
Poverty Impact Studies:
In view of the nature of the output (i.e. a process aimed at strengthening the management capacity of farmers themselves or those in the extension services who support them directly), impact assessment has, to an extent, become entangled with the validation studies. As a result, there is some duplication of studies listed.
Quantitative Studies of the Outcomes of Applying TP-D to Management Decision Making.
a. Anon. (2005) The Scale and Scope of Impacts of Talking Pictures – Dairy amongst Smallholder Dairy Producers in Coastal Tanzania Project Case Study No. 1. Llangefni, UK, Stirling Thorne Associates. 2pp. http://www.stirlingthorne.com/documents/case_study_01.pdf.
b. Anon. (2005) Using Talking Pictures – Dairy to Reduce Supplement Wastage in Late Lactation Project Case Study No. 2. Llangefni, UK, Stirling Thorne Associates. 2pp. http://www.stirlingthorne.com/documents/case_study_02.pdf.
c. Anon. (2005) Applying Talking Pictures – Dairy in Mastitis Screening: A Novel User Innovation. Project Case Study No. 3. Llangefni, UK, Stirling Thorne Associates. 2pp. http://www.stirlingthorne.com/documents/case_study_03.pdf.
Independent* Impact Assessment
a. Venkatramaiah, P. and Dhamankar, M. (2006) Talking Pictures – Dairy (TP-D) Analysis of the experience of applying TP-D in selected field sites in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra states in India. Unpublished consultants report. 10pp.
* – In this case independent refers to the fact that, in the absence of an externally commissioned, independent impact assessment, the study was carried out by consultants who had no previous contact with the work and who were given free rein to interact with partner organisations and end-users at the four project locations in India.
How the Poor have Benefited (including gender and other poverty groups):
We have observed a wide range of benefits to both end-users and implementing agencies. Based on a synthesis of the results of the various validation and impact assessment activities conducted by the project, some of the most significant benefits to end-users observed included the following:Human Capital
Direct and Indirect Environmental Benefits:
TP-D is essentially a tool that enhances the awareness of users to a wide range of factors that relate to their production system. As a result, the most significant environmental benefits of using TP-D more widely are likely to accrue from more effective resource management and, through a better appreciation of the value of feed resources, an incentive to manage these with greater care and more sustainably. For example, in Tanzania, farmers were able to use TP-D to attach a financial value to the grasses that they collected from waste ground and roadsides. This prompted them to consider not only the most appropriate grasses to collect but also the best approaches for ensuring that these would continue to be available to support their dairy enterprises.
Adverse Environmental Impacts:
Not directly. TP-D is a tool that assists farmers to make informed resource management decisions in relation to their own household and production objectives. Any changes in patterns of resource use may, potentially impact on the environmental resource base and this will be one of the factors that will determine the acceptability of the change. TP-D aims to make the management practices of the farmers who use it more efficient and more able to meet their objectives. As a result, the changes required to achieve this should be based on better information generally and should be more likely to avoid negative environmental impacts.
Coping with the Effects of Climate Change, or Risk from Natural Disasters:
Any output that consolidates the livelihoods of the poor will increase their capacity to deal with the risks and threats that they face. As discussed in response to questions 20 and 21, the financial and other, broader benefits that may accrue to users of TP-D, or other similar tools that might be developed, are likely to enhance the capacity of poor to make informed scince-based decisions in the face of change.
Annexe Table 1: Some examples of management innovations implemented by farmers using Talking Pictures – Dairy and their individual financial benefits.
Annexe Table 2: Proposed locations and institutional arrangements for wider outscaling of novel approaches for stimulating innovation in smallholder dairying.
Annexe Table 3: Indicative financial impacts of improvements in production and production efficiency generated by farmer innovation using Talking Pictures – Dairy.
Farmer-generated innovations: 1 – Remedy concentrate underfeeding; 2 – Improve basal forage quality; 3 – Early identification of sub-clinical mastitis; 4 – Reduce late lactation concentrate wastage (see Annexe Table 1 for further details).
* – Data were not available to assess the extent to which late lactation overfeeding of concentrate might be prevalent in these countries. An arbitrary value of 50% has been assumed
Relevant Research Projects, with links to the