ICARDA is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to initiate a new research for development network that will assess livestock feed supplies and consumption rates across the Near East and North Africa (NENA). The availability of feed is a critical problem within the region: increasing demand for livestock products imposes a significant strain on feed resources, and a combination of bio-physical factors – including scarcity of land, the limited availability of soil and water, and climate change – are challenging the sustainability of feed production systems.
The network – the Near East and North Africa Animal Feed Network – is a critical component in efforts to target sustainable feed production, providing the information that countries will need to effectively manage this resource. Feed assessments are not currently available in most NENA countries, and where they are available, tend to be outdated or limited in scope.
Outlined at a recent regional workshop in Muscat, Oman, the network will pursue the following objectives: produce regularly updated inventories of feedstuffs with chemical compositions and nutritional values; characterize and map feeding systems; monitor prices and the trade of feed and feed ingredients; assess and forecast feed demand and supply; develop guidelines on feed resource management and feeding strategies; and serve as a platform for the exchange of information.
Regional experts also identified knowledge gaps in feed assessments and the efforts needed to improve the characterization of feeding systems in NENA countries – discussions were subsequently held on appropriate methodologies and approaches and participants promised to finalize a standardized feed assessment by June 2014.
Planned initiatives to be taken forward by the Network include up-scaling and expanding knowledge on the use of salt and drought-tolerant plant species; the promotion of crop-livestock integrated systems with a focus on water-efficient plants; the restoration of rangelands; and the utilization of locally-adapted indigenous plant species.
Increasing demand for livestock products is imposing a severe strain on feed resources across the Near East and North Africa