Good Practices

Conversion of rocky area to grazing area for livestock management (Lao People's Democratic Republic)

Forage and Livestock Management
One of the main causes of land degradation in the Tadseng village (Sansay district, Lao
PDR) is the flow of storm water that results in sediment run-off which leaves only rocks
behind. It is estimated that approximately 20% of clay soils on the top soil have been
washed away in recent years. In 2009 The Sustainable National Resources Management
Product and Enhancement Project supported by Asia Development Bank (ADB)
encouraged villagers to set up cow and forage farms. Ten cow breeding groups were
established in the village. The cow farming group had used the communal land with a
total 15 ha. After four years of implementation, some group members ignored their
responsibilities and the group experienced a number of difficulties in both the
management of the livestock and grass, which finally led to the collapse of the system.
However, by 2014, one of the former members regained his interest in cow farming. He
was able to rent the former 15 ha of land and he re-established the cow farm to a herd
of 130 heads. At the beginning he only chose the healthiest stems of grass that remained
from the old farm and replanted these. Three grass species were planted in rows on one
area, namely Nepir, Guinea and Paspalum. It took thirty days to plow and prepare the
land using a tractor and a labour force of more than fifty workers. For about five days,
ten of these laborers had to remove the forage roots from the old fields. Generally, mid-
May is the most suitable time to plant the grass as there is only a small amount of rain.
Work begins by clearing the land and plowing the soil and then leaving it to dry for 15
days in order to get rid of some of the weeds and pests. During this period, some of the
organic matter decays and develops into green compost which helps to improve the
soil’s structure. This subsequently successfully regenerates the growth of the grass as its
roots are able to easily expand throughout the soil. Whilst waiting for the soil to dry
fences will be constructed around the plot. Then 40 tons of manure should be
transported to the field using a two-wheel tractor. After, the manure has to be
distributed and plowed into the soil. At the beginning of June grass can be planted by
digging holes in rows, as to place the grass suckers into the ground at a depth of 5 cm.
Irrigation is unnecessary as rain is expected in June. Optionally the farmer can use a
gravity fed irrigation, if necessary. The forage can be harvested around 90 – 100 days
after plantation. There are two options regarding the feeding of livestock: First option
involves hired labourers to harvest the grass. The second option is to allow the livestock
to graze freely in the field, 6 months after grass plantation. However, this can only be
undertaken on a bi-weekly basis so as to allow the grass to regenerate. It is important to
extract the weeds and apply organic fertilizer or green manure after the grass has been
cut. Maintenance may also involve the repairing of fences. Advantages of this planting
grass are the reduction of soil erosion and preventing nutrients from being washed out
during heavy rains, as well as reducing soil compaction. Meanwhile the organic matter in
the soil increases due to the decay of dead leaves of grass and roots. Further advantage
is to grow up stronger and healthier cows. This also means that the farmers get higher
household revenue from the sale of his livestock which on average amounts up to
80,000,000Kip/annum. Family members also have more time for other household
activities because cows are released in the early morning and called back in late
afternoon. However, one of the disadvantages could be a reduction in the local
biodiversity such as edible insects and crickets. Furthermore the availability and variety
of non-timber forest products declines such as Hed Amanita hemibapha, broom grass
and rattan. Wildlife numbers have also reduced as people used to find and squirrels in
this region. Another challenge may be that households have limited labour power to
maintain fences and the forage fields, as it is relatively expensive to hire workers at
50,000 Kip/day. Difficulties in carrying out weeding include Nga Nam Keo. It should be
noted that farmer make significant savings by not having to buy grass seeds as he can
collect grass rhizomes from the old farm area.


Latsamone Vongphosy