Analysis of Small-Scale Dairy Farmers' Perceptions of Alternative Fodder Grasses Contingent on Napier Stunt Disease in Bungoma District, Kenya

Smallholder dairy sector in Western Kenya plays an important role in the livelihoods of many farm households by generating income and employment. Napier grass is the principal source of livestock feed in the region; as well as being an integral grass in the push-pull technology (PPT). Despite this fact, Napier stunt disease (NSD) has become a serious threat to the growth of Napier grass and consequently to the livestock industry. This thesis focused on farmers‟ perceptions on alternative fodder grasses to Napier grass and sought to provide a better understanding of the alternative grasses available for adoption due to the threat to fodder availability by NSD. The objective of this study was thus to determine the extent of Napier stunt disease infestation in small-scale dairy farming and to find out alternative fodder grasses small scale dairy farmers would prefer if Napier grass is affected by NSD. The study was conducted in Bungoma District (now county), Western province, Kenya. Primary data were collected from 140 small-scale dairy farmers. Descriptive statistics and multinomial logit model were employed to generate the results using STATA and SPSS application software. Results revealed that, Napier grass is the main source of fodder by the majority (98.6%) of the farmers and that the cultivation and expansion of the fodder crop has been severely threatened by NSD. Most (97.9%) of the interviewed farmers recognized and experienced the damage caused by this disease. At least a portion of each respondent‟s land had been affected ranging from 0.01 acres to 2.0 acres. The reported effects of NSD on dairy enterprise included: reduction in milk production, reduction of breeding stock and increased costs of production. Results further confirmed that, a majority (68.6%) of the respondents showed willingness to replace Napier grass with alternative fodder grasses. The alternatives in order of priority included: Natural grass; signal grass; Giant seteria; Sudan grass; and Molasses grass. Results obtained from multinomial logit model revealed that, some of the farm and farmer characteristics, institutional characteristics, and grass attributes were important determinants of farmers‟ perceptions on alternative grasses used in smallholder dairy farming. Consequently, it is essential that when screening alternative fodder grasses, emphasis should be placed on attributes that conform to farmers‟ preferences and that farmers should be involved in evaluation of fodder grasses to find their suitability to the farmers‟ circumstances. It is also recommended that on farm trials/ demonstrations to test grass attributes suggested as important in decision making on preference of alternative grasses should be validated.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-21

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