The Ministry of Agriculture is introducing hydroponic and aqua-ponic farming to farmers to enhance animal fodder security as well as to show them alternative ways of improving food and nutrition security. Hydroponic fodder production involves supplying cereal grain with moisture and nutrients, all outside of a growing medium such as soil, and then harvesting the resulting green shoots and root mat. This kind of production system is used in a number of different livestock systems internationally. Even though the most commonly used cereal grain is barley, a range of cereals can be utilized for fodder production, including oats, wheat and maize.
Aqua-ponics is also the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture which is gaining increased attention as a bio- integrated food production system in the world.
Eritrea, having a short period and unreliable rainy season, needs to increase its food and feed production by adopting modern technologies. Availability of fresh or dried grass and roughages as a whole for animal feed during dry seasons has been a great challenge for farmers for years.
The Ministry of Agriculture is constantly seeking ways and means of mitigating these challenges and obstacles. The adoption of hydroponic fodder production as well as aquaponic farming is indeed prompted by these considerations and in order to enhance human and animal nutrition security.
As a preliminary measure, the Ministry has established, in December 2019, a demonstration area inside the premises of its main Headquarters. The demonstration site is run by a group of young experts who have been doing well in various innovative programmes.
It is worth mentioning here that a number of studies have been conducted in the past years in various countries to evaluate the effectiveness of hydroponic fodder. As a matter of fact, the hydroponic fodder produced in the Ministry was tested in chicken, rabbit, pigs and horses with a number of feed parameters. The results were found to be promising.
Furthermore, around 50 farmers from different zobas were made to visit the demonstration area. The farmers told this newsletter that the new technology is easy to adopt and very important in alleviating animal forage problems they face. Most of them promised to practice it in their farms.
Fodder sheds produce a large quantity of green fodder; with just one kg of grain producing 6 – 10kg of fodder sprouts (as green feed). Hydroponic fodder can be used as a supplementary feed and during dry seasons as a main feed for animals.
So far the innovation group in the Ministry has managed to produce fodder from barley and maize. Some farmers in the pilot group assert that they normally provide around 7 kgs of grain for just one cow. Observing 6-10 kg green fodder produced from 1kg of grain has aroused their interest.
The Ministry of Agriculture has a plan to train extension workers from its regional offices so that the technology cascades down to the village level.
Ministry of Agriculture Newsletter, Issue No 20, February 2020