- Open Access
The impacts of rice cultivation on an indigenous Fogera cattle population at the eastern shore of Lake Tana, Ethiopia
Ecological Processes volume 8, Article number: 19 (2019)
Even though increasing population pressure and associated increased demand for food and economic development have led to overexploitation and degradation of wetlands throughout the world, the drivers are most severe in developing countries. For generations, Fogera wetlands in Ethiopia which are parts of Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve have been widely used for grazing of indigenous cattle. Fogera cattle are one of several recognized indigenous breeds of Abyssinian zebu bovine cattle (Bos primigenius indicus) found in Fogera district, Ethiopia. This study was conducted to quantify impacts of rice expansion on cattle population in Fogera wetlands. Data were collected through questionnaire, focus group discussions, interviews, and land use/land cover analysis. Respondents were selected using systematic random sampling. Variance and LEVENES test were used to analyze the livestock unit and to check homogeneity.
The study revealed that during the 20-year period preceding 2015, the number of cattle owned decreased from 3509 to 1510 heads. In the same period, rice cultivation increased from 182 to 9499 ha and production from 6701 to 714,013 qt. Grazing lands were reduced from 8550 to 3501 ha, wetlands from 3114 to 1060 ha, and forests from 1542 to 907 ha. Land use/land cover changes showed a negative balance of 40% dry matter requiring cattle feed to be increasingly supplemented through purchases, or reduction in herd number. The study also indicated that the land-use changes brought at the expense of traditional cattle production systems.
Hence, proper management is required to maintain these valuable resources and keep their role in socioeconomic development of the area.
Wetland agriculture, which comprises crop cultivation, livestock, pisciculture, and fishing, has made a significant contribution to the well-being of humanity over the centuries (Bayliss-Smith and Golson 1992). Wetlands play a key role in pollution mitigation and flood control, provide habitat for many species of fish and wildlife, and help maintain groundwater supplies and water quality (Patrick 1976; Mitsch and Gosselink 1986; Dahl 1990). Wetlands commonly occur in human-dominated landscapes such as agricultural and urban regions (Neely and Baker 1989; Ehrenfeld 1991). Studies have shown that many human activities can have negative effects on wetland ecosystems (Morgan and Philip 1986; Aerts and Berendse 1988; Moore et al. 1989; Ehrenfeld and Schneider 1991; Ehrenfeld 1991; Morris 1991). Increasing population pressure and associated increased demand for food and economic development have led to overexploitation and degradation of wetlands throughout the world. These drivers are most severe in developing countries with rapidly growing economies and populations (Central Statistical Agency 2007). More than 50% of the world’s wetlands have been altered, degraded, or lost in the last 150 years (O’Connell 2003). Wetlands should be managed in a sustainable manner to meet human needs for present and future generations (FAO 2008). To continue wetlands for the future generation, it is necessary to conserve these resources and reverse ecological changes (Lamsal et al. 2015).
Seasonal wetlands such as the Fogera plain can provide valuable feedstock for livestock because of their high biomass production (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) 2005). For generations, the Fogera wetlands in Ethiopia have been widely used for livestock grazing (IPMS 2005). However, farmers increasingly prefer to grow rice instead of other crops due to its high yield and market price compared to other crops (Mesfin et al. 2016). The introduction of rice has changed income source and distribution (IPMS 2005).
Much research has been devoted to increase rice production and profitability in the Fogera wetlands. Studies include those on integrated fertilizer management ((Mulugeta and Heluf 2006; Tilahun et al. 2013), value chains (Astewel 2010; Birhanu 2017), weed management (Agegnehu et al. 2013), water availability and management as affected by livestock (Alemayehu 2013), climate change (Lemma 2013; Gashaw 2016), land-use patterns (Gashaw 2016; Gashaw and Mamaru 2017; Wubneh and Amare 2017), and nonpoint pollution in the Lake Tana basin (Moges et al. 2017).
In sustainable agricultural systems, natural ecosystems should be preserved to the extent possible, and land degradation should be minimized (MoWEM 1991). Furthermore, many international organizations have advocated for innovative land-use approaches that engage local communities and draw upon traditional knowledge and practices to facilitate the adoption of best practices and to sustain the environment (UNESCO 2000; UNCCD 2015). Studies suggested that rice cultivation has had detrimental impacts on traditional livestock systems, e.g., by restricting livestock movement (IPMS 2005). However, despite the threat that land-use change poses to Fogera ecosystems and traditional farming systems, there is limited research on the impacts of rice cultivation on indigenous cattle production systems, which have traditionally relied on the availability of grazing lands and adequate feed (Tadesse and Solomon 2014). This study is, therefore, to assess impacts of the expansion of rice production on land-use patterns in the Fogera wetlands and on traditional cattle production systems.
Materials and methods
The biosphere reserve of Lake Tana (BR) (Appendix 3) is situated in the northern Ethiopian highlands between 11o 46′ and 11o 59′ North and 37o 33′ and 37o 52′ East. The woreda (districts) is bordered by Libokemkem woreda in the north, Dera woreda in the south, Lake Tana in the west, and Farta woreda in the east. Elevation ranges from 1774 to 2410 m, and the mean annual rainfall is 1216 mm with a bimodal distribution. The BR has two major rivers under my study site that flow into the Lake Tana, Rib, and Gumara, and consists of 10 districts divided into 137 kebeles.Footnote 1 Fogera is one of 10 districts in the BR and comprises 29 rural and 5 urban kebeles (Fig. 1). While much of the BR is known for rice production, the Fogera district is a surplus crop producing area that includes rice. The area is seasonally flooded by watershed drainage contributed by the two rivers, which also deposit soil eroded from uplands. Yields of flood deposition have made the floodplain deep and fertile. Rice is cultivated in lowlands of the floodplains where there is ample water for the growing period of it (Abaye 2007). In higher elevations or when flood water recedes, fields are irrigated using diverted water from Rib or Gumera rivers. Bunds are also used in a rain-fed rice production system to capture and hold water (IPMS 2005), as well as to increase infiltration and reduce soil erosion.
Expert interviews were conducted during initial field visits to understand the situation of the wetlands of the study site and impacts of human activities on indigenous cattle population through rice cultivation to get appropriate sample sites and framing of data collection instruments. Based on the preliminary survey, the site has the largest wetlands under BR and expansion of intensive rice cultivation into what have been historically uncultivated wetlands, forested lands, and grazing lands. Our hypothesis was that conversion of the wetland into rice cultivation places pressure on these traditional land-use areas, and in particular grazing lands, which has negative implications for the sustainability of traditional livestock-based farming systems as well as indigenous Fogera cattle.
For this study, therefore, five kebeles were selected in the Fogera district and classified into buffer, core, and transition zones (Table 1). One focus group discussion was established for each sampled kebele with 7–9 participants. Participants for the discussion were selected based on their representativeness for their kebele. Interviewed farmers were also selected based on their living experience and job in the wetland areas and expertise working on this field. Households were interviewed in each kebele. The number of households interviewed in each kebele was a proportion of the total number of households (Table 1). Households were selected within each kebele using a systematic random sampling approach described by Kothari (2004).
Household contact information was provided by the kebele offices. Household information collected through interviews included the number of livestock, grazing system used, dry matter requirement of livestock, pattern of local livestock population, and production of rice crop in these study kebeles.
Primary data were collected using questionnaire, focus group discussions and interviews about number and types of livestock, land size and income from rice production, grazing land condition, other feed sources, and pattern of local livestock population. The data were collected using five enumerators together with the researcher himself especially focus group discussions, interviews were collected by the researcher himself, and the household survey were collected by the enumerators under the supervision of the researcher. Moreover, supporting data were also collected from different agricultural offices and literature. Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and multispectral scanner (MSS) imagery for the period 1973 and 2014 were downloaded from https://www.usgs.gov.
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyze the livestock unit. LEVENES test was used to check the homogeneity of variance (SAS 9.4 version). The data collected through focus group discussions and interviews were also analyzed through qualitative description or narration.
Estimation of available feed resource and land use
Dry matter yield of natural pasture
The quantity of feed DM obtained annually from different land-use types was calculated by multiplying the hectare of land under each land-use types by its conversion factors. Conversion factors of 2.0, 1.5, 1.3, 1.2, and 1.2 t DM/ha/year were used for natural pasture, teff (Eragrastis tef), rice (Oryza sativa), grass pea (Lathyrus sativus), and chickpea (Cicer arietinum), respectively (FAO 1984; FAO 1987). The quantity of available crop residues (dry matter basis) on the current crop production system was estimated from the total crop yields of the households using the above conversion factor. Amount of dry matter obtained from communal grazing land is factored into communal grazing areas for each total household and their associate tropical livestock units (TLU) eligible to graze on this land unit.
Estimation of balance between feed supply and demand
The number of livestock population was converted into tropical livestock units (TLUs) using the approach in Varvikko et al. (1993) for comparison purpose. Total available dry matter per year from natural pasture and crop residues was compared to the annual dry matter requirements of the livestock population in the sampled households. The DM requirement of the livestock population was calculated based on the daily DM requirement of 250 kg dual purpose tropical cattle (an equivalent of one TLU) for maintenance requirement that needs 6.25 kg/day/animal or 2281 kg/year/animal (Jahnke 1982).
Land use/land cover analysis
Image processing for the land use analysis was done using ArcGIS 10.2. Change matrixes were done to interpret change in grazing land in the years of 1973 and 2014. Data from Woreda agriculture offices were used to compare results from the land use analysis. The area covered by each land use/land cover (LULC) class was calculated, and subsequently, the changes were compared for the periods 1973 and 2014. Land use/land cover in the study area includes forest land, agricultural land, water body, wetlands, and grasslands/grazing.
Land use/land cover (LULC) classification schemes used in this study include the following variables (Thompson 1996):
Forest areas: Areas dominated by trees having a height of 6 m and above which have a crown cover overlap of 15% and more.
Agricultural lands: These are land covers used to cultivate perennial or annual crops.
Water body: Areas covered with ponds and small lakes.
Grasslands: Areas with permanent grass cover located on a plain and water logging areas.
Wetlands: Areas of marsh, fen, peatland, or water, whether natural or artificial and permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish, or salty, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 m.
Figure 2 illustrates that the mean cattle holdings in the study area ranged from four to six animals per household among kebeles in 2015. Relatively, Kidest Hana kebele farmers hold the better number of livestock per household (6.15). Survey data suggest that the total number of cattle in all five kebeles steadily decreased over the last 20 years (Fig. 3).
The study also revealed that there was ~ 21% decline in cattle population from 2005 to 2014. In the contrary, the study also noted a concomitant increase in the number of sheep, donkey, mule, poultry, and beehives over the same period. In addition, analysis of livestock unit and checking of homogeneity of variance have been made (Table 6a and b in Appendix 1).
|LSM of TLU||0.168ab*||0.170ab||0.216a||0.161b||0.127b||0.019|
Kebele 3 was significantly different from kebele 4 and 5, and no significant difference was observed between kebeles 1, 2, and 3 (Table 6b). Kebeles 1, 2, 4, and 5 had no difference (P > 0.05) in TLU per household.
Before large-scale rice production was introduced, the Fogera wetlands flooded during the wet season. Tradition, multiple cropping systems were used and included teff (Eragrastis tef), maize (Zea mays), noug (Guizotia abyssinica), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), chickpea, lentil (Lens culinaris), and grass pea (Lathyrus sativus) (Fogera Woreda Agriculture Office 2015). During the dry season, horticultural crops were cultivated under small-scale irrigation, including mainly onion (Allium cepa), garlic (Allium sativum), green pepper (Capsicum spp.), and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum). Rice introduction began in the 1970s with two farmer associations and quickly expanded to 14 kebeles. Data from Woreda Agriculture Office (Fig. 4) showed that over a 10-year period, rice crop has become by far the most predominant crop, increasing dramatically, while during this same period, traditional crops decreased. This was also indicated by the primary data collected directly from the sample household (Fig. 5) that showed rice production had the highest position compared to the other crops in the areas. The predominance of rice and relative unimportance of the traditional crops are reflected in our 2015 household data as well (Fig. 5).
The feed resources of livestock in Fogera wetland areas consisted of uncontrolled communal grazing lands, purchased hay, rice crop residues, and other crop residues. In the study kebeles, out of 385 respondents, 99.7% of them used both free grazing communal lands and rice crop residue as the main feed source for their livestock. In addition, 29.4% of respondents buy hay from neighboring farmers, and 34% use other crop residues or rice residue as feed sources for their livestock (Table 2).
Feed dry matter supply
A total of ~ 45 t of feed dry matter (DM) were produced from crop residue and natural pasture across the sampled kebeles (n = 385) (Table 3). Total dry matter yield, which was estimated from grazing pasture and crop residues, is presented in Table 3. Data indicate much larger dependence on crop residue (99.89%) for feed than on grazing land (0.11%). Overall, available feed in terms of dry matter per annum was only ~ 60% of that needed to meet household TLU feed requirement. Yet, ~ 40% of dry matter per annum was required to meet the existing TLU requirement (Table 3). All dry matter was calculated for the present cropping system.
Traditional grazing system in the study wetland areas
When the main available feed resource was communal grazing land, animals were fed through a communal grazing system which caused overgrazing problems and unwanted breeding. The sample households were asked whether they used alternative grazing management systems for communal lands, such as cut and carry, or rotational grazing. Households with livestock responded anonymously that they used only free grazing system.
Annual income gained
The household farming activities in the study kebeles were crop production, livestock rearing, horticulture, beekeeping, and fishing. Rice production contributed 84.8% of total income, clearly the lion’s share. There were modest differences among the kebeles for percentages of income originating from other crops (Table 4). According to the respondents, the most important factors determining their annual average incomes were the landholding size, fertility of the farmland, availability of flood water, management practices of the individual farmer, and amount of livestock holding.
Income from livestock was a contributing a mere 0.5% on average among kebeles, significantly less than that from rice (84.8%) and other crops (14.7%). A focus group consisting of animal science experts concurred that farmers now pay less attention to livestock rearing, preferring instead to focus on rice production because of high grain prices (1100.00 Ethiopian birr per quintal). Livestock production was restricted because of limited forage and grazing lands. Together, these trends explain the gradual loss of indigenous livestock numbers.
The effect of rice production on Fogera indigenous livestock population
According to the five animal science experts (developing agents), the mean rice yield was estimated at about 35 qt/ha and ranges from 20 to 80 qt/ha depending on the land type and management practices. According to the Woreda or district agricultural office expert, still, there is a potential to expand rice production to 28,000 ha of land. Rice straw is used as animal feed and for roof thatching.
Even though Fogera district was dominantly characterized by mixed crop–livestock subsistence farming system, the extent of crop and livestock integration varied that farmers’ attitude tends toward rice production and less attention for their cattle because of grazing land problem, so that according to 83.9% of sample respondents explanation, rice farming has caused a reduction of Fogera indigenous cattle population. Approximately 16% claimed that rice production had not caused a reduction in cattle numbers, but the panel of experts claimed this was because many of the 16% were using land illegally for rice production. All agreed that the number of pure breed Fogera cattle was declining over time (Table 5). Currently, pure Fogera cattle breed are found only in small numbers in the villages of Sindeye, Tigre mender, and Damote. In other kebeles, where the breed used to be common, there was an unwanted crossbreeding with other indigenous breeds such as the Estie, Dera, and Fareta during communal grazing in the Fogera plains.
Figure 6 indicated that increased rice crop production is negatively correlated with cattle population. Appendix 2 also showed that the correlation value of − 0.889** was significant at the P < 0.01. Rice crop production has gained more interest among farmers because of its potential to generate income. But increased income comes apparently at the cost of its indigenous cattle population and other wetland resources.
Grazing land reduction detection
The correlation trends indicated in Fig. 6 were further supported by land-use changes illustrated in Fig. 7. Grassland areas were greatly reduced in favor of cultivated rice between 1973 and 2014 (Fig. 8).
Other declines were observed in forested lands and wetlands. At the same time, the area under water slightly increased. Quantitative comparisons for changes in land use were shown in Fig. 9. Specifically, grazing lands were reduced from 8550 ha or 50% of land area to 3501 ha or 20% of land area, wetlands from 3114 ha or 18% of land area to 1060 ha or 6% of land area, and forestlands from 1542 ha or 9% of land area to 907 ha or 5% of land area. Concurrently, cultivated land area increased from 3441 ha or 20% of land area to 11,550 ha or 67% of land area, and water surface area from 502 ha or 3% of the study area to 907 ha or 5% of the area.
Previous to the massive introduction of rice production, the borderline of Lake Tana that was covered by papyrus and long grass has been cleared out now, exposed to sunlight, and visible for the remote sensing, respectively. In the previous time, the border of Lake Tana was covered by the vegetation such as reeds, Butia capitata (palm tree), long grasses, and papyrus, but nowadays, the vegetation has been removed around the border of the lake because of recession farming and for the dry season small-scale irrigation due to population dynamics (Appendix 3).
Currently, the number of livestock population decreased because of intensive practice of rice agriculture. Since the 1970s, rice production practice was introduced in the wetland areas of Fogera. According to Fogera Woreda Agriculture Office, participant farmers in rice production have been increased, and in contrary, the number of livestock decreased over time. According to Alberro and Haile-Mariam (1982), Rege and Tawah (1999), IBC (2004), and Gebeyehu et al. (2004), the pure Fogera cattle population dropped down. Even other natural resources have also reduced like birds (see Fig. 9) was enjoyed in the wetlands because farmers compete to obtain land as the floodwaters retreat for the recession farming instead of left it for grazing (Tadesse and Solomon 2014). Therefore, due to the rice farming approach, the number of grazing land is reducing over time and it has an effect on Fogera cattle.
In terms of household income, the expansion of rice production was largely positive but the livestock number and their production as well as their movement were reduced (Tadesse and Solomon 2014). Fogera has a high potential for dairy production, but according to Woreda agricultural experts and Belete (2006), due to the feed shortage, farmers from highland kebeles move indiscriminate breeds to the plains during the dry season, which has resulted in the reduction of the better yielding Fogera breed in the plains (Fig. 10).
Insufficient land, problem of labor, lack of inputs such as the forage seeds, and lack of information were among the reasons given by respondents for not growing their own fodder. The area of the communal grazing land and rice crop residues are the main and the only feed sources available for the farmer’s livestock feed as indicated in (Table 2 above). Generally, there are insufficient amount of grazing lands, and as a result, the productivity is also low due to feed.
The main reason, as mentioned above, is the introduction of rice production which has an influence on animal rearing. Belete (2006) approved that not only the reduction of their number but also productivity. In the area, the conversion of grazing lands into crop production especially rice, in this case, seems the main reason for the scarcity of feed resources. This was also approved by land use/land cover detection in GIS environment that the amount of grazing land was changed over time.
Agriculture land was pushed into formerly grazing and wetland areas. It has also been observed in the study site that the built-up areas were mostly surrounded by agricultural area. It means the area near the population has been cleared and shifted to crop production in order to fulfill the basic necessities of life (Bailly 2007). The introduction of rice farming caused the expansion of agricultural land at the expense of other land-use types in the area (Mesfin et al. 2016). In the woreda, rice is one of the food crop produced by the majority of the farmers in a study conducted by Gebremedhin and Hoekstra (2007).
The area covered by wetland and grazing class has also witnessed a decrease from 1973 to 2014. The land use/land cover changes observed in all other classes affected the wetlands and grazing class during four decades. According to Taddese and Solomon (2014), the overall land use/land cover change analysis of the Landsat image of the year 1986 and 2013 in Gummara and Rib watershed showed that grazing land has declined drastically and cultivated land has rapidly increased. Moreover, the grassland use type was changed into settlement and eucalyptus woodland. This increasing trend of LULC in the study area reinforces that economic forces are commonly a major stimulus on anthropogenic change of land (Wang et al. 2008).
The livestock feed sources are becoming declining due to the excessive conversion of grazing lands into cultivated land and settlement areas. Therefore, grazing land degradation should be given attention for the sustainable and healthy livestock productivity. The overall livestock productivity is a function of high human and animal population which in turn results in a shortage of pasture land. Moreover, most of the communal grazing/browsing lands are degraded providing only limited feed. In general, feed shortage and poor performance of local breed (because of unwanted breeding) affect the productivity of livestock. In the study site, the concerned body should take measures that could enhance improved feeding management techniques such as rotational grazing for extended pasture lands, forage development, fodder conservation, feeding fresh forage using the cut-and-carry method, and regulating the intake by different categories of stock to fill the gaps livestock feed. Moreover, the carrying capacity of the pasture land and stocking density need to be balanced.
Based on the results obtained by the employment of GIS and remote sensing applications to achieve the specific research objectives, it is concluded that the land use/land cover practices in the study area have altered significantly in 41 years. The LULC shift in the study kebeles was evident by the decline in the area of grazing land, bush, and shrubland and augmentation of the area covered by classes of agriculture and built-up areas. The haphazard expansion of built-up areas and agriculture area in the study site was mainly due to the lack of proper management and land-use planning since no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is generated prior to land development in the study area. The major impact of this expansion was subjected on grazing, bush and shrubland, and wetland class to forage resource reduction, deforestation, and water depletion, respectively. Hence, proper management of these study site resources is required because without proper management, these valuable resources like grazing, forest, and water resource will soon be lost or will no longer be able to play its required role in the socioeconomic development of the area. To sustain wetlands with the coexistence of rice production, concerned bodies have to join programs that help protect and restore wetlands, report illegal activities, enact proper disposal of all litter in appropriate trash containers, implement planting of local tree species, use living shoreline techniques to stabilize the soil, avoid artificial input use, stop the expansion of agricultural activities on wetlands and grazing lands, and give more attention to innovative traditional farming systems.
Kebele is the smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia.
Analysis of variance
Central Statistics Agency
Environmental Impact Assessment
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
Fogera Woreda Agriculture Office
Geographic information system
Institute of Biodiversity Conservation
Improving Productivity and Market Success
Land use/land cover
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Ministry of Water, Energy, and Minerals
Tropical Livestock Unit
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization
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The authors acknowledge Addis Ababa and Wollo University for sponsoring this project, University of Nevada Reno College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resource management for accept me as visiting scholar, and also the College of Business and Economic of the University of Nevada for providing me offices and computers for facilitating for the writing up of this manuscript. I would like to thank Fogrea Woreda Agriculture office for providing me information and secondary data and development agents for assisting me in collecting data.
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Mr. Mare Addis Desta is a PhD candidate at Addis Ababa University. His research interests focus on Sustaining Lake Tana Biosphere Reserve. His current PhD research focuses on the Environmental Trade-offs and Cross-Sectoral Institutional linkage Requirements of Rice Intensification in the Fogera Wetlands, Ethiopia. Dr. Gete Zeleke is a PhD holder working as a Director of the Water and Land Management Resource Center & Leader of NCCR-RP12 Landscape Transformation Research Project in Ethiopia and he is also a known lecturer at Addis Ababa University in the department of Ecosystem Planning and Management. William A. Payne is a professor working as Dean and Professor, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno, USA. Teshome Shenkoru is a PhD holder working on the department of Agriculture, Nutrition and Veterinary Sciences at University of Nevada and Yihun Dile is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University.
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Desta, M.A., Zeleke, G., Payne, W.A. et al. The impacts of rice cultivation on an indigenous Fogera cattle population at the eastern shore of Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Ecol Process 8, 19 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13717-019-0167-7
- Indigenous cattle
- Grazing land