Dr Jenny Hanks, presenting for the Dahat Pan team. Photo: Reianne Quilloy (from IRRI)
When it comes to raising children, sometimes the smallest things can lead to the most positive changes, and this applies to livestock as much as to humans. For several small-holder goat farmers in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar, for example, it turns out that extra feeds for young animals – known as creep feeding - means a much lower mortality rate within the herd.
The Dahat Pan project, MyFarm’s livestock component, has the overall aim of helping smallholder farmers find ways to improve the health and nutrition of their livestock, namely cattle, sheep, goats and chickens.
The research team have had to work closely with farmers to better understand the breeding and production systems currently in place, as there is limited information describing these systems, even among Myanmar-based researchers and government departments.
And as with many other areas of agricultural research, communicating with farmers has been both crucial and challenging.
“Particularly working with the Myanmar research team, just that flow-on of information was quite challenging, because for the Myanmar researchers, doing this direct work with farmers was quite new, so for them to understand what our aims were, to be able to describe that to farmers was quite difficult,” she says.
Dr Hanks says while there’s no precise data on the project’s impacts on livelihoods in the broader sense, smaller developments have been easier to quantify.
“Based on the village chicken work and these interventions, introducing coops and vaccinating against Newcastle disease have been really effective, and the economic modelling of that shows that farmers can double their income over a three-year period doing quite simple things, that are quite low-cost, and that's even with them buying that equipment that they need,” she says.