Integrated Farming Systems in the Andean Foothills in Colombia
Second FAO Electronic Conference on Tropical Feeds
Livestock Feed Resources within Integrated Farming Systems
INTEGRATED FARMING SYSTEMS IN THE ANDEAN FOOTHILLS IN COLOMBIA
Patricia Sarria and Maria Elena Gomez
CIPAV, Fundacion Centro para la Investigacion de Sistemas
Sostenibles en Produccion Agropecuaria, Cali, Colombia
This paper describes changes in farming systems in a community
in the Andean foothills of Colombia dictated by altered
circumstances and opportunities. The circumstances were the
declining supply of water to the community due to
deforestation provoked by extension of cattle grazing. The
opportunities were: (I) the use of multi-purpose trees (for
feed, fuel and soil fertility enhancement); (ii) high yielding
biomass crops (sugar cane) providing feed and soil
improvement; (iii) recycling of household waste water and
livestock manure to produce fuel (biogas) and fertilizer (the
effluent); (iv) use of earthworms to convert livestock manure
into protein for chickens and organic fertilizer; (v)
associated (multi-strata) cropping of horticultural plants
with multi-purpose trees to increase biomass yield and enhance
biodiversity; and (vi) simplification of the feeding system
(giving whole sugar cane stalk and tree leaves to pigs during
Interim results are given showing effects on biomass yield and
on soil fertility.
KEY WORDS: Livestock, integration, feed, tree, sugarcane,
recycling, biogas, soil fertility
This paper describes some of the results from the introduction
of integrated farming systems in a small community
(municipalities of La Union and El Dovio) located in the
Andean foothills, 1,700m above sea level, in the north of the
Cauca Valley in Colombia. The rainfall is 1,400mm and mean
temperatures range from 24=F8C during the day to 14=F8C at night.
The terrain is sloping (>25=F8) and mean daily hours of sunshine
Most of the farm families are of peasant (campesino) origin
and own less than 15ha. Traditionally the region was dedicated
to monocultural coffee with some fruit trees and vegetables.
The farming systems are now highly diversified as will be
described in this paper. Income is derived almost exclusively
=66rom farm activities.
The first modifications to the traditional system were made in
1987 on the basis of recommendations by advisers of the
Federation of Coffee Producers to introduce cattle in order to
promote diversification of the traditional coffee monoculture.
Faced with the problem of inadequate feed supply, help was
sought from the Fondo DRI (Fund for Integrated Rural
Development) which in turn approached CIPAV for advice as to
appropriate forage crops that could be grown. CIPAV's first
1/ Reintroduction of pigs and partial confinement of the
cattle to provide manure for a biodigester to supply biogas as
alternative to firewood (to decrease pressure on the remaining
forest area) and organic fertiliser as alternative to
2/ To establish sugar cane and forage trees (Chachafruto =3D
Erythrina edulis and nacedero =3D Trichanthera gigantea) as feed
sources for cattle and pigs through fractionation of the sugar
cane into juice (for the pigs) and residual pressed cane stalk
and the cane tops for the cattle. The "chachafruto" was chosen
as a protein supplement for the cattle and "nacedero" for the
pigs on the basis of CIPAV's experience with these trees in
3/ Preparation of syrup from cane juice using an "earth" oven
in the ground.
4/ On-farm manufacture of multi-nutritional blocks using the
"scums" from syrup manufacture as binder.
5/ Installation of a low cost tubular polyethylene
6/ Purchase of soya bean meal to complement "nacedero" and the
cane juice for the pigs.
7/ Establishment of earthworm culture to provide protein (for
poultry) and organic fertilizer for vegetables and coffee.
THE PRESENT STRATEGY: THE OBJECTIVES
The introduction of high yielding forage crops (sugar cane and
trees) had increased the offer level of feed for the livestock
making it possible to diversify further the areas previously
in pasture. This diversification was introduced gradually
beginning in 1992 with the aim of:
1/ Responding to environmental pressures to conserve the water
resources, to improve soil fertility, to control erosion, and
to increase biodiversity.
2/ Integrating more closely crop and animal activities so as
to optimize the recycling of nutrients and water.
3/ Reducing the energy and economic costs of farm activities.
The following procedures were introduced:
PROTECTING THE WATER SOURCE AND INCREASING THE EFFICIENCY OF
The area dedicated to the protection of the water source had
decreased because of the extension of pasture. The watershed
had to supply the needs of the community of 12 families and
the severe deforestation in the region had led to conflicts
over the supply of water. The fenced (to prevent cattle
grazing) watershed area was extended to facilitate natural
regeneration of trees and shrubs. More trees, of multi-purpose
use (eg: Bamboo), were planted in this area. Banks of
multi-purpose forage trees were introduced to provide the
joint function of protection and source of feed, replacing
natural pasture which is highly susceptible to erosion in
areas with slopes exceeding 30=F8.
The water originating from household and general farm
activities was decontaminated by using it as the diluent for
the manure put into the biodigesters and by passing the
resulting effluent from the digester along a series of canals
for sedimentation of residual solids and growth of water
INCREASING PLANT BIODIVERSITY
More multi-purpose trees were planted in areas previously
dedicated to pasture with the aim of improving soil fertility,
controlling erosion, providing feed for the livestock and
eventually for construction purposes and sale as timber.
Horticultural crops (Zapallo - Cucurbita maxima), fruit trees
and shrub forages (Ramie - Boehmeria nivea and mulberry -
Morus alba) were introduced into areas previously dedicated to
a single specie. Areas of pasture were set aside for natural
regeneration of shrubs and trees. The intensification of the
recycling process included the growing of different water
plants (water hyacinth, azolla and duckweed).
INCREASING ANIMAL BIODIVERSITY
Pigs, poultry and fish were added to the farming system
complementing the cattle that had been introduced previously.
IMPROVING SOIL FERTILITY
New plantings of forage trees were done as associations
("chachafruto" with "nacedero") not as single species. Areas
previously in pasture were allowed to regenerate naturally.
The recycling of crop and livestock wastes was intensified.
Increasing amounts of leaf litter and fibrous residues became
available for direct (in situ) return to the soil or for
processing by earth worms.
SIMPLIFYING FARM WORK
The system of fractionating sugar cane for the pigs was
suspended and replaced by direct feeding of the whole sugar
cane stalk to breeder pigs in free-range pasture. This had
been facilitated by expansion and change of emphasis of the
pig enterprise to concentrate on reproduction and sale of
weaners rather than fattening. Fully grown pigs are able to
chew up to 15-20 kg of cane stalk daily extracting the juice
and "spitting" out the fibre. The "chewed" fibre and the pig
excreta were allowed to mix naturally and later used as
substrate for the earth worms.
INCREASING ANIMAL FEED SUPPLY
This came about through the replacement of pasture by
multi-purpose trees and the introduction of horticultural and
forage crops into areas previously managed as monocultures
(eg: the coffee and the protein banks). The increased
efficiency of the recycling process was achieved by
introducing water plants which in turn became sources of feed
for the pigs and poultry.
INCREASING THE SELF RELIANCE AND PARTICIPATION IN FARM
ACTIVITIES OF ALL FAMILY MEMBERS
The diversification of the farming system, and the
simplification of certain of the sub-systems, increased the
labour demand. At the same time it created opportunities for
increased participation by women and children in productive
(income-generating) activities. The parallel reduction in
labour demand in the nearby towns has been an important factor
facilitating this process.
Traditional coffee farming is highly demanding of labour but
in specific seasons coinciding with the harvest of the beans.
Labour was traditionally "imported" into the region to satisfy
this "transient" need. In contrast, diversified farming offers
steady year-round employment for all family members.
THE PRELIMINARY RESULTS
An evaluation of inputs and outputs of this farming system on
the farm belonging to Tiberio Giraldo in 1993 was made by
Espinel (1994). It is not yet possible to assess the effect of
the changes described in this paper as these are still in the
introductory stage. Results of the recent evaluation of four
of the sub-systems are summarized in Tables 1-4.
Table 1: Mean annual yield of fresh biomass from plots planted
with associations of trees (Trichanthera gigantea and
Erythrina edulis)(sample areas was 3,500m2) or sugar cane
(sample area 1,248m2). Data converted to hectares.
T gigantea\E edulis Sugar cane
Fresh foliage, mt/ha 81.9 104 (88.4+15.6)#
Dead leaves, mt/ha 13.0 14
Total biomass, mt/ha 94.9 118
Stem cuttings, No/ha 40,000
Fractionation of sugar
cane stalk, % fresh basis:
Juice (for pigs) 45
Syrup (family) 10
Residual pressed cane stalk 45
#Cane stalk + tops
The data in Table 1 show the high yields of biomass obtained
rom sugar cane and associations of the two principal
multi-purpose trees planted in the farm. The total areas
planted with these crops are: sugar cane 2.1 ha and forage
trees 0.7 ha.
The data in Table 2 indicate that it is highly beneficial, at
least in terms of total production of biomass, to associate
with the "chachafruto" and "nacedero" other horticultural and
forage crops. The impact at the level of the livestock has
still to be measured.
Table 2: Yield of fresh biomass after 6 months regrowth from
plots (3x2m) planted with associations of trees (Trichanthera
gigantea, Erythrina edulis and Morus alba), perennial
herbaceous species (Boehmeria nivea) and food crops (Maize,
beans and pumpkin)#
Plot 1 Plot 2 Plot 3 Plot 4
Fresh forage, kg/100m2
T. gigantea 450 350 380 467
E. edulis 17 50 33 140
M. alba 38 - 33 -
B. nivea## - 463 - 450
Weeds 66 - 50 -
Maize, beans, pumpkins#
Total (6 months) 571 863 496 1057
Annual yield, mt/ha### 114 173 99 211
#Not yet harvested
##Mean for two harvests (2 month intervals) projected to 6
### Projection to one year assuming similar yields in second 6
The fertility of the soil is one of the most important
indicators of the sustainability of a farming system.
Conventional ways of measuring soil fertility in chemical,
physical and biological parameters are time consuming and
expensive and require access to sophisticated laboratory
equipment. The biological test of soil fertility (by measuring
the growth over 20 days of maize planted in samples of soil
=66rom the test areas) is simple, inexpensive and quick. It
gives no indication of the factors responsible for improvement
or decline of soil fertility but it is an extremely useful
tool for monitoring the effects of interventions in the
farming system. The results from applying this technique in
samples of soil taken from the principal sub-systems described
in this paper are presented in Table 3.
The order in which the different sub-systems are placed can
mostly be predicted on the basis of the importance of return
of organic matter and of N-fixation by leguminous species. The
poor rating of the "forest" sub-system indicates that the
process of soil formation in tropical forests is a slow
process and emphasizes the fragile and transitory nature of
tropical soils; and that the maintenance and improvement of
soil fertility in tropical ecosystems requires constant
attention to the basic principles of soil conservation
especially the role of organic matter. It is equally apparent
that there need be no conflict between biomass yield and
sustainability if the appropriate ecosystems are identified
and promoted (eg: sugar cane and multi-purpose trees versus
The soil "bio-test" is also a useful way of showing farmers
how particular crops and cropping systems influence soil
fertility and provides a basis for adding an "environmental"
element into traditional ways of economic assessment of
Table 3: Biological test of fertility (growth of maize plants
in 21 days) of soil taken from cropping areas (0-25cm depth)(3
samples taken from each "crop" area with 4 repetitions from
Height, cm No of leaves
Red soil 5.56 2.35
Forest# 6.33 2.62
Pasture 6.40 2.78
Sugar cane 7.03 2.73
T gigantea 7.92 3.02
E edulis+T gigantea 8.49 2.91
Worm compost 9.12 3.20
SE +/-0.28 +/-0.15
Prob 0.001 0.009
#Replanted on eroded red soil
The data in Table 4 are the production parameters for the pig
herd since feeding began with whole sugar cane.
Table 4: Pig production parameters in Cipres Farm (Oct 95- Sep
Total number of services 29
Number repeat services 4
Percent repeat services 14
Number of farrowings 21
Average pigs born alive per litter 10.1
Average birth weight, kg 1.2
Farrowing interval, days 176
Number of litters weaned 19
Pig weaned per litter 8.2
Pre-weaning mortality 20.4
Average weaning weight, kg 7.3
Average age at weaning, days 51.3
Average female inventory 12
Feeding of sows:
Feed per sow, kg/day (fresh basis)
Sugar cane stalks 10
Espinel, R. 1994. Sociedad y economia de campesinos cafeteros
de la cordillera Occidental en el Norte del Valle del Cauca.
Factores que inciden el la construccion de Sistemas Agrarios.
Tesis de grado en Maestra en Desarrollo Sostenible de
sistemas Agrarios. Universidad Javeriana-IMCA-CIPAV
FAO ELECTRONIC CONFERENCE:
LIVESTOCK FEED RESOURCES WITHIN INTEGRATED FARMING SYSTEMS
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