Led by CIAT and the University of Dschang

  • Activity 3.1. Assess and document existing feed resources and typical feeding practices. Except from incipient surveys and trials in Cameroon (Manjeli et al. 1998; Tchoumboue et al. 2001; Tedonkeng-Pamo et al. 2005; Kenfack et al. 2006), peri-urban situations in Kinshasa/DRC (Bindelle et al. 2007, 2009), and incipient studies in eastern DRC (Nguizani 2001; B.R. Ayagirwe 2011, unpublished), there are no data available on quantity, quality, seasonality and acceptability of feed resources together with typical feeding practices of traditional cavy keepers. This knowledge, however, is basic in order to design improved foraging/feeding for cavies. In the two countries, participatory assessments of feeding calendars will take place together with quality analyses (representative sampling for crude protein and fibre) throughout the year. The feed assessment tool (FEAST) developed by Duncan et al. (2010) may be used for this assessment. Results will be compared with existing data on nutritional requirements for cavies from a multi-lingual literature review. This will lead to recommendations for enhanced feeding, thereby also mitigating seasonality.
  • Activity 3.2. Identify spatial/temporal niches for utilization of improved forages in production systems; assess farmer acceptability of forages. Improved tropical forages, such as the legumes Arachis pintoi or Canavalia brasiliensis have been recently introduced into eastern Africa (e.g., Katunga et al. 2011). However, they are not yet widely distributed and farmers are not aware in most of the cases that they can enhance their small animal husbandry by improving their feeding. On-farm trials will be performed in South Kivu in order to familiarize farmers with improved forage options. An MSc student will be enrolled to monitor herbage performance, acceptability by animals and farmers as well as the effects on cavy production. In Cameroon, research to improve feeding will focus on the highlands, as biomass is usually abundant in the forest zone.
  • Activity 3.3. Produce vegetative propagation materials with farmers. Forage propagation materials usually do not have a market. In order to run on-farm trials with farmers, such propagation materials have to be made available. Therefore, vegetative materials of suitable forages (e.g. Guatemala grass, improved Brachiaria, and the legumes Arachis glabrata or A. pintoi) will be produced together with farmers to enhance availability. We will base our activities at local schools in South Kivu that have earlier partnered with CIAT. In Cameroon, farmers already involved in cavy culture will be offered suitable forages together with forage husbandry training.
  • Activity 3.4. Determine acceptability and utility of new feeding materials for cavies as well as traits of production, reproduction, and animal size and nutrition values under improved feeding practices. Feed availability and feeding practices probably vary largely between and among the two countries. When introducing new feeds and/or feeding practices, their acceptability ought to be assessed not only regarding animal performance but also in terms of labor, social and economic compatibility for farmers. Probably on farm, there are many potential feeding materials, whose acceptability and utility for cavies are not known (e.g., tree/shrub leaves); this will be tested under controlled conditions. To improve feeding, all production and reproduction factors need to be studied with local and improved breeds. Different innovations concerning the presentation of feeds to cavy by improving/introducing materials (grass-chopper, pellets made from forages) may depend on the general level of technology available. Experiments will be designed to assess the effects of locally identified or introduced forages on production (growth and carcass yield) and reproduction (pregnancy duration, litter size, birth weight and weaning age). The effects of treating forages (e.g., wilting, drying) on the acceptability by the animals will also be studied. Experiments will be managed and followed by MSc students enrolled for this purpose both in Cameroon and DRC.