AN1 project progresses in Nariño river basin, Colombia
A new agreement and alliance between COLACTEOS (Nariño´s Milk and Dairy Cooperative), the Latin American Center for Rural Development (RIMISP) and The National Association of Milk Producers (ANALAC) has been approved to begin field work for the joint design of a project to promote better use of water and soil in the highlands of Nariño.
The alliance is working to help small milk producers transition their main source of animal feed from soybean meal to alfalfa. The project promotes intensified water use in the parcels, resulting in increased biomass production, improved protein levels in livestock feed and increased employment opportunities.
As AN1 recognized the social and economical promise of the Hydrologic Units (territory areas with good precipitation and infiltration conditions), we came to a agreement with the COLACTEOS technical team; the more attractive benefit for producers, processors and impoverished communities in the highlands is increased water use and altered land use that leads to improved productivity, reduced production costs and increased demand for labor.
Analyses performed to evaluate this theory indicated that one hectare (ha) of alfalfa grown in the specific conditions of Nariño can produce 21 tons of dry matter per year with a water use efficiency of 1.5 kg. per dry matter/m3, which greatly reduces the number of highland areas where water is a limiting factor to alfalfa production. This alternative requires 100 days of handwork per year in one ha, representing 59% of the total cost of production. The expected income for alfalfa is about 95 US$ per ton. Additional biomass can replace the consumption of concentrated food in cows that produce less than 15 liters of milk per day. This creates a shadow price of approximately 0.40 US$ in the current conditions and 0.20 US$ when the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States is fully implemented. Under these conditions, the private returns are estimated at 250% and 150%, respectively.
We have designed a three-year plan, which will establish 20 ha, 50 ha and 100 ha alfalfa plots in subsequent years. The target population will be farmers whom work less than 10 ha working in layers up to 5 ha and between 5 and 10, in order to compare the efficiency of the alfalfa crop and replacement of concentrates. Producers commit to maintain their crop for at least three years and not using harvesting machines.
The expected increase in labor demand requires a monitoring system that is currently being designed. Estimates were made with a salary above the area’s current level, in order to attract labor and to share in the high profitability of the introduction of alfalfa to the region. With the increased demand for workers, it is expected that the benefits of alfalfa production will reach the poorest families of the region who, either for lack of land or the need to supplement their income, work all or part of their time on work outside their farms.
The AN1 project will continue providing technical assistance and analysis of information with the support of the Foundation for the Territorially Sustainable Development (FUNDESOT) and the Andean University Council (CONSUAN) and participation from teachers and students of the University of Nariño.