TOPICS: Livestock for livelihood

Most countries, where food crises are now endemic, are in the dry northern belt from the Atlantic coast of Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Livestock, managed in different ways, is a mainstay of these impoverished economics.

In fact, livestock are regarded mainly as a source of food, meat and even blood in the east, draught power, hides or wool, among other things. But, in practice, they produce more dung than anything else which is used for cultivation purposes and also for fuel.

A healthy three year old buffalo, for example, may possess 60 Kilograms in live weight in a year. During the same year, it will eat nearly two tons of fodder (dry weight) and produce more than a ton of dry dung.

When it is fully grown, meat production stops; but it continues to eat up to nine times its own weight in fodder each year, while depositing four to five times its weight in dry dung.

Fresh dung usually contains between 65 percent and 80 percent water. This is the reason why wet dung production figures are three to five times higher than dry dung production ones.

Actually, dung production is affected by the diet and general health of the animals. A fat well-fed milking cow may weigh 300 kilograms and produce in excess 1.5 tons of dung each year.

A skinny undernourished cow gives hardly any milk and perhaps a third of the quantity of dung by a healthy nourished one.

We find that cow and buffalo dung are relatively a good cooking fuel. When dried, it loses its smell, is easy to store and burns with a steady flame.

Its main problem is that it tends to produce a lot of smoke that can be irritating for the eyes and if breathed in large quantities, is unhealthy.

Because of this, it is regarded in most countries as an inferior fuel which is only used as a last resort which should not be the case.

In many countries, where there is growing energy crisis, dung can be used for producing biogas.

Such gas helps shorten the time spent in cooking and also saves the consumption of other energy sources which have to be imported from other countries as is done by Nepal.

In the meantime, the manure produced from biogas plants is considered a better organic fertilizer by 20 to 30 percent than other compost fertilizers.

Moreover, the residue sludge emitted from these plants kills the weeds and helps each crop grow luxuriantly which is indeed an asset.