The Learning Territory on “Sustainable minor livestock breeding for food security and income raising of rural families” in Peru. An opportunity for South-to-South Cooperation between Latin American and African countries

Foto: Proyecto Sierra Norte in Cajabamba, Perú. MINAGRI, IFAD

The Learning Territory we are talking about, focusing on innovations in breeding and reproductive management of cavies, is in Cajabamba, Cajamarca Department, Peru and has been established by PROCASUR with La Molina Peruvian University (UNALM) certification of the Local Champions, within the framework of the Cross-Regional Program “Strengthening Capacities and Tools to scale-up and disseminate innovations”, supported by IFAD.

But, first of all, what a Learning Territory means?

A Learning Territory is an initiative that promotes sustainable development of local capacities to enhance the scaling-up of innovations from the knowledge management of producers, families, communities and rural associations. Learning Territories have been fostered in Latin America by PROCASUR, with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Ford Foundation. They point out at valuing knowledge and good practices assets owned by Local Champions: men and women who have implemented innovative and successful solutions in different areas of rural development.

From the identification of rural territories rich in knowledge assets, the initiative invests in pedagogically promoting and organizing lessons learned from Local Champions, building training proposals deeply rooted in the field with useful solutions for other public and private rural development investment operators.

Thus, this innovative local knowledge-based management model, provides continuous training, ran by its own Local Champions, under peer to peer learning methodologies, focusing on knowledge transfer, experiences exchange and theoretical and practical learning with strong emphasis on concrete real and viable applicability.

Cavies breeding has achieved important technological and productive development that has been driven by the sustained growth of cavies demand in Peru’s internal and external food market.

Cajabamba is a province located in the Northern Sierra of Peru, in the Cajamarca region, in a territory that extends between 2000 and 3000 meters above sea level.

In Cajabamba, for approximately a decade, with main support provided by the NGO CEDEPAS Norte, the Regional Government, Local Governments, INIA (National Institute for Agricultural Innovation) and IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), small rural farmers have established an important process of learning and innovations in the breeding of cavies aimed at its technical development and the application of good practices in health and reproduction management, that have improved the productivity of the rural breeders.

This technology advancement enhanced the evolution of the traditional diet in rural areas towards a more equilibrated nutrition, some competitive advantages with impacts on household food security and new sustainable forms of income generation, sufficient to cover farmers and their families basic needs, while taking advantage of new market opportunities offered by the breeding of cavies in the Andean region.

Photo: Proyecto Sierra Norte (PDSN, MINAGRI, IFAD)

Since 2010, more than 200 rural families have gathered and formed associations to increase the production of cavies, passing in 2015 from 9,000 to 53,000 cavies raised and strengthening its presence in the regional and national markets of Cajamarca, Jaen, Trujillo and Lima. If we consider the value of each cavy, which is equal to approximately 20 Peruvian Nuevos Soles per unit (6 USD), the growth in net income in the territory has raised from 56,000 USD to 330,000 USD per year.

In addition, a territorial business network has been set up called Cavies Driving Group, made up of the 4 local governments of Cajabamba, state institutions, NGOs, international cooperation agencies, and local producers’ organizations, which share the common objective of strengthening and providing an institutional framework for the cavies value chain in Cajabamba.

The Local Champions who lead the “Learning Territory: innovations in breeding and reproductive Management of the Cuy”, bring together the experiences and innovations in breeding cavies necessary to improve productive quality, access new markets, incorporate technology and strengthen associative production.

To know more about the Territory, its transformation and the learning opportunities linked to it, you can download the dedicated booklet in PDF format here.

Photo: Proyecto Sierra Norte (PDSN, MINAGRI, IFAD)

Food security and, particularly, the quantity and quality of animal-source food, poses a real challenge in most parts of Africa. All over the continent, general food supply remains low compared to the increasing demand caused by both growing populations and rising urbanization. Regular supply of small quantities of animal protein has been shown to be crucial for adequate physical and cognitive development of children.

To enhance poverty alleviation strategies in rural zones of Cameroon and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), alternative small livestock species, particularly domestic cavies, are increasingly receiving greater attention through the creation of pilot programs in the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS).

To address aspects of poverty alleviation and malnutrition, a partnership between the Biosciences eastern and central Africa — Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (BecA-CSIRO) conducted a project on cavies between August 2011 and June 2015.

The project, titled Domestic cavy: Improving husbandry and forage for alternative and rapid access to food and income for women and children in Cameroon and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo”, was coordinated by a national partner, the University of Dschang in Cameroon, and financially supported by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

Project findings showed potential for livelihood improvement among smallholders through cavy-rearing: increased consumption can address low protein intake, especially of children; manure can contribute to soil fertility; and sales can improve incomes in the target communities. Further, cavy-keeping is dominated by both women and youth in both countries. Conservative estimates suggest that ca. 200,000 households keep cavies in Cameroon and 100,000 in Sud-Kivu Province of Eastern DRC.

First Cavy South-to-South encounter in Yaoundé, Cameroon

Following up on this project, diverse experts on cavies from South America and Africa have come together for the first time to discuss the way forward for including cavies in the livestock agenda of African countries. Cavy value chains are developed at different levels of production and commercialization intensity when comparing among different sub-Sahara African (SSA) countries or between SSA and South America, where production is traditionally well integrated in communities.

Also, there have been major R&D advances on cavies in South America in the past decades. In this symposium held in Yaoundé, Cameroon from 3 to 8 July 2016, about 40 participants attended from 13 countries in sub-Sahara Africa, international bodies (e.g. FAO, ILRI, and Bioversity International) and South American organizations (e.g. PROCASUR, INIA, Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina — Peru; World Vision — Bolivia; and ESPE — Ecuador).

The group comprised several eminent experts and authorities in the area of cavy R&D, among them Lilia Chauca, the grand dame of cavy research in Peru; the world largest producer from Ecuador, Roberto Moncayo-Gallián; former ILRI director general, Carlos Sere; and a representative of the Australian government, Bruce Pengelly.

Hence, the symposium provided a forum for information exchange and networking among the various stakeholders, including researchers, NGOs, farmer associations and, particularly, for South-to-South knowledge exchange.

Photo: Proyecto Sierra Norte (PDSN, MINAGRI, IFAD)

During the symposium, a framework for cavy research and development in Africa was developed, based on South-to-South cooperation among sub-Sahara African (SSA) countries and between Africa and South America.

The framework recognizes that, for thriving cavy industry and home consumption, both cavy productivity and socio-economic questions will have to be addressed by research. The two main pillars of such South-to-South cooperation, though, would be (i) knowledge management and dissemination, and (ii) capacity strengthening.

The symposium was the first step to establish a South-to-South partnership (Africa –Latin America) between different stakeholders on cavies to increase income and household nutrition for rural farmers and vulnerable communities. PROCASUR acted as main facilitator and broker for South-to-South Learning and knowledge exchange.

Among the main findings of the symposium, it needs to be highlighted that:

  1. Production systems are family based with poor animal husbandry and low productivity. These challenges can be addressed quickly by transferring and adapting cavy technology developed in South America.
  2. Genetic improvement is possible via breeding programs within Africa. It may be possible to improve even further if South American genes are introduced.
  3. Participants recognize that large and rapid productivity gains can be made in Africa by applying and adapting best practices from South America. These gains will need to be augmented by selective scientific research around major issues such as animal health, marketing and matching of new genetics to African systems and enabling capacity building opportunities like the PROCASUR-IFAD supported Cajabamba Learning Territory in Peru.

In succession to this symposium, an International Workshop on Cavies held in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2016 aimed at (i) bringing participants from both continents up-to-date and (ii) developing a collaborative project within a South-to-South cooperation framework.

Networking among participants is continuing and many new links are evolving or are being created as well as new partnerships are emerging.

A new international workshop of the Cavies South-to-South Cooperation Network will be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, hosted by World Vision, between March 22 and 24. PROCASUR will be there, of course, and we will keep you posted with the new steps of the initiative.

Barbara Massler, PROCASUR South-to-South Partnerships’ Advisor