The quantitative data collected through questionnaires from smallholder dairy farmers and the qualitative data collected through in-depth and key informant interviews and personal observations are accurately analyzed per the study's objectives.
4.1. The Study Participants' Socio-economic and demographic Characteristics
This study had 372 participants, both men, and women. Males made up 84 percent of the study participants, while females made up only 16 percent. Since the majority of homes in the study area are headed by men, this is the case. In terms of age, the majority of respondents (49%) are between the ages of 36 and 55, 15% are between the ages of 18 and 35, and 36% are 56 or above. In terms of marital status, 86% (316) of respondents were married, 2% (eight) had never married, and 9% (34 respondents) and 4% (16 respondents) were divorced and widowed, respectively. In terms of education, 52% had completed primary school, 34% had no education, 9% had begun high school, and 5% had completed vocational training.
The families of the respondents were divided into three groups based on their size: 1-4 family members, 5-8 family members, and 9 family members or more. According to the data, the majority of respondents (50%) had 5-8 family members, while the remaining (41%) and (9%), respectively, had 1-4 and 9 or more family members. According to the size of their farmland, 42% own 2.1-3 hectares, 23% own 3.1-4 hectares, 18% own 1–2 hectares, 12% own 4.1 and above hectares, and 5% own less than one hectare. In terms of monthly total income from all sources, 38 percent of the sampled households earned between 1100 and 1500 ETB, 35 percent earned between 1600 and 2000 ETB, 15 percent earned between 2100 ETB and above, and 12 percent earned between 500 and 1000 ETB.
The researcher specifically enquired about the respondents' monthly total income from dairy products during data collection. As a result, 68 percent of respondents said their dairy farming income ranged from 500 to 800 ETB (the sale of milk products such as butter, ayeb, and, to a lesser extent, milk, which a small number of respondents sell informally to neighbors).16 percent of respondents said they didn't make money from dairy farming because they didn't have milking cows for some time in their households. The remaining 13% and 3% of respondents had monthly incomes of less than 500 ETB and more than 900 ETB, respectively.
According to the findings, most smallholder dairy farmers in the research area generate more money from dairy products than from other sources. As a result, it may be concluded that dairy products are the primary source of income for the study's sampled households. Dairy farming, the sale of dairy products, live livestock sales, and crop production were recognized as the primary sources of revenue in the study area. Petty trade, beekeeping, handicrafts, charcoal selling, and everyday labor activities were also mentioned as other sources of income in the research area.
The majority of the sampled households (87%) had saved their income in various ways, including cash at home, in an informal rotating saving system (ekuib, iddir), purchasing animal species, and saving in a formal saving method (bank). However, a small percentage of respondents (13%) answered that they did not save any of their income (money) because they have a poor income and prefer to use what they have to meet their family's needs rather than save. The study reveals that traditional savings methods are the most popular type of saving used in the study area.
4.2. Dairy Farming Practices in the Study Area
Smallholder dairy farmers in the research area mostly kept three types of dairy cows: indigenous breeds, cross-breeds, and mixed breeds. Smallholder dairy farmers in the research area kept the most common type of dairy cow, indigenous-breed cows, at 63 percent. According to the survey, 18% of respondents have a combination of indigenous and mixed-breed cows in their household, and 13% have indigenous, cross-bred, and mixed-breed cows at the same time. Furthermore, four percent of respondents keep both indigenous and cross-bred cows at the same time, while two percent keep solely mixed-bred cows. According to the findings, indigenous breeds of cows are widely reared in the research area. This is attributable to a paucity of dairy technologies and a lack of cross-breed cow distribution in the research area. Crossbred cows, according to the respondents, are not adapted to environmental conditions.
4.3. Livelihood Activities carried out by SDFs in Metta Robi Woreda
The study's findings revealed that the sampled households in the study area engaged in mixed livelihood activities (a combination of on-farm, non-farm, and off-farm livelihood activities). More than half of the sampled households rely on on-farm activities, primarily smallholder dairy farming, as their primary source of income. The majority of respondents (43.1%) relied on a combination of dairy farming, livestock, field crops, and horticultural crop production to make a living. The study also found that 27.7% of respondents used a combination of dairy farming, crop production, and livestock production/trading as a source of income.
On the other hand, 17.7% of respondents stated that dairy farming, crop production, livestock production/trading, and non-farm livelihood activities were their primary sources of income, while 11.1 percent of sampled households stated a combination of dairy farming, crop production, livestock production/trading, and non-farm livelihood activities as their primary source of income. The findings of the study corroborated those of Kassu (2016), who found that the most important sources of livelihood for smallholder dairy farmers in the study area were dairy farming, crop production, and livestock trading, followed by crop, livestock trading, and non-farm activities, livestock and off-farm activities, and livestock production only.
According to the findings of the study, smallholder dairy farmers in the study area were involved in a variety of activities for their livelihood. They mix a variety of activities and, hence, are not entirely reliant on one activity to support themselves. Furthermore, dairy farming and crop production are inextricably intertwined in rural areas in general and the study area in particular. As a result, the most important livelihood activities in the study area were on-farm livelihood activities. Among these activities, dairy farming, which was the study's main emphasis, is used as a source of income by many people.
According to my interviewee, a 48-year-old Gola Gurji kebele resident,
My primary source of income is a combination of three activities. Crop production, dairy farming, and livestock production are three of them. On occasion, I also use horticultural crop production methods, such as growing vegetables and planting garlic. My wife and daughter, in particular, are focused on non-farm activities such as brewing and marketing alcoholic beverages.
4.4. Opportunities in the Study Area for Smallholder Dairy Farmers
The second specific objective of this research was to ascertain the opportunities for smallholder dairy farmers in the study area to pursue dairy farming. The availability of land/feed, market accessibility, road and water accessibility, access to information, the availability of human capital/labor and crop residues, credit service availability, and social network accessibility were all identified as opportunities to practice dairy farming in the study area, according to the findings. These findings support a study by Azage et al. (2013), which found that the country has a wide range of opportunities, including large and diverse animal genetic resources, extension service centers for veterinary health and artificial insemination, agricultural extension services, and high demand for dairy products.
According to the data, smallholder dairy farmers in the research area have a wide range of opportunities to engage in dairy farming. Several of the opportunities were spotted during the researcher's field visit. The respondents, on the other hand, described several challenges they encountered while supplementing their income by raising dairy cows. Even though having these opportunities in the study area is critical for households to engage in dairy farming, farmers in Metta Robi woreda need assistance in developing modern dairy farming.
4.5. Challenges to Smallholder Dairy Farmers
The research found that dairy farming was the primary source of income for smallholder dairy farmers in the study area. Various issues that affected the livelihoods of smallholder dairy farmers while engaged in dairy farming were identified during data collection. The respondents in the study area identified poor access to veterinary drugs and services (91 percent), a lack of artificial insemination services (86 percent), a lack of skill (76 percent), a lack of labor (77 percent), land-use change (59 percent), feed shortages (75 percent), high feed costs (72 percent), disease prevalence (31 percent), and inadequate water supply (41 percent) as challenges.
These findings were found to be partially in line with Habtamu's (2018) findings, in which he said that the key issues encountered by dairy producers included a lack of concentrate feed and water, enhanced breeding, milk marketing, dairy animal health, and manure disposal. During the interview phase, interviewees were asked to state the challenges faced while pursuing dairy farming for their livelihood.
My interviewee, a 67-year-old Baka kebele resident, stated that,
While I am engaged in dairy farming, I am confronted with several challenges that I am unable to overcome since they are above my ability. For example, both my wife and I are becoming older. Tiksee hin qabu. This means that I am without a laborer. As a result, I am unable to engage in various tasks to support myself. I have two sons and one daughter. My daughter got married, and both of my sons have moved to the city. The only person who resides with me is my wife. I have plenty of grazing land. However, no one is supporting me with the care of my animals. Due to a scarcity of labor, I'm also having difficulty selling dairy products. Manni koo kilinika beeyladaarraa fagoo waan ta’eef, namni horii koo mana yaalaa naaf geessee akkamsiisu hin qabu. That is to say, no one has taken my cattle to the veterinarian clinic for treatment because I live so far away. Furthermore, the clinic's veterinarians may not be accessible when I arrive.
4.6. Concerned Bodies' Activities in Support of SDFs
The study's fourth objective was to investigate the activities of concerned bodies in assisting smallholder dairy farmers. The researcher conducted key informant interviews with chosen kebeles administrators, veterinarians, extension workers, livestock officers, and experts at the Metta Robi Woreda Agricultural and Rural Development office to obtain data for this specific purpose. The following is a qualitative analysis of the outcomes of key informant interviews on this objective.
My informant, a 37-year-old man who works at a veterinary clinic in Gola Gurji kebele, stated:
Dairy farming would be impossible without the help of veterinary extension services. However, I cannot say that the farmers in Gola Gurji kebele were satisfied with the veterinary extension services given in the clinic. This is due to the lack of the required facilities. As much as possible, I was never far away from helping the farmers using the resources available at our clinic. Farmers know my phone number and can call me whenever they want. Then I look after their animals and offer them plenty of guidance on modern dairy farming and other dairy cow-related issues. If their animals become ill, I notify them and treat them appropriately. I also provide free services to them because the clinic was built for them and belongs to them. In addition, I provide artificial insemination services to Baka kebele farmers. However, the majority of farmers are unwilling to use artificial insemination services, preferring instead to use natural mating and breeding their cows with bulls.