Isotope techniques are identifying better ways to use natural
resources; ones that might otherwise be discarded. In Indonesia,
UNDP and IAEA joined forces to promote a nutritional supplement
for animals that is produced from local agro-indusctrial by-products.
The supplement "blocks" have dramatically improved health and
productivity of livestock and contributed to more sustainable
livelihoods for rural communities across the archipelago.

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Better Feeding for Better Breeding

Over the last few decades, Indonesia has achieved rapid economic advances and substantial reductions in poverty. Still, almost 50% of the country's population depend on agriculture for their income. Agricultural productivity has trebled in the past 25 years, making Indonesia self-sufficient in rice and many other basic foods. But the country still relies heavily on imports for meat and dairy products. For example, over three-quarters of Indonesia's milk supply was imported in the mid-1990s.

Back in the early 1980s, UNDP embarked on an integrated project designed to find solutions to productivity problems in several key areas: plant breeding; soil fertility and plant nutrition; entomology; agrochemicals; and animal production and health. The IAEA was the executing agency for the project which transferred and applied a range of nuclear techniques for agricultural research and development. The UN agencies formed a partnership with the Centre for Application of Isotopes and Radiation (CAIR), a part of BATAN, the National Atomic Energy Agency of Indonesia.

By 1986, a new project component on animal nutrition had been added. Teaming up with UNDP and IAEA was a group of scientists lead by Dr. Cornelia Hendratno of CAIR. Her group was principally concerned with the poor productive and reproductive performance of the country's livestock.

While the use of ruminants varies widely across rural Indonesia, farmers in all parts of the country rely on animals for their subsistence. Unfortunately several problems were contributing to poor ruminant productivity. First, less than 11 percent of all land devoted to agriculture was available for pastures. Second, most of the available feed, such as rice straw, was nutritionally poor.

Ms. Hendratno had participated in an FAO/IAEA Coordinated Research Program (CRP) on "The Use of Nuclear Techniques to Improve Domestic Buffalo Production", conducted from 1979 - 1984. In this programme, scientists from various Asian countries sought to discover the nutritional needs of ruminants, and to identify and use local resources to encourage animal growth and productivity.

It was already known that urea (a natural compound available in urine) can provide the small amount of nitrogen needed by animals to convert food substances into protein, which is essential for growth, milk production and reproduction. Yet urea alone was bitter in taste and therefore unpalatable to animals. The challenge, therefore, was to come up with a nutritional supplement that would:

  • be palatable and supply animals' additional nutritional needs;
  • serve as an optimal growth inducer;
  • be easily and inexpensively produced locally;
  • be easily accessible to farmers, and yield significant returns on their investment; and
  • free up scarce land used for grazing pastures.

Creating the Urea Molasses Multinutrient Block (UMMB)

Within the CRP, the idea arose to produce a nutritious mixture of substances in the form of an appetizing block that animals would lick rather than eat all at once.

Tracer isotopes were used to discover the effects of various nutrients and nutrient combinations on ruminants. Placed in vitro, it was possible to trace the changes of rumen microbial growth and activities as affected by different diets and thus arrive at the optimal UMMB composition of locally available material for each project location.

With support from the UNDP/IAEA project, Ms. Hendratno and her team created the first Urea Molasses Multinutrient Block (UMMB) suited to the needs of Indonesia's livestock. The beauty of the block is that it utilizes what would otherwise be considered natural "waste" products such as rice, wheat, or maize stubble and bran, fish and other bone meal, and even dead cassava leaves.

In the ensuing field trials, positive results were visible within three months. The block rapidly gained popularity.

Reaching the Rural Poor

In co-operation with BATAN and the Directorate General of Livestock Services, the IAEA followed up in 1994 with a project to enhance the extension process and evaluate the impact of UMMB in the provinces of Central Java, West Java and West Nusa Tenggara. This activity recorded outstanding results both in terms of productivity and extension, and was reformulated into a Model Project for 1997-98, with the goal of extending the results to six areas in Eastern Indonesia.

A dairy farming promotion programme at Cilawu village in the Garut district of West Java provides a vivid illustration of UMMB's potential to improve the lot of rural communities. In 1991, the settlement consisted of 25 farmers with a total of 27 dairy cows. Thanks to UMMB, by April 1997, 49 farmers were tending 290 cows, meaning an average 10-fold increase for each. As a direct result, income has increased on the average from Rp. 75,000 to Rp. 400,000 per month.

As of April 1997, over 1,300 small farmers were feeding blocks daily to approximately 3,000 animals throughout the three provinces. And UMMB is being adopted by more and more families. Another positive aspect is that UMMB production has already created new industries and jobs, especially for women farmers and unemployed youth. In addition, a number of individual farmers able to make an initial investment of US$ 200.00 for raw materials, make blocks for their own use and for sale to neighbours.

Extending a Beneficial Technology

Since the first promising results, the Indonesian government has been aware of the technology's potential and has provided financing and effective strategies for extending UMMB. The Directorate of Livestock Services has provided loans to farmers in the form of young beef calves, and loans to purchase UMMB ingredients. The profit from the sale of the mature animals is divided between the farmers and the Government at 60:40.

A second scheme provides would-be and marginal farmers with a plot of land and 2 pregnant dairy heifers free of cost. After 5 years, 2 animals are to be returned to the Government. All others are kept by the farmer.

According to the joint FAO/IAEA Division, production, use and extension of UMMB are now sustainable in Central and West Java and West Nusa Tenggara. During 1997-1998, the IAEA is participating in extension endeavors for six new sites in areas in East Java, in Sumatra, on Sumbava Island and in South Sulawesi and involving 4,500 farms and over 10,000 animals.

To maximize impact, extension work will emphasize quality control in block production while adaptive research will optimize the use of locally available raw materials. Moreover, to support the extension of the UMMB technology throughout rural areas in Indonesia, the IAEA is presently negotiating the terms of collaboration with Indonesia's "Income-Generation Project for Marginal Farmers and the Landless", which is supported by UNDP, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Asian Development Bank.

The IAEA is conducting UMMB projects in ten more Asian countries and in five African countries.

Foreword: Mohamed ElBaradei
Foreword: James G. Speth
Introduction: Building Development Partnerships
Better Feeding for Better Breeding
Ending Africa's Rinderpest Plague
Defeating the Medfly
More Rice from Less Land
Helping to Save the Black Sea