Ali Nefzaoui and Hichem Ben Salem

Introduction

Increasing Usage of Cacti in Arid Zones Use of Cacti as Fodder Nutrient Contents Intake and Digestibility

Cladode Consumption and Sheep Rumen Fermentation Cladodes as a Water Source Some Practical Considerations Integration of Platyopuntias with Other Feed Resources in the WANA Region Conclusions Literature Cited

Introduction

The future of arid and semiarid regions depends on the development of sustainable agricultural systems and on the cultivation of appropriate crops. Such crops must successfully withstand water shortage, high temperature, and poor soil fertility. Cacti, particularly platyopuntias, can satisfy these requirements and are becoming increasingly important for both subsistence and market-oriented activities in arid and semiarid regions (Barbera 1995), as for vertebrates in natural ecosystems (Chapter 7). This chapter focuses on the West Asia/North Africa (WANA) region, large portions of which have winters with low and erratic rainfall and hot, dry summers. It is characterized by high population growth, limited areas of arable land, harsh deserts, and limited water resources for irrigation development (Nordblom and Shomo 1995). The WANA region contains most of the more than 1 million hectares (ha) utilized worldwide (Table 12.1) for raising platyopuntias—princi-pally Opuntia ficus-indica —for forage (consumption in situ) and fodder (consumption after harvest and transport) for livestock

As much as 50% of arid rangeland in the WANA region may have lost its vegetation since World War II, while concomitantly the human population has increased fourfold (Le Houerou 1991). In this regard, the sheep population has increased by 75% and the stocking rate has jumped from one sheep per 4 ha to one sheep per ha between 1950 and 1989. Indeed, the contribution of such rangelands to the annual feed requirements of livestock is in decline, going from 80% in 1965 to less than 25% of the requirement in 2000. Overgrazing and range deterioration have forced pastoralists to change their migration and feeding patterns. In some countries, the forage diet of animals is heavily supplemented with barley grain and other commercial concentrated feeds. A typical feed calendar for

Estimated land areas utilized for raising cacti, mainly Opuntia ficus-indica, for forage and fodder

Region or country

Land area utilized (ha)

Brazil

370,000

Other South American countries

75,000

Mexico

230,000

Other North American countries

16,000

Southern Africa

2,000

WANA region

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