Stories by Steve Agbota
Over the years, the Nigerian government has not given the livestock sector appropriate official recognition and support despite contributing 6-8 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 20-25 per cent of the agricultural GDP.
Trade in livestock and allied products runs into billions of naira yearly, with millions of people ranging from transporters, “check-pointers”, marketers, butchers and meat sellers benefiting from livestock production mostly done by pastoralists and rural farmers but it has suffered much neglect with crop-biased policies by successive governments, which made Nigeria a net importer of livestock from West and Central African countries.
However, gaps in technological innovation in agriculture in Nigeria today is also halting livestock development, leading to loss of revenue and job losses, as stockholders at the just concluded Agra Innovate West Africa Conference called on government to invest in infrastructure that will aid tracking of animals to monitor their movement, disease outbreaks, infection, breach in quality, manhandling and any sharp practice.
Stakeholders therefore emphasised that the renewed calls for a return to agriculture by Nigerians should not mean a descent to primitive agriculture. They said example of primitive agriculture is the movement of cattle and sheep through bushes, a practice that destroys crop farms and causes conflicts between herdsmen and farmers.
They said innovation and technological-driven agriculture should be for an improved productivity through a more accessible veterinary services, better nutrition and modern husbandry.
In 2013, Kenya adopted technological innovation through the use of mobile phones, which is improving the livestock industry by leaps and bounds in the country.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), mobile phones are allowing Kenyan farmers and veterinarians to issue quick alerts of possible disease outbreaks and track vaccination campaigns, as a way of encouraging innovation in the livestock sector.
Ironically, Nigeria is endowed with estimated 19.5 million cattle, 72.5 million goats, 41.3 million sheep, 7.1 million pigs, 278,840 camels and 145 million chickens, 11.6 million ducks, 2.1 million turkeys, and 974,499 donkeys (National Agricultural Sample Survey, 2011) making the nation the topmost livestock producer in West Africa.
Recently, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who spoke at a retreat on Livestock and Dairy Development, said despite the huge and robust population of Nigeria’s livestock enterprise, majority of livestock in Nigeria is kept by subsistence farmers.
According to him, the gap between actual and expected protein intake among Nigerians continues to widen. He said the livestock sub-sector contributes only 5.1 per cent to the nation’s GDP, making Nigeria a net importer of protein food of animal origin.
He lamented: “Our milk production is extremely poor with about 1 litre per cow in a day compared to Brazil and Saudi Arabia of 30-40 litre per cow in a day. Saudi Arabia produces 4.7 million litres of milk daily while Nigeria imports about $1.3 billion worth of milk annually to make up the deficit and I can confidently say your brands alone account for about 70 per cent.”
The Chairman of Shonga Farms Holdings Limited, Tope Damola, said government must be innovative in implementation of agricultural programmes, projects and activities, which he described as the reason farmers cannot track their animals.
He added: “We should turn the animal tracking to an industry. The infrastructure in the livestock industry is still very poor. Tracking animals also is a form of security. Government needs to invest in livestock sector and promote industry from it. When we began tracking, everybody was talking but there was a need and opportunity that was created.
If farmers go into animal tracking, the investment infrastructure may be hard but as people embrace it, especially given the population of animals, it would come to a stage where the cost of infrastructure will come to a barest minimum. Compare to what you stand to lose by not doing that. In my farm, for example, one cattle cost over half a million. So, for every cattle that got missing, I am losing N500,000. So why won’t I do tracking that will allow me to know where these animals have gone?”
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, said slow development in the livestock industry is a consequence of absence of innovation. He said cattle, sheep and goat need to be settled and roaming about with the herdsmen in search of feed and water needs to be stopped, as provision of these two items would revolutionise the sector and build it into an industry.
He said part of challenges facing livestock include poorly supported herdsmen who become embroiled in hostilities with crop farmers over encroachment of grazing animals on crop farms; tracking of animals hindered by logistic challenges and unreliable centrally coordinated data on vaccinations, medications, tagging and branding, census and animal slaughter for consumption to support planning and national strategy.
Speaking on tracking, he said: “Animals need identification features. This is related to the issue of traceability. It is much easier to trace any meat to specific sources in cases of observable breach in quality, disease and infection, malhandling or any sharp practice.
“Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and risk analysis as food safety tools will ensure that producers keep to certain standard operating procedures and that the values of what they offer to consumers are not in doubt.”
If Nigeria adopts tracking system, he said there would be reliable figures of animals slaughtered and consistent and measurable supplies of hides and skins to leather tanners for home use or export.
He added: “Disturbing findings in Minna, Maiduguri and Makurdi abattoirs (and elsewhere) on foetal wastage due to slaughter of pregnant animals could be unravelled and stopped. In Maiduguri, 15 per cent of animals slaughtered were pregnant, according to recent findings. In Ibadan, 35 per cent of animals slaughtered were pregnant; it’s time for change, it is now time to review and reform the activities of animal slaughter, time to halt the erosion of our genetic base. Federal and state governments need to legislate against slaughter of pregnant animals.
“Encourage effective surveillance in the slaughter houses by strict inspection and imposition of penalties on infractions and non-compliance, routine veterinary checks on animals presented for slaughter. Also, ensuring proper husbandry with adequate record keeping would help in early detection of pregnancy and preventing pregnant animals from being slaughtered.”
He hinted that government would soon re-establish breeding centres across the country, saying the FMARD is now embarking on standards and quality control, with emphasis on food safety. “This is the time to bring animal tracking under spotlight, for economic development, good health and, food and nutrition security.”
Nigeria can become super power via agro-industrialisation –Adesina
The President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina , has urged Nigeria to utilize its enormous potential in agriculture and become a global powerhouse via agro-industrialization.
Adesina disclosed this in his keynote address at the just- concluded 11th African Economic Conference (AEC) with the theme, “Feed Africa: Towards Agro-Allied Industrialization for Inclusive Growth,” held in Abuja.
Accoding to him, agriculture, which contributes over 28 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Africa, holds the key for the accelerated growth, diversification and job creation for African economies.
He added: “Agriculture provides the basic raw materials needed for industrial development. Food accounts for the highest share of consumer price index and providing cheap food is critical for taming inflation. When inflation is low, interest rates decline and it brings greater private sector investments. A more productive, efficient and competitive agriculture sector is critical for boosting rural economies, where majority of the population live in Africa, the future of Africa depends on agriculture.”
Citing examples of Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda and from Asia as well as South Korea in particular, Adesina illustrated how Africa could make agriculture a solid foundation to build a strong food and agro-industrial manufacturing base quickly.
“Current estimates indicate that 65 per cent of all the uncultivated arable land in the world, that can feed 9 billion people by 2050, lies in Africa. At the same time, the continent spends US $35 billion annually importing food. This has huge implications for Africa not only in terms of lost income and rising unemployment. With the food and agribusiness sector projected to grow from US $330 billion to $1 trillion by 2030, the continent simply cannot afford to unlock this hefty opportunity.”
According to Adesina, there is a need for Growth Enhancement Support (GES)for farmers: a system whereby small-scale farmers are provided with targeted input support to be able to use new technologies. He said the establishment of large Staple Crop Processing Zones and Agro-industrial zones, with the required infrastructure and risk-sharing facilities will also be very helpful.
He said that the AfDB has earmarked $800 million for ‘Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation’ (TAAT), targeting 40 million farmers over 10 years, to take new agricultural technologies to scale.
Also speaking at the event, the UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, urged African governments to work together with their bilateral and multilateral partners to support the continent’s agro-allied industrialization agenda.
Stakeholders chart way towards boosting Kenaf production
Stakeholders including agricultural experts, economists, academia, political appointees, financial experts, farmers and other relevant organizations, have met in Ibadan to discuss ways of improving the production of Kenaf and improve revenue generation among farmers.
The Technical Adviser on Job Creation to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Dolapo Bright, while speaking at a day programme tagged, “Stakeholders workshop on Kenaf Revolution and Development of Value Chain for Small, Medium and Large Enterprises in Nigeria”, said the goal of the present administration to create five million jobs by 2019 revolves in agriculture, describing Kenaf production as another veritable tool for creating jobs for thousands of unemployed people.
The programme was organized by the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, (IAR&T), Ibadan, to identify the potentials of Kenaf in order to harness such potentials for national economic growth and sustainable development of small medium and large scale enterprises in the country.
Bright, while lauding the Institute for the initiative, implored youths to embrace various programmes of the present administration aimed at improving the living condition of the populace.
While describing Kenaf as another important crop, which can generate billions of naira for farmers and the nation at large, he maintained that potentials abound in the production of Kenaf, which can serve both domestic and industrial users.
The Director of IAR&T, Prof. James Adediran, said the workshop was organized to improve the revenue base of farmers considering the fact that Nigeria is a large producer of both food and cash crops, which need to be packaged.
According to him, the workshop was timely, “considering the economic challenges which our country faces in recent times. The situation in which we are now requires exploring other avenues to expand the nation’s foreign exchange earning capacity from locally produced materials and reduce capital flight to other nations.”
He added that part of the aim of the workshop was to sensitize the public on the importance of Kenaf and its uses.
He said, “Despite the potentials of Kenaf as raw material for industries, fiber products like jute bags are imported into the country for different uses. Synthetic bags are even preferable because of lower cost implication.
However, huge amount of money is still used for their importation and other nations are enriched during the process while local industries are closing down daily.”
The IAR&T boss stated further thar there are potentials in Kenaf production which include “production of produce bags, non-woven fibre bags, pulp and papers, plumbing yarn, rope/twine, absorbent of oil spill, car interior decoration, geo-mats for weed, erosion control and so many products of economic values, these end products are yet to be maximally explored for economic returns”.
He said “The Institute has been given national mandate on Kenaf genetic improvement by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The institute has developed high yielding varieties for both seed and fibre production. These varieties are aimed at meeting various demands from different sector of the economy in the Kenaf value chain and produce packaging. If the potentials at our disposal are well explored, there will be a turnaround in our national economic growth.”
The Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Ibadan, Prof. Bamidele Omitoyin, said the government needs to formulate policies that will encourage agriculture, calling for incentives to farmers and youths who are willing to go back to agriculture.