Challenges for emerging small-scale livestock farmers in Nigeria
Engaging in crop and animal production, seems like a dead-end in order to diversify the country’s economy. But what are the challenges that farmers are facing during the process of a more sustainable and food secure future?
According to Food and Agriculture Organization, around 60 to 70% more food will have to be produced in the next 35 years, as a result both of population growth and rising incomes. The demand for cereals (both for food and animal feed) is projected to reach some 3 billion tons by 2050, while the annual cereal production will have to grow by almost a billion tons (2.1 billion tons today). Meat production on the other hand will have to rise up to over 200 million tons and reach a total of 470 million tons in 2050. 72% of this amount will be consumed in developing countries – in comparison to the 58% which is consumed today.
Without a doubt, livestock and livestock products can make a crucial contribution to household economic and food security -as well as nutrition- in the developing world. Even small amounts of animal source foods can improve the nutritional status of low-income households. Okorie Oscar Angus, is a pig breeder in Nigeria. He is fully aware that a livestock-dependent pastoral society is essential in order to achieve food and nutritional security.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria, known as the Giant of Africa with a growing population of 200 million people, operates on a unilateral economy, focusing on oil as the only source of revenue. Oil accounts for 80% of government’s revenue and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. Engaging in crop and animal production, seems like a dead-end to me in order to diversify the country’s economy, but also as one of the most viable ways to achieve food security…” says Okorie as we discuss about the reasons that made him turn out to pig husbandry.
“The value of trade in pig products around the world runs into billions of dollars every year and Africa enjoys less than 5% of this action. In addition, 80% of the pork consumed in Nigeria and Ghana is imported from other pig production countries at an estimated annual cost of approximately $3bn. We recognize that in order to be able to meet up with the rising demands for crop and livestock production we must focus on increase and consolidate our efforts on a local production which could contribute towards a more food secure future while supporting our community’s economy…” explains Okorie and at the same time he doesn’t forget to mention the non-availability of lands and the growing concern for climate change – two factors that should be taken into consideration since they can refrain productivity and lead towards food insecurity.
For these exact reasons, Okorie envisioned something more than just a livestock farm.“We have established Bigma Global Concept Limited farm (BGCL) as a subsidiary of Community Outreach Development and Empowerment Centre (CODEC) in 2018. BGCL piggery farm is situated across one hectare of land in Eziama Village Ohuba, Imo State in Nigeria. We opt to contribute immensely to the availability of food and livestock for consumption from local to international level.”
But that’s not the only goal Okorie has for his farm. He has already turned towards a more sustainable livestock and agriculture farming. One of his main concerns is ensuring that his animals are properly fed and that they are also healthy. “To mitigate this challenge, we have started producing our own locally made feed. Therefore, in our farm, we also produce enriched and healthy food to raise our livestock and we mitigate occasional disease outbreaks which ultimately increases and sustains food production. We carry out a vaccination program for our livestock and we are always in search for optimal combination of proteins, energy, and other nutrients, depending on growth stage of our animals. Their feed majorly consists of maize, soybeans, PKC and cassava peels.”
That is actually the first and main aspect a livestock farm can have: Producing high quality products and nutritious food. Okorie and his people are conscientiously working on improving their livestock and crop production, but that is not their one and only concern. “We are working on establishing our integrated farms as pilot farms where agricultural students and researchers can carry out studies and research in Nigeria. We opt for something more than just a farm. The idea of creating an Education Center can give us one more mission – the mission of educating kids and adults, but also farmers and livestock owners on how they can work towards a more sustainable future. That is something on which we are working with Food Security Center. It will certainly take time but we all know that it is an invest worth making for future generations.”
Being a livestock farmer in Nigeria is not easy. There are certain things that are adding to the non-available lands and the climate change that we have mentioned above which are making livestock and agriculture farming pretty challenging. “One of the challenges we face has to do with the lack of medical supplies, as well as cleaning products, that eventually leads in disease outbreaks amongst the livestock. About two weeks ago, a poultry farmer living in the South Western part of Nigeria lost over 600 birds at his poultry farm, as he could not have access in medicine and food for them. Moreover, there is insufficient or no market data that can help link local farmers to suppliers or even service providers. In addition, the Nigerian Government has been quite negligent in making proactive attempt to provide agricultural loans and incentives for framers who have been grossly affected by Covid-19. If we also add product diversion, pilfering -and recently- storage problems we realize that food security can easily get compromised.
But there is one more thing -beyond all these- that still remains my biggest concern and it has to do with our feed shortage. We procure the food with which we feed our livestock from local feed producers who are also procuring it from other farmers living in neighboring communities. Due to Covid-19 lockdown, it was impossible for livestock farmers to purchase sufficient food. Many panic-stricken farmers have bought food in bulk only to experience storage issues and damages owing the quick decomposition. To mitigate this challenge, so as to save our livestock, we have started producing our own locally made feed. For instance, some derivatives from our maize, yam peels and cassava peels are now being used to produce feed for the pigs. This is what we did in order to ensure the well-being of our animals and the production of nutritious meat for our clients. And we were lucky because we actually had the means to find a solution internally in our business. But not everyone can. The reasons? Not all people have the means and not everyone has adequate knowledge.”
So, that’s what brings us once more at the same conclusion: If we opt for a food secure future we must invest on sustainability and education. No matter what we do or where we do it. There is always a way to get along with nature and spread the knowledge we gain though our experience. And that is what Okorie dreams of doing through his farm.