Harnessing the livestock sector for economic transformation, by Femi Ogunshola, Nigeria News Agency
Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations 2018 report predicted that Nigeria’s population would hit 400 million by 2050. The report stressed the need to increase agricultural production, especially livestock.
As a result of the expected population increase, it was predicted that demand for livestock products will rise exponentially, and projection suggest that poultry meat, beef and milk consumption will grow by 253, 177 and 577 per cent, respectively.
FAO said that the livestock industry was expected to beef up its production in order to respond to increase demand.
Agricultural stakeholders and experts that gathered recently in Abuja, dialogued on how to tackle the challenges in the livestock sector.
The theme of the workshop is: “Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050: The Future of Livestock in Nigeria- Opportunities and Challenges in the Face of Uncertainty.’’
The engagement was sponsored by FAO in collaboration with the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Environment.
Mr Suffyan Koroma, FAO representative in Nigeria, said that the government of Nigeria with support from FAO and USAID engaged a multitude of stakeholders in a conversation about the future of cattle and poultry sectors in the country.
Koroma stated that stakeholders have not been able to predict or forecast with accuracy the future of cattle and poultry sectors in Nigeria.
According to him, there is need to take a forward looking approach when designing policies and investments in the sector.
He said that urbanisation, industrialisation and rising incomes have already triggered growing demand for animals’ source food in Nigeria.
Koroma noted that this was also causing major challenges in the livestock sector.
He stated that the African Sustainable Livestock (ASL) 2050, was designed to come up with a sustainable livestock development policy, and set the stage to secure livelihoods, better health and safe environment.
He said that the ASL report has done the assessments of the impact of cattle and beef production on public health.
Koroma stated that the report provided invaluable insight to decision makers in the country on how to make the cattle and poultry sectors more robust.
The Nigeria FAO representative stressed that the livestock sector is an integral part of agriculture and vital to the socio-economic development of the country, though its productivity is currently low.
He noted that livestock contributes about 1.7 per cent to the national GDP and around nine per cent to the agriculture value added.
FAO 2018 estimates indicate that Nigeria’s national herd comprises 18.4 million cattle, 43.4 million sheep, 76 million goats and 180 million poultry.
“The majority of animals are raised in extensive production system, comprising smallholders and nomadic herders; large commercial holdings are currently rare, but expanding, especially in the poultry sub-sector.
“Total production of milk, meat and eggs amount to 0.5 billion litres, 1.4 and 0.6 million tons per year respectively.”
Dr Mohammed Bello, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development, who spoke, said that the development of livestock was key to the transformation of the country in a sustainable way.
He said that in the next three decades, livestock value chains must transform in order to satisfy the demand of an increasingly “affluent and urbanised population.’’
The permanent secretary said that the high demand for animal source foods presents great business opportunities for farmers and other value chain actors and can support broader societal development through employment generation and poverty reduction, food security and nutritional benefits.
According to him, the expected population growth and increase in income would result to high demand for animal food.
He noted that with significant improvement of livestock production, some level of import may be needed for certain livestock commodities in future.
Mrs Winnie Lai-Solarin, Deputy Director, Department of Animal Husbandry Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, called for agricultural policy review with special attention on the livestock sector.
She said the review was imperative, noting that the livestock sector, though significant due to its large livestock numbers, was still under developed and under-performing, in terms of contribution to the country’s GDP.
“The livestock sector has the potential to contribute achieve many national development goals; it represents a unique opportunity for far-reaching transformation.’’
Lai-Solarin said that the sector needed to be supported through adequate policy review, pointing out that there is a big gap in the livestock policy.
She said there was need for more focus on policy concerning livestock and fishery, away from crop agriculture.
She added that fisheries sector occupied a very important place in the socio-economic development of the country.
According to her, the sector has been recognised as powerful income and employment generator, as it stimulates growth of a number of subsidiary industries and source of cheap and nutritious food, besides being foreign exchange earners.
Lai-Solarin added that the livestock sector has been identified as most important source of livelihood for a large section of economically backward population in the country.
She noted that animal agriculture has been relegated to the background, as little attention has been paid to the sector, adding that this has encouraged clashes in recent time.
The deputy director called for a better education on improved breed of animals, noting that proper adoption of modern animal breeding biotechnology will have great potential to improve livestock productivity and food security in the country. (Features)