• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Food security: Supporting the role of women livestock farmers

FG moves to reduce importation of livestock products

Nigeria’s livestock sector is a key part of the country’s quest for food security and ensuring that the role of women in the industry is supported is vital in driving growth in the industry.

Owing to this, stakeholders in the livestock value chains have begun moves to boost fodder production to bridge feed supply gaps across the country and support the few women livestock farmers.

The demand for fodder is expected to increase given the emerging and rising demand for animal protein, beef, and dairy milk products which is orchestrated by increasing population growth and recent policy reforms in the nation’s livestock sector.

Over the years, women have stood out as pillars of economic growth, especially when it comes to agriculture and agribusiness. This has highlighted opportunities for government and financial institutions to prioritise support for female farmers, especially a few of them that are involved in cattle rearing through investment in technologies that support them to buy more cows and expand.

One area to address is feed production. Analysts are estimating that Nigeria’s population could hit 300 million people by 2050, creating a huge demand for livestock and its products.

Livestock farmers face a variety of challenges, including insufficient access to superior forage resources, resulting in the limited availability of high-quality feed.

Their lack of sufficient feed and fodder plight has rallied local and international organisations to launch campaigns for solutions to address the challenge of animal feed with the onset of the drought, in many places and many farmers confronting dry conditions.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been at the forefront of rallying countries to rapidly scale up support for climate adaptation and support for actions to ensure farmers-herders conflicts don’t last longer and become more severe to further threaten food security and industry resilience.
Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said recently: “Women in rural Africa are the backbone of their food systems, but they have never had equal access to the resources they need to reach their full potential or build resilience to looming climate threats.”

To improve the livelihoods of female farmers in Africa, the foundation is deepening its ongoing partnership with the African Union-InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) to accelerate the development of innovative feed and fodder approaches using data analytics, and other tools to boost incomes and food security, helping them to adapt to climate change, save lives and increase economic growth.

The AU-IBAR has launched its inception workshop and assessment for the Resilient African Feed and Fodder Systems Project (RAFFS) in Nigeria.
The RAFFS Project seeks to respond to challenges posed by the triple C crises: Covid-19, Climate Change, and the Conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

These crises have resulted in substantial livestock losses, particularly in the greater Horn of Africa, affecting livelihoods, incomes, and the affordability of essential livestock-sourced foods.

Indeed, the transformation of Nigeria’s feed and fodder sector is vital for food security, economic growth, and the nation’s prosperity.

Asma’u Joda, an Adamawa State-based livestock entrepreneur, and chief executive of Benue Valley Farms Limited said high production costs in the livestock industry have posed a significant challenge as ruminants rely on communal grazing and crop residues, but these face issues of scarcity and security.

According to her, tending to livestock is a fast track to empowerment.
Yet she struggles because insecurity is challenging feed and fodder production.
She has seen families depending on small-scale livestock production for livelihoods, food security and employment creation.

“Most families in the North own cattle and a lot more depend on it to make a living. However, the sector is being challenged by insecurity and high cost of feed.” “This has in turn affected farmers’ productivity.”

She is keen to recall the good days of cattle rearing, but that the business has nosedived owing to the high rate of kidnapping and banditry.
For her, cattle rustling, and banditry have left farmers grappling with fear as some have had to abandon farms, describing the severity of the situation, and the need to prioritise security.

She has been an advocate of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) 2018-2028 which seeks to enhance the feed and fodder system through strategies such as sown pasture production.

Also, the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy (NATIP) 2023-2028 emphasised technology and innovation for transformation.

If not increasing security challenges, Zainab Isa a farmer and herder in Zamfara sees the RAFFS Project as providing a future for the livestock industry and the country as a whole.

“I come from Zamfara State. I am sure you are aware of the prevailing challenges in the state. I lost a sizable number of my cows recently. One of the challenges for me is the increase in banditry.”

“From Kaduna down to Zamfara, farmers have lost a lot of cattle. At the time, I was proud of the number of cattle I had. I was happy with my possession but the bandits have taken a lot from me and others. It is painful,” she said.
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“Before we talk about fodder, my major challenge is security. It is beyond what we are talking about now. There is a security element in cattle production. If the cows are secured how do we graze? I saw a beautiful presentation on ranching and feeder production,” she noted.

The Inception Workshop in Nigeria is the second to be held in the RAFFS Project’s six core AU member states: Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. The event involved key stakeholders presenting preliminary findings from surveys on business models and partnerships to address short-term feed and fodder shortages.

Apart from empowering women towards building a sustainable feed and fodder industry and introducing the African Women in Animal Resources Farming and Agribusiness Network (AWARFA-N) to enhance their participation in the sector. AU-IBAR launched a survey across the 55 African Union Member States to assess the effect of the Triple C crises: Climate-related challenges (droughts and floods), Covid-19, and the Ukraine-Russia Conflict, on African feed and fodder systems.
The survey from the RAFFS Project aims to gather critical insights from key actors in the livestock sector to develop robust emergency and short-term solutions and to enhance the resilience of Africa’s feed and fodder systems.

According to Sarah Ossiya, RAFFS project officer at AU-IBAR, sufficient quantities and quality of feed and fodder are critical if Nigeria is determined to establish a livestock feed system that is robust, balanced, inclusive, and capable of withstanding inevitable future crises.

She underscored the importance of securing food and nutritional security. She explained that the RAFFS Project is a three-year ambitious intervention, geared towards finding immediate, evidence-based solutions to counteract the harmful effects of these crises on Africa’s feed and fodder systems.

It aims to strengthen analytical capabilities, identify existing successful models, and build strategic partnerships for impactful interventions.

Also, Winnie Lai-Solarin, the country focus person for the Project in Nigeria, is already looking at helping women involved in livestock farming to adapt successfully to climate change, increasing production sustainably and developing new markets.

One of the project’s achievements, according to Lai-Solarin who is the director of animal husbandry services at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, would be to train farmers in preserving feed as silage – a fermented, high-moisture stored fodder, which comes in handy at times when livestock feed becomes scarce.

Dianabasi Akpainyang, executive director of the Commercial Dairy and Ranchers Association of Nigeria (CODRAN), noted that the livestock industry in Nigeria is heavily dependent on feed and feed ingredients.

He added that any increase in the cost of feed was going to affect farmers and therefore impact food security. In Nigeria, the shortage of feed in the region is at least 12 million tonnes while local production is under 20 million tonnes.

Akpainyang stressed the need to enlarge the domestic feed production base rather than rely on imported feed resources.

He wants policy and research attention paid to decreasing the dependence of livestock production on imported feed ingredients.
Richard Mbaram, director -general, Feed Nigeria Summit Secretariat, Richard told the forum that the Federal Government has made efforts to substitute products that could be used as livestock feed, apart from maize, a key component in feed production.

He disclosed that the massive testing is undergoing to get cassava processed into various animal feeds. In Nigeria, local feed millers explore several grains, including gluten meal, and palm kernel meal as co-products in preparing a diet for ruminants, poultry, and pigs.