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How Nigeria can explore rangelands’ fodder potential

How Nigeria can explore rangelands’ fodder potential

Nigeria’s livestock sector is a key part of the country’s quest for food security and ensuring that it plays a critical role in the country’s diversification quest is crucial to its development.

The country’s livestock farming has been facing significant challenges due to farmers-herders clash, changing climate hampering productivity and low technological use in the sector among others.

These challenges have led to a surge in feed prices, thus making livestock production less lucrative.

To ensure a halt to the accelerating cost in feed prices and ensure its affordability, the federal government and the private sector are actively exploring various options, one of which is the utilisation of rangeland for fodder production in the livestock industry.

As a result, institutes like the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) and other partners are conducting research to assess the potential of rangeland.

The aim is to prevent a fodder supply crisis and ensure that feed prices remain affordable for livestock feed producers in the country. It is one of the high points of the Resilient Africa Feed and Fodder Systems (RAFFS) Project Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) establishment in Nigeria forum held in Abuja recently.

In general, the vexing issue of inadequate feed and fodder supply dominated the discourse during the meeting. The event was the setting up of RAFFS Project Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) in Nigeria.

The event was organised by the federal government, in partnership with African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources’ RAFFS project and it attracted stakeholders in the dairy and livestock sectors.

Availability and affordability of feed and fodder – the main issue facing players in the dairy and livestock sectors was discussed with solutions proffered.

From the views of the stakeholders, rising feed prices have had far-reaching implications, not only affecting the profitability of farmers but also the sustainability of livestock operations.

Therefore, urgent action is required to address the issue and safeguard the interests of both small-scale and corporate farmers.

Aminu Nyako, chief executive, Sebore Farms, who has been in search of innovative approaches to address the perennial challenge of fodder scarcity.

He stressed that there was a need for increased productive capacity to build industry resilience, boost the overall performance of the national feed platform and support survival of livestock during drought emergencies and commercialization of fodder.

According to him, stakeholders were open to fodder production approaches which provide flexibility and are tailored to different seasons. He stressed that further research and development efforts in the areas of green fodder and feed production are required.

Also, Azeezah Abdurrauf-Babalola, chief executive of Azdoy Agro Consult, emphasised the importance of incorporating new innovations in agriculture to benefit small farmers.

She highlighted that these innovations should focus on ensuring animal health, enhancing productivity and sustainability, and connecting farmers with profitable markets.

To achieve these goals, Abdurrauf-Babalola suggested the industry needed exposure to various elements such as technology transfer, training programs, improvements in feed and breed quality, and adoption of best husbandry practices.

These initiatives are essential for enabling operators to extract added value from their livestock and contribute to the overall growth and development of the agricultural sector.

Read also: Increasing local inputs in feed production seen to boost Nigeria’s livestock industry

As communities in the Northern regions face increasingly severe droughts and heightened food insecurity due to rangeland degradation, the livestock sector suffers from a lack of adequate fodder.

Thus, it is imperative to prioritise the enhancement of fodder production and improved rangeland management, with a specific emphasis on empowering farmers economically.

National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) – Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, is expanding its research on fodder production to assist farmers in improving their planning, responding to shocks, and safeguarding livelihoods for resilience enhancement.

Yunusa Ishiaku, assistant director of extension & linkages, NAPRI, highlighted that rangelands occupy a significant portion of Nigeria’s land area and serve as a crucial income source for local pastoral communities.

Ishiaku stated that rangelands occupy a specific portion of Nigeria’s territory and serve as a significant revenue stream for indigenous pastoral groups.

Nevertheless, he highlighted the poor state of rangelands nationwide as a major obstacle for the forage sector. In response, he mentioned that the organisation has been concentrating on enhancing advancements and technology to guarantee continuous fodder output in rangelands.

Recognising the potential of the institute’s innovation, he said NAPRI has been working on alleviating the burden of fodder scarcity for numerous livestock keepers and bolstering the overall agricultural landscape of the North and other parts of Nigeria.

He emphasised that the institute has gained a reputation for its ability to cultivate a diverse range of forage seeds.

The institute’s seeds are specifically formulated to enhance meat and milk production nationwide, as he pointed out.

Ishiaku expressed the institute’s commitment to providing training for livestock farmers, enabling them to effectively adapt to market demands, improve competitiveness, and bolster Nigeria’s livestock export capacity in both current and emerging markets.

Indeed, the partners have been implementing initiatives to support the improvement of food and nutrition security by building fodder supply capabilities.

Winnie Lai-Solarin, director, Animal Husbandry, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, described the livestock sector in Nigeria as a huge one and that a large percentage of the ruralities rely hugely on it to put food on their plates and make a living.

To this end, she explained that the government in partnership with AU-IBAR are exploring ways both large and smallholder farmers could be made to become more productive, efficient and environmentally sustainable in sourcing feed and fodder to meet growing market demand for meat and dairy products.

According to her, ensuring a consistent supply of fodder that meets quality and safety standards could make a huge difference to women’s and men’s incomes while strengthening household food and nutrition security and building resilience.

This is because the livestock sector in Nigeria currently provides a wide range of nutritious, protein-rich foodstuffs, such as eggs, meat, and milk, contributing to the diversification of diets.

She said the Federal Government is actively supporting the livestock sector through various initiatives and support measures to promote growth, modernization, and sustainability.

She said training and capacity-building programmes are organised for farmers to enhance their skills and knowledge in dairy management, animal nutrition, and healthcare.

According to her, the government is also promoting research and development in livestock technology and management to foster innovation, improve the overall efficiency and productivity of the dairy sector, and address the emerging challenges and opportunities in the industry.

Furthermore, she added that there is need for policies and regulations to ensure quality control, food safety, and hygiene standards in livestock production and processing, this according to her includes establishing quality testing labs, certification programs, and monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with national and international standards and regulations.