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Tackling the challenges faced by the Nigerian Dairy Sector: Lessons from Kenya

In 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Cattle Inventory reported that Nigeria had the 4th largest cattle population in Africa with over 20 million cattle out of which 2.3 million were dairy cows. Despite this large herd size, milk production remains low due to poor genetic make-up of indigenous cows as they produce an average of 1.5 litres of milk per cow per day compared to 7 litres produced in Kenya, a country which has invested in addressing key production challenges. In fact, Kenya’s dairy market produces approximately 5.4 million tonnes of liquid milk annually from about 4.2 head of dairy cows, 9 times higher than Nigeria’s current annual production volume of 600,000 tonnes. In Kenya, the sector contributes $2.1 billion, 4-8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 14% of agricultural GDP while the contribution of Nigeria’s dairy industry to GDP is negligible.

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Interestingly, the Kenyan dairy landscape used to be very similar to Nigeria’s; dominated by pastoralists and peri-urban farmers who were mostly nomadic, with challenges associated with low yields, genetic composition, limited support structures, market linkages and a dependence on imports. However, through concerted and strategic interventions, the sector has experienced rapid growth and transformation. Nigeria can gain at least four critical lessons from the strategic steps taken by the Kenyan government, development organisations and private sector stakeholders to create an enabling environment for dairy production.

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First, Kenya shifted from the use of low producing local breeds to improved exotic breeds over time by introducing artificial insemination through various dairy development programs, such as the Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Program and the East Africa Dairy Development Program. Private artificial insemination service centres such as the Kenya Animal Genetic Resources Centre (KAGRC) were also established. As a result, smallholder Kenyan dairy farmers now own about 2-5 crossbreeds, which contain up to 95% genetic component of exotic breeds increasing productivity levels.

It is important to note that there are a number of initiatives to adopt this strategy in the Nigerian context, as reinforced by the recent Nigerian Dairy Development Programme (NDDP), spearheaded by Sahel Consulting, which worked with dairy companies in Oyo and Kano to inseminate over 3,000 cows with semen from improved, Friesian

Holstein and Jersey breeds. While this programme has proved the potential of this intervention, there is a critical need for an entire ecosystem of veterinary doctors, artificial insemination inputs and service providers, technical experts and consultants to scale this process and ensure successful genetic improvement of indigenous cows.

Second, Kenya transitioned from its nomadic and archaic system of cattle rearing by the Maasai tribe to the use of a combination of semi intensive ( peri- urban with semigrazing) and intensive (zero-grazing) production systems. This was achieved through the establishment of the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) in 1958, which regulates and facilitates a value driven and sustainable dairy industry in the country. The KDB integrated dairy farmers into the formal value chain through the formation of cooperatives, improved their access to finance through formal channels such as loans from financial institutions as well as grants from the government and development organisations. These initiatives served to increase the farmers’ interest in dairy production.

Efforts are being made in Nigeria through the creation of dairy farmers clusters and the integration of over 2,000 dairy households into the formal value chain who were provided with access to extension services and production inputs including milk cans, solar powered boreholes and feed by NDDP. However, more needs to be done, in partnership with the federal and state governments, dairy processors, dairy farmers associations, financial institutions and private and development organisations, to rapidly improve the sector.

At the state level, all stakeholders ought to leverage the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) to empower smallholder dairy communities to improve their access to productive resources and value addition services such as artificial insemination to improve indigenous cows’ genes and productivity levels. This would also encourage the emergence of commercially produced feed.

Third, the Kenyan government encouraged every dairy farmer to become a member of a community cooperative with formal governance and management structures. This played a critical role in milk aggregation as dairy cooperatives were supported by KDB and other development interventions to build formal milk collection centres and procure evacuation trucks that collect milk at farmers’ doorsteps. In addition, Kenya dairy farmers through common interest groups (CIG) and cooperatives promote ownership, cross-learning and role modelling, which effectively enhances adoption of best practices. The dairy cooperatives also provide extension services and proper milking equipment such as milk cans to its members to improve production practices.

Drawing from the Kenyan example, Nigerian stakeholders should promote more public/private partnerships with key dairy farmers and processors associations such as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Commercial Dairy Ranchers Association of Nigeria (CODARAN) to integrate the smallholder dairy farmers into the formal value chain to create better linkages between local production and formal processing through formation of common interest groups and cooperatives.

Finally, the Kenyan dairy sector disincentivized milk imports with a tariff regime attracting a 60% duty plus an additional 7% levy from the Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) on both concentrated and non-concentrated milk and cream products thereby increasing local milk sourcing.

The Nigerian policy environment needs to ensure consistent tariffs and regulations to encourage local dairy sourcing. The government should also create an enabling policy environment that promotes backward integration and incentivizes private sector investments along the value chain to boost local sourcing.

Kenya’s experience demonstrates what is possible in the Nigerian context with political will at the highest levels, an enabling policy and a tariff regime. It is imperative that the key stakeholders in the sector work collaboratively to ensure that Nigeria matches and even exceeds Kenya’s milk yields and outputs and inches towards becoming the dairy sector leader in Africa.

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