An agro start-up is solving the farmers-herdsmen problem with a simple technology in the northern part of Nigeria.
Ibrahim Maigari Ahmadu may not be a popular name, but he is providing a solution that has defied even the government of the day.
An IT expert, the co-founder/chief executive of Livestock247.com reduces movement of cows from one place to another, thereby cutting down on the spate of clashes in the north.
His strategy is simple: He tells herders to stay where they are, while he provides pasture, water, funding and market for them. With this strategy, he reduces nomadic movement of cows through farms, which often results in conflicts, blood and tears.
His Livestock247.com is the country’s first livestock online marketing and listing platform.
A lawyer by training, Ahmadu has been in the livestock industry for seven years, revolutionising a sub-sector viewed primarily through cultural and ethnic lenses.
Through his platform, livestock sellers meet buyers.
The herders make money from huge sales while buyers get fit-for-slaughter cattle.
The entrepreneur tells Start-Up Digest that his firm’s big vision is to mitigate spread of animal-to-human disease transmission in Africa.
He explains that one big challenge facing Nigeria’s cattle production is lack of functional animal identification system.
His firm creates a platform whereby livestock producers, consumers, financial service providers and insurance firms come together with a view to mitigating the spread of diseases and putting a structure to a sector that has been under the control of middle-men for years.
“We are investing heavily in production,” he says.
He says Livestock247.com is trying to solve a very serious problem—cattle rustling.
“We partnered with MTN Nigeria to develop the cattle tracking system. We developed this system ourselves. During that time, we developed relationships with rural farmers. Before we even launched our products, we had to go round the country and familiarise with rural farmers. And they are not as uncivilised as many people think they are. They are literate in their own way,” he explains.
Ahmadu says the cattle business is a multibillion enterprise and is not about culture or ethnicity.
“The cow does not understand Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba or Efik. Most livestock producers are looking for market. They want to get away from the shackles of middle-men; they want good margins,” he states.
There is a popular livestock market in Jigawa State called Maigatari Market, which is busiest on Thursdays.
Traders and buyers come from Mauritania, Congo Brazzaville, several parts of Central Africa and other countries to buy or sell cows.
The entrepreneur says he is now trying to re-orient livestock producers there to ensure their market runs 24/7.
“When you go there on Friday, the place is quiet. And I ask them, ‘Why don’t you have a market on 247 basis?”
“We are bringing the financial service providers to this market because it is a business that is credit based. Maigatari Market turns almost over $3 million a week. They do over N500 million, but 80 percent of this is cash. We partnered with Sterling Bank to have what we call Experience Centres and we are bringing financial services to the cattle market. That is financial inclusion. We are bringing together the banks and the under-banked through our system. So, we are helping them to sell their cattle and now we are telling them they don’t need to come with cash. Have an account with this bank and you don’t have to come with cash to the cattle market because it breeds rural banditry and kidnapping,” he says.
He says that 95 percent of the 20 million cattle in Nigeria are owned by the pastoralist communities.
He believes that traceability has been a landmark innovation in the livestock business.
“What you are getting for nothing, you get a fit-for-slaughter that is traceable and you are getting value for money,” he says.
“The traceability is working at the moment. There is a microchip that we implant on the animals. It is not harmful on the animals and is based on World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) specifications. The body is like the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the animal space. There is also the International Standards Organisation. We design our products in line with OIE. Fortunately, Nigeria and other 180 of countries are all signatories to OIE,” he discloses.
Forty-two percent of all the livestock in West Africa are in Nigeria but the country can’t export one kilogram of beef because of poor animal identification system, he said.
“Botswana, Namibia and South Africa export beef. Nigeria has over 20 million cattle but can’t export any beef,” he says
He points out that his firm’s new Livestock Fattening Project is bringing bite to the industry, as he has an agreement with financial partners who are investing almost N500 million in the project.
“What they are trying to do is to show to the government that the market-driven approach is the solution,” he says.
“The farmer-herder crisis happens every year. During the dry season –from November to February— herders start moving southwards because rains stop early in the north. So, they start looking South-West and converge at the Middle-belt. They also congregate around the Ikom Belt. By March/ April when the rain starts again, they go back. As they go back, people are already in the farm. That is why you have farmer-herder crisis. When you sit down with them, you see it is a competition of resources. The pastoralist is looking for pasture and water. The farmer, on the other hand, has every right to go to the farm. What we are telling them is, look, you say government is not investing in livestock development. There is no pasture and grazing land, so stay where you are. We will give you money for feeds and also give you the bulls to fatten. We will give you money for drugs and vaccines. We will give you a veterinary doctor to supervise you. We will give you the market,” he says.
“Over 1,000 companies have applied to participate in the programme. Our plan is to do 24,000 cattle in 2019 to 2020. We are starting with Osun, Taraba, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Abuja. We have escalated it to reach Lagos and the South-East,” he explains.
He adds that one other thing his firm is trying to do is to de-ethnicise livestock production the way poultry business has gone mainstream.
He explains that livestock business is no longer a cultural thing.
“We are a platform. We bring buyers and sellers together. People that want to buy, sell, transport livestock come to our platform. Insurance companies and investors come to our platform and they pay some fees.”