Prof. Idowu Ola.
Idowu Ola, a Professor of Animal Science at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, in this exclusive interview with FarmingFarmersFarms, speaks on how livestock farming has remained a major contributor to climate change and global warming. He also examines the key challenges and opportunities inherent in the industry in Nigeria, among others. Excerpts:
Can you please introduce yourself?
I am Idowu Ola, a Professor of Animal Science at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, a registered and consultant animal scientist as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Livestotech Consult Limited. I’m currently the Chairman of Animal Science Association of Nigeria, Osun State Chapter, and the President, Society for Animal Reproduction and Improvement.
What are the key challenges and opportunities in livestock farming in Nigeria today?
The livestock industry in Nigeria today is more of challenges than opportunities. By virtue of my opportunity as a professor and a consultant, who is practically-engaged with numerous players in the industry, I can say categorically that the industry is full of daunting challenges, which, however, can be surmounted if we develop and apply the right approaches. Let me mention the few opportunities first. The greatest is that with increasing population of the country, the market base for livestock products is also increasing. There is also opportunity to export when self-sufficiency is attained and production is in excess of local demand. The palpable signs are that Nigeria’s livestock production is still below her consumption requirement. Just think of the number of cattle being slaughtered in Nigeria on daily basis! Another opportunity is that there are still many aspects of the value chain that are currently neglected or not attractive to be ventured into, either as a result of being highly capital-intensive, due to poor policy back up, or ignorance. An example is the millions of table eggs either wasted or sold out cheaply as a result of the periodic egg glut issue. A major opportunity in livestock production now is the advent of technology, which had made many of the tedious livestock operations to become more labour-friendly. Talking about the challenges, the major ones are poor market structure, low purchasing power of the populace, inaccessible land for production, high level of insecurity, lack or high cost of electricity power, poor road infrastructure, especially to the farming areas, unstable or bad government policies and finally non-availability of funding support for livestock operations. I would not want to dwell too much on these challenges so as not discourage intending investors. The challenges are surmountable, but it end up making livestock production unattractive.
Could you provide an overview of the most commonly-raised livestock species in Nigeria, and their economic significance?
Chicken remains the most intensively-reared livestock species in Nigeria. It employs directly over three million people and many more in the adjoining businesses. Poultry population and business in Nigeria is second in ranking to South Africa in the whole of Africa. Cattle is the most extensively reared livestock species. The bulk of cattle slaughtered in Nigeria annually enter through border crossing on hoof. Significant number of sheep and goats also follow the same route. Pigs are reared and eaten mostly in Benue and the South-East regions. Farming of catfish is another major animal production venture. It is almost getting to the level of chicken farming. There are pockets of farms dealing with non-conventional species like cane rat, snail and rabbits.
How has climate change impacted livestock farming practices in Nigeria, and what adaptations are being made?
Climate change refers to the deviation of weather parameters from the pattern that have been established over decades behind. In particular, it causes abnormally high and cold atmospheric temperature, very heavy rainfall or drought, and abnormal wind speed and direction. These changes have been primarily attributed to certain activities of man such as deforestation due to urbanisation, burning of fossil fuel by vehicles, manufacturing companies and home warming. Unfortunately, livestock production, in particular cattle, have also been fingered as a significant contributor to global warming and climate change actor. Yet, livestock production is one of the main victim of climate change, not excluding Nigeria. High environmental temperature has direct effect on lowering productive performance of livestock, neither is drought good for animal production. to keep animal body cool and ensure adequate water supply in the face of global warming is pushing the cost of production higher, especially under intensive operation. In Nigeria in particular, climate change is partly responsible for the disturbing and incessant clashes between farmers and herders. The problem has remained intractable because of the multi-dimensional aspects to it. Adaptation to climate change in livestock operation can come in various forms including breeding suitable animals, nutritional and housing adjustments. This is the same line that Nigeria is towing even though nothing much can be said to be happening in the country, as of today.
Can you discuss the role of government policies and regulations in the Nigerian livestock sector?
Governments anywhere in the world are responsible for formulating and implementing policies that would move nations forward. In Nigeria, at the national level, the Department of Animal Husbandry Services and the Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, are the primary organs of government to chart a course for livestock operation and development in the country. These units have assisted to formulate good policies by two major regulatory bodies, viz: the Veterinary Council of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science. With these organs of government in place and properly functioning, Nigeria should not be found wanting in matters of livestock development.
What are the sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices that you recommend for livestock farming in Nigeria?
Intensive livestock production is a major source of environmental pollution, as a result of the enormous waste generated by the animals. The waste physically pollute the surfaces and also the air with offensive odour. Therefore, livestock operations must be conducted with adequate mitigation strategies in place to avoid environmental pollution. Some of the strategies to achieve this include appropriate town planning with provisions for livestock production hub; adopting circular farming whereby the waste from the animals are adequately converted/diverted to other useful means; adopting best farming practices, in matters of nutrition, housing and healthcare.
Are there specific diseases or health issues that are particularly prevalent among livestock in Nigeria, and how are they managed?
As there are different species of livestock so also are there different diseases that affect them. Some are endemic and some epidemic in nature. However, the good news is that many of the prevalent diseases either have vaccine already developed to prevent their occurrence or drugs are available for treating animals, when infected. The Nigerian Veterinary Research Institute has developed a number of vaccines locally against local strains of infective organisms.
What research projects or initiatives are you currently involved in that is related to livestock farming in Nigeria?
My major project at hand now, as a consultant, is the development of circular livestock integrated farm in an urban setting. My company is currently handling a project where faecal waste from chicken in cages are converted to cooking gas and feed for ruminant and pseudo ruminant livestock. The aim is to complete eliminate odour and utilise the solid waste from poultry operation. This would enable the setting up of poultry business in any environment without any worry of environmental pollution.
Could you elaborate on the importance of improving breeding and genetics in Nigerian livestock for increased productivity?
This aspect has been over-emphasised enough. Improved breeds and are the bedrock for profitable livestock production. Can we imagine basing poultry production on the locally scavenging chicken that we have around. The successes recorded in livestock farming is because we have improved breeds to make the venture profitable. Chickens can now be grown for just five weeks to reach slaughter weight of 2kg. Improved dairy cow gives over 40 kg of milk daily when compared to around 2kg produced by local white Fulani cow. So, we need to focus more on developing breeds suitable for our clime, if we really want to be in control of the industry.
How is technology, such as data analytics and AI, being utilised in modern livestock farming practices in Nigeria?
Data analytics and artificial intelligence are still alien to livestock farming of today’s Nigeria. Maybe in another five years, we can reopen this topic?
Can you share your insights on the potential for value addition and processing in the Nigerian livestock industry to increase income for farmers?
In fact, the bane of livestock farming in Nigeria is what you have just mentioned, value addition. 99.9% of the tables eggs produced in Nigeria are still being sold as raw eggs till tomorrow and this is the main reason egg glut has persisted for more than 40 years. There is need for diversification by way of value addition and processing to ensure optimum marketing of livestock produce. Failure to look in this direction would continue to be the albatross for livestock farming in Nigeria. Thank you for seeking my opinion.