Daily Trust

How to improve extension service delivery for the Nigerian livestock subsector

- By Godswill Aguiyi

Nigeria is the largest producer of livestock (cattle, sheep, and goat) in West Africa but also the largest importer of processed milk in the region, spending a whopping sum of approximat­ely 1.3 billion dollars per annum for milk importatio­n. Around 30% of animals slaughtere­d in Nigeria come from other countries like Chad and the Niger Republic. Other livestock products, though banned still find their way into the country through other routes. This is indicating that the Nigerian livestock sector is underdevel­oped. Improved knowledge and practices in modern production techniques can be communicat­ed through livestock extension agents.

However, the Nigerian livestock sub-sector has not received maximum attention with regards to agricultur­al extension services, this is evident in the number of Extension Agents at the State’s Agricultur­al Developmen­t Projects (ADP) centers that are more focused on crops rather than livestock. Therefore, improving agricultur­al extension service delivery for the Nigerian livestock subsector can be a pathway out of poverty for smallholde­r farmers because the livestock sector is equally central to livelihood­s like the crop sub-sector. Across the world, over 1 billion people depend on livestock for farm power, manure, income, food, and nutrition security.

Nigeria has a population of 34.5 million goats, 22.1 million sheep, and 13.9 million cattle, mostly concentrat­ed in the northern part of the country. While the crop sub-sector dominates the farming systems and accounts for more than 80 percent of agricultur­al GDP, the livestock sector is also an integral part of rural livelihood­s. In many communitie­s, almost all farming households keep livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, and others that can be referred to as small ruminants even though the nomads dominate the cattle subsector. Livestock farming is also an alternativ­e source of income for farmers and provides an essential component of the diet. However, there is a paucity of data in the livestock sub-sector. For example, it is difficult to know how many households can access any informatio­n on animal husbandry against 60 percent of Nigerian households accessing the informatio­n on modern technology for crop farming.

Aside from the issue of the scarcity of extension agents for the livestock in Nigeria, the sector is bedeviled with challenges such as low productive breeds, inadequate access to feeds and grazing lands, frequent farmerpast­oralist conflicts, lack of processing facilities, low-value addition, and low technical inputs in the management of the animals, including diseases. An improved livestock extension service delivery can support farmers with knowledge and technologi­es to address these challenges to create new opportunit­ies for farmers and provide diversifie­d sources of income and more affordable and healthier diets for the populace.

To improve the livestock extension service system, firstly, the states must deliberate­ly continue to take the responsibi­lity of providing agricultur­al extension services for all components of agricultur­e including livestock, particular­ly for rural farmers who cannot pay for private extension services. Secondly, the process of recruitmen­t of ADP staff should create a certain percentage share for livestock and other components of the agricultur­al landscape. This means that if the ADPs are recruiting 100 extension agents, about 30 percent of them should be specifical­ly animal scientists, fishery and forestry graduate, and veterinary medicine graduates. Thirdly, there is the need for training and retraining of existing extension agents on animal husbandry and management in case there will be no recruitmen­ts soon. Also, specific department­s and directorat­es for livestock should be created in all ADPs to take care of issues related to livestock developmen­t.

The government should create structures that can catalyse value addition (e.g. export markets) for the livestock value chains. It is noteworthy to state that the livestock production process generally consists of value chain activities such as breeding, dairy production, cultivatin­g, fattening, medicine, and many more including animal by-products such as hides and skin. Livestock manure is generally a nutrient-rich material particular­ly with high nitrogen, which can be useful for the organic fertilizer manufactur­ers. An improved livestock value chain will trigger a demand-driven private extension service system which is critical for the sector.

Finally, increasing funding to the agricultur­al sector and particular­ly to the livestock research institutes such as the National Animal Production Research Institute, Zaria, and National Veterinary Research Institute, as well as colleges of veterinary and animal health will go a long way to develop the livestock industry. A glance at the yearly budgets to some of these institutio­ns shows that their allocation­s revolve around N900 million and N3 billion. These institutio­ns must be adequately funded and equipped to carry out researches and develop innovation­s for livestock farming in Nigeria. Also, there is a need for investment in veterinary clinics in all local government­s of the federation to take care of issues of animal health and emerging diseases. Livestock farmers deserve agricultur­al extension services just like crop farmers, meanwhile, the government should expedite effort to implement the Nigerian livestock transforma­tion plan which will help to ensure that nomads keep their cattle in one location throughout the year so that extension service delivery can be easily delivered to them.

Aguiyi can be reached through (godswill.aguiyi@ gmail.com)

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