Poultry, beef, camels, cattle, goats, and their by-products are all important contributors to a country’s agricultural production.
The livestock sub-sector in Nigeria, on the other hand, has made little progress, owing to high production costs, restricted access to land and breeding animals, a lack of a well-organized market structure, and difficulties complying with environmental regulations.
Also, production levels for cattle, poultry, goat/mutton and pork do not reflect a satisfactory measure of self-sufficiency. Most stakeholders believe more effort is needed to raise self-sufficiency in milk and beef. Experts have provided recommendations for unlocking the economic potential of animal agriculture and becoming self-sufficient.
These include a livestock master plan, covering production and fisheries, veterinary services, and pastoral development.
They maintained that productivity, health, and sustainability of livestock must be addressed and that this requires broad-based innovations in animal nutrition and vet services.
Countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have responded with functional policies to grow the sector. Consequently, in Nigeria, the National Economic Council (NEC) approved a National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in 2018. It was inaugurated the following year by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. The government adopted the plan, which targets not only cattle, but also the entire animal husbandry sector.
Under the plan, N100 billion will be spent, with the Federal Government contributing 80 per cent in grants, while states would contribute land, project implementation structure, personnel and 20 per cent cost of the project. The plan will remain voluntary for state governments.
During the inauguration of the plan at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area, Adamawa State, Osinbajo said it was designed to run from 2019 to 2028.
He said the plan is aimed at supporting the development of the livestock sector and is to be implemented in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nassarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
According to the Vice-President, the plan will be implemented in collaboration with state governments, farmers, pastoralists and the private investor.
“In this plan, the state government or private investor provides the land; the Federal Government does not and will not take any land from a state or local government. Any participating state will provide the land and its own contribution to the project, the Federal Government merely supports.
“It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods.
“I wish to emphasise that this is not Rural Urban Grazing Area (RUGA), because the idea of RUGA settlements launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development created a problem when it was perceived as a plan to seize lands to create settlements for herders. RUGA was not a plan designed and approved by the governors and the president rightly suspended the implementation,” Osinbajo said.
Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri described the NLTP as an all-encompassing and life-changing programme that would benefit the country.
If well managed, the livestock sector has the potential to generate substantial revenue and employment. However, despite its potential to boost the gross domestic product (GDP) and foreign exchange, the livestock sector is still facing various challenges.
At the heart of this is the right to land. Also, opposition to NLTP has a background in history of hostile communal relationship arising from pastoralists. The controversy surrounding the RUGA scheme has found its way into NLTP. Some believe NLTP is the baptismal name for RUGA. They believe the Federal Government repackaged the RUGA agenda in NLTP to ‘grab’ land from citizens and hand it over to Fulani cattle herders.
The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, explained that he rejected RUGA because it was a strange concept that came after the National Economic Council had adopted NLTP.
Lalong said RUGA did not have the input of concerned parties and fell short of addressing the concerns of most governors. Lalong urged President Muhammadu Buhari to implement NLTP to stem security challenges arising from recurring clashes between farmers and herdsmen across the country.
He expressed concern that the farmers/herders clashes had continued to linger, stressing that the idea of the NLTP was to move away from the old practice of rearing cattle.
Lalong said: “Incidentally, I am a member of the Livestock Committee under the Vice President and I represent the Northcentral. That was the purpose of setting up that committee and that committee made far-reaching recommendations and then funds were to be made available to pilot states – Plateau and about nine states are pilot states – to address some of these issues.
“The issue was to move away from the old ways of rearing cows and to find modern ways of doing it. In some places, they will do it that way, but then in a confined environment, which was agreed to by all, and that is part of the point I was raising, to remind Mr. President to hasten the implementation of the NLTP.”
Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu said many obstacles were hampering policies and strategic intentions at national and state levels to improve livestock production.
He listed the obstacles to include limited knowledge of livestock asset by size, locations, water and insecurity.
“The approach is to invest in the livestock sector to provide ranches, mitigating the escalating crisis between pastoralists and farmers. The strategy would be supported by the development of an implementation plan which Mr. President had already approved, that provides a guiding framework to states for implementing NLTP which will be implemented in phases,” he said.
Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines’ (GALVmed) Co-Chairman, Prof Funsho Sonaiya said the main purpose of the NLTP was to support and strengthen the development of market driven ranches that will provide an enabling environment for nomadic herders.
His words: “Easily, we can see that the government intends to transit from pastoralism to ranching to reduce the farmers-herders clashes. Three years is not too long for a plan that has such an ambitious target. You know that we have had ranches run by the government before which failed. NLTP has learnt from that and it is an integrated business not to be run by government but in a partnership with the private sector.
“The project is managed by the Project Coordinating Secretariat in the Office of the Vice-President and human capital for transformation from a low-cost cattle production into a business-orientated cattle production is very crucial. There is a need to build human capital along the whole value chain, from input, breeding, to production, and meat, milk, processing and marketing.
“The NLTP wants to change the narrative and mindset about cattle herding and grass as a common good that cattle can eat anywhere they find it. This changing of mind set is a real change for the NLTP.
“There are other challenges but this is the main challenge-that those that have been keeping cattle for centuries they do not have the capacity to run ranches. Right now, there are grazing reserves cattle herders could use, but that is different from turning these reserves into ranches that will have fences, water, feedlots production facilities and pasture. This is a big issue that requires research, training, extension and investment from the private sector.
“I think that the NLTP has not failed. It is actually targeted to go on from 2019 to 2028. It is a 10-year plan. I don’t think it has failed. I think we need to give it the time it needs and make sure all of the requirements for success are provided, not only by the government but also by the private sector, researchers, civil servants, administrators, consumers and common citizens of Nigeria.
“The plan has its shortcoming-every plan has. No plan is perfect. But it has a good goal, aim which is to stop this conflict between farmers and herders. Thankfully, we have almost all through the country come to the consensus open grazing is not sustainable and the alternative is ranching. This is what the NLTP wants to bring to pass. So, my opinion is that we should all look for areas of difficulties that we can solve, or give suggestions for so that the NLTP will succeed. There are geo-political dimensions, issues of autonomy, sovereign, resource control and ethno-religious. That is the Nigeria we live in. So, we should not let the challenges stop us from seeing a good project and supporting it.”
So far, many states, which were earlier reluctant to key into NLTP, have reviewed their positions and adopted it. This follows clarifications that the project was not a veiled re-presentation of the controversial RUGA programme. Some states have swung into action. Apart from the 19 northern states that embraced the programme at its inception, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Anambra and Ebonyi states have joined the initiative.
Lalong have signed a deal to start the project in Plateau State. The agreement was reached with two firms – Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited and Integrated Diaries – for the start-off of the programme in grazing reserves in Kanam and Wase local government areas.
The plan, according to Lalong, was previously resisted due to “misinformation”.
“When the NLTP was initiated, it was erroneously misinterpreted by those who wanted to play politics and discredit it. I told my people that as their governor, I could never bring anything that would cause them pain and poverty.
“I was in the NLTP Committee, I understood clearly that Plateau State will not only benefit from it, but will use it to create jobs and address the farmer-herder attacks which almost destroyed the peace of our people,” he said. Plateau, which is among the pilot states, will benefit from the N15 billion earmarked for the programme.
Lalong said the country would not be having a farmers-herders crisis if the NLTP was well-implemented. He said the plan was conceived since the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and had been used partially in handling farmer-herders crisis even in the state.
The Federal Government earmarked N5 billion for NLTP in Gombe State. About 141,000 hectares of land had been reserved for the take-off. The project is located in Wawa Zange, and cuts across Dulku, Funakaye, Nafada and Kwami local government areas.
The Edo State government has keyed into the project. The governor had also said his administration was ready to partner professional bodies that have knowledge and expertise in livestock production.
The Ekiti State government also said it had keyed into the NLTP.
The Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr. Olabode Adetoyi, told The Nation that the state is making progress on the implementation of the project.
His words: “We have keyed into it. Our Irele and Oke Ako Cattle ranch will be upgraded and given to investors that already applied. NLTP training for Ekiti will take place in Ado Ekiti this week.”
The Ekiti State government is providing land and 20 per cent counterpart funding. Its government has 10,000 hectares of land in Oke-Ako and over 450 hectares of land in Irele, both in Ikole Local Government Area for the project. Similarly, the Ondo State government has declared its intention to implement the project.
Also, the Anambra State government has keyed into the NLTP. Similarly, Ebonyi State had written to the Presidency, indicating its interest in the Plan. The state government had indicated interest in the plan as Governor David Umahi, who is the chairman of NLTP committee.
Similarly, the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has approved that the state to participate in the plan, and has written to the Vice President, who is the chairman of the NEC, of its willingness to participate in it.
A team from the National office of the NLTP was in Benue on a sensitisation with various stakeholders to explain its mode of operation and how the state will benefit from it.
Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq has said his administration has keyed into NLTP to drive growth, create jobs, and equip farmers/herders with tools to thrive in the agribusiness. The governor dropped this hint at the training in Ilorin, the state capital, on the implementation of the pilots under the NLTP for state livestock transformation officers and project management officers (SLTOs/PMOs).
“We both have a shared goal of supporting investments in the livestock value chains that will catalyse sustainable economic growth, create more jobs and equip farmers with the necessary tools to thrive in the agricultural sector,” said AbdulRazaq, adding: “We need to significantly increase the productivity of our livestock (dairy and beef) as well as reduce cost of production if we are to remain competitive.
“Our cost of production of a kilogramme of beef, estimated at $6 per kg, is one of the world’s highest, compared to $4/kilogramme (kg) in Netherlands and $2.5/kg in India.”
He maintained that Kwara needed to transform its “athletic cows” into “business cows” and to create several businesses along the chain to enhance sustainability and profitability.
The Chairman, Nigeria’s Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, said governors felt that the strengthening of NLTP would reduce the herder-farmer conflicts.
He said the governors also reviewed the state of security across the states. “And some of the issues that were reviewed included, but not limited to the farmers/herders conflict, banditry and kidnapping, militancy and sea piracy, cultism, youth protests and insurgency.
“And the following recommendations firmly came out of our meeting. Governors are irrevocably committed to the protection of lives and property in our states and we are full of sympathy with those who have lost lives and property,” he added.
There are efforts to implement the plan in Kaduna State.