– By Zaid O. Olanrewaju
On a recent trip to the diamond-rich southern Africa country, this writer was amazed by the similarity between these two sister African nations. Like Nigeria, Botswana is at a defining stage in her national development. The nation’s diamond reserve is declining just like the future of Nigeria’s oil is looking uncertain.
Although both nations have got a rich history of pastoral agriculture, unlike Nigeria, Botswana as a nation has decided that there must be a change in animal husbandry. Like Nigeria, Botswana cattle herders share a past culture rich in a lifestyle that revolves round man and cattle. This is an extricable link of milk, beef, hides, sweat and toil.
Botswana vegetation like Nigeria comprises a mix of the nutritious savannah and the lush rainforest. Nigeria has got a cattle headcount of about 16 million, despite a large number of cattle in Nigeria, the cattle in Botswana outnumber human by a ratio of 2:1. As expected there is a constant interaction between man and cattle in the rural and urban centres.
A common English parlance is to make hay while the sun shines, before its late Nigeria can take a cue from Botswana, to avoid further conflict and create a balance between nature and man. Botswana has adopted a cattle production technique similar to the ones adopted in the South Africa veldt, downs of Australia and the pampas of Argentina which look like a good fit for the savannah of Nigeria.
There is an entrenched establishment of large and medium-sized cattle ranches which function as a blend of tourism, dairy products and employment. This is a sector that can create 500,000 associated jobs. It is an alignment of the traditional cattle rearing systems and range with a flavour of modern dairy practice. Nigeria needs to implement and encourage farmers to adopt modern agricultural techniques for efficiency and profitability. There is a good chance to introduce artificial insemination or intro fertilisation IVF.
Botswana is a leader in cattle identification and traceability maintained on the national cattle database. This singular action has improved the marketability of Botswana beef on the world market because it is now possible to trace beef to its source on the international market.
The ERF electronic radio frequency solution will also immensely help the security forces in eliminating and curtailing cattle rustling activities thereby reducing the occurrence of cattle theft nationwide. The farmers’ herdsmen clashes, farmers cattle rustlers clashes will thus be reduced by this means giving the security arm of government more freedom to concentrate on their primary assignment.
This reader may be curious on the writers’ objective, to say that Nigeria is yet to satisfy her internal demand for beef and allied produce but nothing stops the country to tap into the global market worth $34b yearly. A 4-year cycle challenge for Nigeria to export beef is not insurmountable with her rich cattle rearing history and all available resources. With no African nation in the top 10 cattle exporters, while India, Brazil, Australia, the US, New Zealand leads beef commodity export trade, Nigeria can break all barriers to join this class with the will. Promisingly the US, China and Japan remain the lead importer of beef in the world, the export to UAE by Botswana and South Africa makes Nigeria beef export more lucrative.
We need to agree with the growing disapproval worldwide for rangeland livestock production. This practice is also partly responsible for desertification which is a result of overgrazing associated with free-range cattle industry.
There is a huge potential for foreign exchange once the powerful but highly influential circle of the elite who dominate the cattle industry are consulted to formulate sustainable cattle policy. A policy direction should look at opportunities in the milk and dairy allied products, once the value is added to the red beef value chain.
The grazing bill and other tools should be seen more as a social and economic solution rather than political tools for a bargain. There are numerous existing theoretical frameworks which can be adapted with a Nigerian flavour. The adopted framework should copy the best of practice from other African countries such as South Africa and Botswana with export-driven inputs to satisfy the EU beef requirement.
As a common practice all over the world, the onus is our coordinating agencies to formulate statistics, regulations and guidelines for stable food consumer information and legislation. Observations and lessons learnt from this should be copied across to encompass the sheep meat, goat meat and poultry sector. The time is now ripe for Nigeria to establish a dedicated and functional beef or meat industry commission.
This body will represent the interest of all stakeholders and ensure no fraudulent activities go unpunished and that the playing field stays level.
The Nigeria cattle industry apart from its socio-cultural role provides food security –protein, industrial raw materials, employment, and foreign exchange. It is a known fact that the famous Morocco leather is actually most likely from Sokoto, Kano or Mubi.
It is a shame at news time when citizens of war-ravaged nations look better fed than Nigerians on TV. The FAO, Food and Agriculture and Organisation of the UN puts Nigeria’s meat consumption at 8.8kg per annum which is among the 20 countries that eat the least amount of meat yearly in the world. Bangladesh – 4kg of meat per person per year is the worst performing nation, while Rwanda – at 6.5kg is the worst African nation on this index. The USA – 120kg of meat per person per year followed by Kuwait – 119.2kg and Australia – 111.5kg top the table while the best performing nation in Africa is South Africa at 36.6kg per year occupies position 17 of the world table. If we all agree Nigeria is not a vegetarian nation and the vegetarian habit does not seem acceptable in our culture, for now, then we must be consuming less protein than required unless there is a verifiable alternative source in our diets. This is a very big doubt.
Nationwide over 45 higher education institutions and numerous research centres engage in animal science, the question is thus how can they add value to this sector for optimum productivity. It is agreed that the major problems confronting the cattle industry include but is not limited to the following namely animal stock breeding, animal feeds , diseases , availability of funds for investment, poor farm infrastructure, poor transport infrastructure, product marketing, poor farm management skills, the lack of governmental support , cattle rustling , political will and the most contested problem land usage.
The clarion call is on all concerned including most importantly the cattle farmers , horticulture farmers, the legislatures, ministry of national planning , ministry of agriculture (Federal & State) , the research centres including the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), Animal Health Research Institutes , National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) – Vom, National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (AERLS), Agricultural Rural Management Training Institute (ARMTI ), National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) Moor Plantation Ibadan, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) , National Centre for Agriculture Mechanization (NCAM), National Animal Production Research Institute(NAPRI) to give the nation the right direction in solving this national issue.
Zaid O Olanrewaju
Harrow , Middlesex,UK.