By Abdullahi Umar
The importance of agriculture in the Nigerian economy is generally well known. Despite the fact that successive governments have always amplified a pro-agriculture economic agenda, there still exists a huge gap in our national food requirement, not to talk of making the agriculture sector the bulwark of the economy at any such time when the global oil market becomes gloomy.
In fact, it cannot be far-fetched that the incessant conflict between herdsmen and farmers across the country is a reflection of an inadequate and disconcerting national policy on agriculture.
While there is nothing to cheer about in the needless spilling of both human and animal blood, and the wanton destruction of swathes of farmland, the crises between herdsmen and farmer have called the attention of the government towards creating a legislation that will address the concerns of livestock herdsmen and food crops farmers in the country.
The crux of the matter in the conflicts between these two vast workforce in our agricultural sectors borders on mutual protection and survival.
Whereas herdsmen need grassing fields for their cattle, the food crop farmer will, of course, not tolerate that his dream of a bumpy harvest becomes dashed after cattle invade his farmland and feed on his crops.
Although there have been suggestions in some quarters that perhaps a good way of resolving the impasse is for the government to look in the direction of importing feed for the cattle. But this also comes with the anticipated problem of capital flight, more pressure on the naira, not to mention the hazard such feed might have on the health of the animals and humans who end up consuming their meat.
However, that some Nigerian businessmen are rising to the challenge of establishing animal feed mills is no doubt cheering news. Apart from potentially solving the hot exchanges between herdsmen and food crop farmers, there is also the added benefit of employment opportunity for many Nigerians, and the economic chain effect it will have in boosting the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
While most of the cattle herdsmen in the country are known to concentrate in the North, it remains an irony that private sector investments in the local production of feed-mill in the northern part of Nigeria is still at a very low ebb.
It might be that the establishment of large-scale animal feed-mill factories in many northern cities by Rico Gado Animal Feeds will open the way for much more investment in that direction.
Rico Gado, one of the business conglomerates of former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, is establishing animal feed factories in the major cities of northern Nigeria, and the ground breaking of the factory in Abuja will take place on May 21, 2015.
The event will provide a platform for stakeholders in the agricultural sectors and government officials to rub minds on the contentious problem of herdsmen-farmers face-off.
Some dignitaries expected at the event are the minister of agriculture, Mr. Audu Ogbe, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Muhammed Musa Bello, among others.
Rico Gado Nutrition Nigeria is a private Limited Liability company engaged in the production and marketing of livestock feeds. The company was incorporated in 2013 in a joint venture agreement between Gese Derdirabe Holdings, Yola Adamawa State, Nigeria, and Rico Gado Nutricao S.A. The Group has years of experience in livestock feeds production and distribution throughout Europe and recently the Middle East (Egypt and Saudi Arabia).
The factory was the first of its kind in Northern Nigeria and it was first commissioned in Yola, Adamawa State in January 2015, built with state–of–the–art technology in livestock feeds milling. It has the capacity to produce 50,000 metric tonnes of assorted animal feeds annually and to create a network of animal feeds supply. The factory would address the dire need for animal food supplements in Adamawa State, the entire North-East geo-political region as well as the Republics of Chad and Cameroun.
The Abuja factory is twice the sizes of the one in Adamawa as it would militate against the problems encountered by herdsmen in search of pasture for their animals and large scale livestock farmers.
The plant would create a chain of agro-related businesses, offers direct employment for many people who would be trained both in Nigeria and South Africa.
It would utilise local raw materials specially selected to meet all nutritional requirements for animals. The local materials which have been tested and met all international standards include, maize, bran, sorghum, soya beans, rice husk and bran, molasses, wheat bran/offal, plants oil groundnut cakes cotton seeds (cake) animal by-products (fish and borne Meal), minerals (limestone etc.) grown mostly in the Northern part of Nigeria.
The factory in Abuja will also offer local farmers the opportunity to upgrade their techniques through extension programmes and casual employment opportunities.
Currently, the livestock sub-sector in the agriculture industry boasts of about 22 million heads of cattle, 45 million goats/sheep and about 250 million poultry, mostly driven from the local stock. These figures make Nigeria, by far, the largest concentration of livestock in Central and West Africa combined.
However, the short supply and poor quality of animal feeds currently in the sub-sector results in high mortality rates, leading to low productivity and low rate of returns on investment and problem of capital flights in Nigeria. It thus becomes necessary for policy makers and the private sector to look for ways of bridging this divide, hopefully through incentives that will make the private sector become the bigger spender in agriculture, while government takes up policy and regulatory roles.
Abdullahi Umar, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Kano.