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What Nigeria can do to end farmer-herder crisis, by Animal Care VP

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Mrs Funmi Agbato

In this exclusive interview, Executive Vice-President of Animal Care, Mrs Olufunmilayo Agbato, proffers what she explains as the lasting solutions to the farmer-herder crisis ravaging some parts of the country. FEMI IBIROGBA brings excerpts.

Looking at the frequent deadly clashes between herders and farmers, what effect will it have on national food production and what are the ways forward?

Already, it is having effects. Before the end of this year, we will see it.

In the last six months or a year ago, many farmers are being robbed of their harvests and many also have been prevented from farming.

So, we will begin to see the effects very soon, because so many farm products are already scarce in the market.

By this time, we should have new yam plentifully in the market, but as of now, new yam scarce. And what could be done is very simple.

Feedlots are perfect solutions. Botswana has over 1.9 million of people and about two million of cattle and yet the animals are not troubling them like Nigeria.

It is so unfortunate that as many as we are as a people, we are so vulnerable to things like that.

The government is suggesting state ownership of cattle ranching. Do you subscribe to this idea?

I don’t see any need for this. It is not necessary at all.

If the people are well educated, and the people are made to listen, and to operate within the law of the land; if the law is made that people should just rare their animals on locations, there should be no problem because it is doable.

We at Animal Care have done it on experimental and commercial bases.

Botswana, an African country, and a small country for that matter, has done it without problems.

You can’t see animals roaming about in the street. And in that country, it is the source of their livelihood.

They export a whole lot of beef to European countries and yet they are not a nuisance to their country.

This feedlot idea is a perfect solution and that is why some of us went to Botswana.

We have been there in batches. Several batches of Nigerian livestock operators have been sent to that country.

And what we learnt there is that it is possible to keep these animals on locations.

Decide where you want to rear your animals, acquire your land and put the animals there.

These grasses they carry them around to graze on can be grown anywhere, and everywhere.

When it is raining season, the grass is plentifully and abundantly available by cutting the grass for the animals.

Around that time, it is usually in surplus.

In a civilized country like America, what is done in this season is by cutting the grasses which are be fermented for a period of time, and during the time of scarcity, these grasses are fed to the animals so that all-year round, if they decide that it is only grasses they want to feed their animals with.

These grasses will be available either in fresh forms, dry or silage form.

So it should not be a problem if people are truly ready or change.

What is feed lots all about?

Feedlots are all about making a simple shed for the animals, and going to feed them in that shed.

Then they are fed in that place and not necessarily taking them around to destroy farmlands.

One can call it ranching also, but in ordinary ranching, there might be need to graze in an enclosed place.

What is the important message you want to pass across to farmers and those who intend to go into farming business?

So we are saying that any interested farmer in any part of the country can raise and rear cattle.

What is the holistic approach the stakeholders and government is taking to tackle egg glut?

There are various way outs, but I will say that it’s not even a serious problem.

The period of this glut is for a given time in a year.

It is not more than two months. If there are 12 months in a year, and you have 10 months of good business, and the remaining 10 months is of dull sales, then what is the big deal about that?

But what makes it a big deal for egg farmers is that eggs are highly perishable.

We are doing everything possible to educate people to eat more eggs.

The medical slogan is to eat an egg a day, and any age of human can benefit from egg.

The stigma of cholesterol from egg has been proven wrong invalid.

What doctors want us to understand is that bad cholesterol overwhelms your good cholesterol.

But if you eat eggs regularly, you suppress the bad cholesterol in the blood.

Apart from this, confectionery companies do import egg powder in large quantity.

What is the industry doing to facilitate the establishment of egg powder industry to convert excess eggs into powder?

The fact is that the eggs we produce in this country are not enough for our populace to consume.

Now, if people say because they are having surplus eggs to be converted into many other forms, it could be pasteurized and kept for a long period of time.

It could also be converted into egg powder for confectioneries, but the process of that conversion is very expensive. Most farmers cannot afford that.

And I want to repeat again that the number of eggs produced in this country is few, and also to emphasise that we need to inform our people that they need to eat eggs.

What do you have to say to the fact that some people cannot afford eggs daily?

That is so unfortunate, and that is why the government needs to rise up about the food security we are talking about.

They need to encourage our farmers, and they should make it easy for them, particularly livestock farmers.

And as for other things, we can’t place all the responsibilities on the government but the government should also create conducive environment for people to be able to do whatever they want.


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