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‘Stop open grazing, enforce private ranching to end herder-farmer crises’

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Dr Olufunmilayo Olujinmi is the provost of Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology (FCAH&PT), Ibadan. She spoke with Head of Agro-Economy Desk, FEMI IBIROGBA, on how to make agriculture attractive to the youth; ways to stop or minimise smuggling of poultry products into the country and what the government could do to end clashes of herders and farmers. Excerpts:

How can the government make agribusiness attractive to graduates and youths?
The government can make agriculture attractive to graduates and youths by imparting the youths and young graduates in agricultural businesses via vocational training and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). However, I wish to emphasise that there should be ready farm settlements with infrastructural facilities like housing, potable water, stable electricity, good road networks and supermarkets for the young would-be-farmers. The settlements should house both crop and livestock farmers. Therefore, integrated farming system would also be enhanced.

Also, the government should endeavour to provide expanse of land for interested young farmers. Many people have interest in farming but they could not access enough land. Tractors, planters and harvesters should be provided to be hired out at subsidised rates too.

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The government should put in place adequate measures to ensure that only the interested young graduates who are ready to go into farming are empowered financially and assisted with necessary agricultural farm inputs and machinery.

Farmer/herder crises have led to losses and have affected farming in some states. What are better ways of tackling the crises?
One of the ways is by promoting interaction, interpersonal relationship between farmers and herders by organising different forms of seminars, symposia, workshop for farmers and herders. These would bring farmers and herders together and each party would be given the opportunity to make contributions in terms of their opinions and perceptions.Another way is that a need-assessment survey should be conducted for both farmers and herders with the aim of implementing the results. This would serve as a long-term measure to solve this problem.

The third way, I think, is that open grazing should be discouraged, and if possible, banned. However, herders should be given adequate training on ways to feed their animals by establishing a ranches, use of crop by-products for feeding the cattle and feed lots.Finally, the old National Grazing Reserves should be revived and equipped to meet the needs of the herders.

Poultry farmers have always lamented high cost of production. As a professional, how can cost of production in poultry sector be minimised?
Cost of poultry production can be minimised when cost of feeds is reduced and this can be achieved when there are substitutes for major feeds ingredients like maize, soybean cake and fish meal, such that the substitutes to be used would give the same or near results with the main ingredients. I said the cost of production can only be reduced when cost of feeds is reduced because feed takes 70 per cent of the cost of production.

Poultry smuggling is also very high despite the available resources to maximise production. What is wrong and how can this trend be stopped?
First, reducing the price of locally produced poultry products through subsidized feed ingredients would discourage importers of poultry products because once the local products are cheaper than the imported ones, the consumers would be discouraged from buying the imported ones.

Secondly, the sad thing here is that the government is yet to affirm its stand legally on penalties for the smugglers. Specific penalties in forms of corporal punishments that would deal with smugglers must be put in place and enforced. When this is done, perhaps, this could solve the problem.

Also, poultry products smuggling could be stopped by creating awareness for consumers on health implications of consuming these imported products; encouraging people to raise poultry even at small-scale or backyard levels; vocational training for the various groups of people such as retirees, youths, and farmers through empowerment programmes. I believe with these and some other measures put in place, poultry smuggling would stop.

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The college has been in the forefront of animal health research and training. What are the major research breakthroughs it has pioneered?
The college is blessed with lots of seasoned researchers who are constantly conducting researches on indigenous livestock both within and outside Nigeria. For instance, one of our researchers is working on improvement of our local chicken (Yoruba Ecotype Chicken) for heat tolerance. When this is completed, our local chickens will no longer suffer from heat stress by introducing such to farmers by our agricultural extension personnel.

Also, about two years ago, one of our researchers was at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya on ABCF Fellowship where he successfully worked on Phylogenetic relationship of our local breeds of sheep in Nigeria (Uda, Balami, WAD ad Yankasa) and he was able to trace their lineage from Asia. In 1995, one of the technologists in the college produced Alternating and Direct current-operated Electro-ejaculator for animal breeders (an artificial insemination device) and electrical resistance of vaginal mucus using Direct Current Tused for pregnancy test in dogs. A whole lots of other research works are still in the pipeline.

As the provost of the college, how would you rate your graduates’ performance/competence in the field of agriculture, especially in their contributions towards boosting diary production, animal health and livestock production?
Our students are appointable both locally and internationally. Many of them are farm managers and sales representatives in animal drug and feed companies. Many of them also further their education by going to the universities to study Animal Science, Veterinary Medicine and other courses. They always perform brilliantly because of the good foundation they had in our college. Quite a number of them are professors in the universities and heads of corporate bodies today.

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Olufunmilayo Olujinmi
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