Challenges of school feeding, egg blueprints, others, by Tuns Farm founder
Chief Olatunde Badmus is a former National President Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), former Chairman of the Poultry Group of Manufacturers Association Nigeria (MAN), former Deputy National President of the All Farmers Apex Association and former Deputy President of all Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) as well as member of the Board of Trustees of Nigerian Machine Tools. The ‘Asiwaju Musulumi of Yorubaland is the founder and Managing Director of TUNS International Holdings, which comprises TUNS Farms Nigeria Limited and TUNS Foods in Osogbo, Osun State. In this exclusive with Head, Agro-Economy Desk, FEMI IBIROGBA, Chief Badmus explains how the school feeding scheme was modified and adapted in Osun, escalated to the national level and how the inherent potentialities can be fully realised for national development.
How did you come about playing a leading role in the school feeding programme of Osun State and by extension, of the Federal Government? What exactly are your roles in the feeding project?
The school feeding programme has been in existence since the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but it was not as organised as now. To be precise, it was the government of former Governor Rauf Aregbesola that actually modified it, and that is what everybody uses in the country as of today.
What Aregbesola did was to implement the scheme for classes one to three. He then encouraged yam, poultry and all crop producers in the state to supply the foodstuffs required in the school feeding.
I think he started with about 250 schools, from primary one to three. And he funded it for about three to five years before the Federal Government took over and adopted the method used today in the school feeding project.
It is whatever you produce in your locality that constitutes the menu for the pupils in the school feeding scheme. So, the feeding programme has been in existence since the days of Obasanjo, but it was not as pronounced as it is today.
How would you describe the Aregbesola’s model of the school feeding?
It was the scheme of the Federal Government, but he was more scientific with implementation. He was able to harness animal health professionals and he empowered women to participate in supplying, cooking, and the value chain employment was great.
How did it work?
It was a contributory arrangement. We had assets of about N4.5 billion, including a slaughter house of about 70,000 birds daily capacity. The conditions were that we should have a slaughter house and a stable market. We also had the technicalities.
Our arrangement was that we would give the farmers day-old chicks, the state government would provide feeds for the farmers to the point of slaughtering the birds. The Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Osun State chapter, would identify out-growers, supply vet drugs and vaccines. So initially the farmers would not pay a kobo. They would only have a farm to raise the broilers. And the technical team of the government, the PAN and Tuns Farms would assess the farms. After certifying the farms, we rolled out the programme.
So, the government deposited money for feeds with us to supply the feeds to the farmers. At the end of the cycles of six to eight weeks, we bought the birds back. The farmers had a guaranteed market. We also guaranteed the market. Our role there was about 80 per cent.
Was the arrangement successful?
Yes. It was successful. It went on for about four years, and we were able to pay about N680 million as profit to farmers in the chicken production scheme.
Is the model replicated in the current school feeding project?
Nigeria is a competitive market. You get into a stage where everybody looks for an excuse. Farmers were influenced by those who wanted to use the same model to assess money from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), whereas, they were not originators of the model. So, that has been the challenge.
At the beginning of the scheme, it worked well but it could not work well towards the end. It was supposed to be in a cycle of four years. When we wanted to start the second cycle, the government said it wanted to modify the programme.
It was that modification that actually made us stay on our own. We said any farmer that was interested would come to us and whoever wanted should join the government. The government introduced some other players and some conditions which were not part of the initial arrangement that made it successful.
Are you also involved in the Federal Government’s feeding scheme now?
It was that model that made the Federal Government to appoint us as a consultant to manage what the government wanted. They now want to add eggs to the chicken in the feeding scheme. Eggs that were being produced were not enough and could not go round the geopolitical zones. The Federal Government wants egg production for school feeding schemes in every locality, and based on our experience and exposure, we were engaged and given a letter as a consultant and programme manager to coordinate production of 50 million eggs every day across the country.
Is the Federal Government’s programme currently working as planned?
The programme is meant to work, but when it comes to the federal level, it is another ball game entirely because of the complexities and so many players that have to be taken into account.
A pilot project was meant to be done in six states, each for the six zones. We have identified the cities, farmers and other things we have to do, but the issue now is between the CBN and the Bank of Agriculture. The CBN has returned funds we invested in some states for the project. But the government has not called us to move forward now.
At the federal level, that of the egg production for the school feeding scheme has not been effective?
What about the chicken production for school feeding scheme? Are you still doing it?
Yes. It is still going on. For broiler chicken production, it is restricted to Osun and Ondo states. We are still doing for Osun State. The one in Ondo State has been decentralised. We have slaughtering and processing facilities here. In Ondo, there is one and they can take the broilers from anywhere.
What actually happens is that we are very careful with what has to do with what school children will eat. The international standards of processing them must be followed, which we are not ready to compromise. To extend it to any other area or place where we do not have control over the facilities cannot guarantee our standards.
The broiler chicken processing is always good in places where slaughtering and processing facilities are available. Do not forget that in the school feeding programme, you have to move the products to all the local government areas in the state. If you slaughter in Osogbo, for instance, you have to keep the chicken under a condition that will ensure the delivery is up to international standards so that the chickens will not be contaminated.
At the national level, what is the state of the school feeding programme now and what are the challenges and how the government can do it better?
I am not in a position to answer that question, but to me, that programme has encouraged enrollment of more pupils into schools. For example, it encouraged the enrollment of almajiris into schools. It allows many children to go back to school. It allows many pupils to leave Islamic schools for conventional ones.
The other thing that might happen if they could do more by extending it to Arabic schools is that, perhaps, it will reduce the almajiris in the streets, because the almajiris in the street go out purely to work for the owners of the schools by begging for alms and return them to the owners. That is another special intervention. But we have not been able to face realities, saying Almajiri is purely a problem of in the north.
How will a Nigerian in the south, west or east say what affects the people in the north should not be given a priority attention. Crimes have no boundary.
Some critics have also advocated inclusion of primary one to three students in private schools in the feeding programme. How do you view this?
I do not think those advocating that are serious because private schools are mainly for business.
The argument is that the feeding would be for pupils who are Nigerians, not the school owners?
Well, the little fund available to the government should not be used for private schools. No. They are charging exorbitant amounts. Parents are already paying for that.
Mostly, parents pay for tuition, not feeding?
Do not let us deceive one another, the fees parents are paying in private schools are high. But the public schools have better trained teachers more than the private. Do a survey on this at the private primary schools, you will see a lot of school leavers there, who cannot be engaged in public schools. What the public school is lacking is management. Public schools lack ability to coordinate and run them like a business.
For the feeding school programme to be extended to all states and to become successful, what do you recommend sir?
The school feeding is already successful, but what I am recommending is that there must be a way, because the population explosion in the north is high, we must face the problems as one country and forget the divisions of being north, south or west.
Maybe some of these people talking do not move out of their environments and see other peoples’ challenges. We are advanced here. We are better off here.
But some arguments are that northern state governments had been receiving resources for development but perhaps mismanagement of funds prevents education socio-economic development. What do you think?
Mismanagement is everywhere. It is in all the zones. The difference is that here in the southwest, maybe because of the administration of Chief Obafemi Awolowo that made education earlier, you can criticise the system, your brothers and policies. Everybody has an opinion. You can challenge anybody and question a system. It is not like that in every part of the country.
So, you agree that system failures and cultural issues have contributed to these crises in the north?
You see, we are also cultural, but a bit gone beyond. They have not gone beyond certain limits. As you are now, your small child can question your actions. And in Europe and America, you dare not beat your child. If you do, he or she may call the police.
On the RUGA settlement crisis and its suspension, what do you suggest as the way out of farmer/herder clashes in the country?
I will say those who did not want RUGA should give us the alternative way. They are in a better position to give alternatives.
You see, some of these people that said they don’t want RUGA or that have no farm. They are not affected. Tell me any of them that has a farm and who is a victim of the crisis.
Chief Olu Falae was a victim?
Have you heard any statement from him? Those who are talking do not have a farm. Who is paying Falae compensation over the invaded farm? Nobody. He knows what he lost. Those who are kicking against it do not have a farm. They do not know the implication of what they are talking about.
Go to farmers that are affected daily, these people are suffering in silence. We know some people in the southwest here who are suffering in silence. Herders go to my farm and eat the crops. And the government wants to keep them somewhere, and it is not compulsory. They said if you want it, apply.
You journalists have to go to the root of the matter before you critise and give highlights to those who are farmers.
Go to Kano and Kaduna States today, the Igbos and Yorubas are many there. Go to Lagos, there are certain areas that if you say you are a Yoruba, you may not win an election. We are all Nigerians. These people are talking old styles that RUGA would make Fulanis take over the neithgbourhoods.
RUGA settlement is meant for everybody. You can go there and apply. I have about 80 cattle as I am talking now. If I want to be part of RUGA, I can own my farm there. What we should encourage our people to do is that our indigenes should own the settlement. The Federal Government will set it up, but they would not ask mallams to occupy it.
The rate of youth and graduate unemployment is very high in Nigeria. Can agriculture help reduce the rate and how can it be used?
You will agree with me that as of today, agriculture still employs about 50 per cent of the total workforce in Nigeria.
We earlier mentioned the out-grower scheme, which the Federal Government is also doing. The scheme is a way of creating jobs. The only thing now is that there must be cooperation between the ministry of agriculture and the off-takers. Before you go into an out-grower arrangement with the CBN, there must be an off-taker.
In the chicken out-grower scheme in Osun, we were the off-taker. Why we could not go into the second phase was that middlemen wanted to play that role. And is better for us to stand by what we know was successful to avoid chances of failure.
That was why we could not continue with the out-grower arrangement.
So, what CBN is doing now is encouraging the youths and there is a need for them to go into other areas and other stakeholders to be part of their team.
Egg gluts have been recurrent in the country. Do you buy the idea of having egg powder machines in Nigeria?
Maybe we will share with you a copy of the MoU we signed with the government on the National Egg Production Plan. It will give you an idea of the plan. The first stage is production. The second stage is egg powder machine and processing, because we have identified so many companies need a lot of egg powder.
There is a plan for those things, but what is delaying it is implementation, because something that would cost N12 billion was reduced to about N2 billion and only about N100 million was released so far. The other has not been released. That would have sorted out the challenge of egg glut.
I won’t say the CBN does not have the money, but there are certain conditions that other parties must meet. So, that is not a newspaper matter. The government is aware, and it has committed itself to it. But the hurdles have not been sorted out.