BY REMILEKUN DARAMOLA in Maiduguri•
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has indicated interest to boost Nigeria’s livestock and diary industry.
The United Nations agency and the Norwegian government is currently working in the North East to restock lost livestock due to the decade old Boko Haram crisis.
It would be recalled that in the wake of the insurgency in the northeast, animal ownership has declined, especially in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, the three states most affected by the Boko Haram crisis.
Experts have attributed the reductions to various factors, including a loss due to market disruptions, the sale of assets caused by insecurity, as well as property destruction wrought by armed groups.
To examine the dairy production challenges and opportunities in northeast Nigeria, FAO held a one-day workshop in Maiduguri on Tuesday, where dairy industry stakeholders across the region, including representatives from government ministries, breeder associations, the private sector and academia were brought together with the task of getting an overview of dairy production situation in the north-eastern states, assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to dairy production systems and to map out potential areas of livelihood interventions and recommend key activities.
During a series of presentations, participants noted the great potential for improved dairy production as a means of poverty reduction due to pastoralists’ familiarity with dairy, the huge resource of animals, strong internal demand and the dairy industry’s traditional inclusion of women.
The bottlenecks to the growth of the industry were identified as the lack of quality animal feed (cultivated pasture or rangelands) and poor milk yield due to poor local breed’s genetics and short lactation periods.
Poor dairy management, low availability and access to animal health services and weak dairy marketing systems were also identified as major gaps.
In order to combat these issues, experts called for animal feed and water provisions, as well as animal health support to smallholder dairy producers, particularly resource-poor pastoralists.
They also recommended increased training and capacity development in areas such as post-harvest management and the marketing of milk among smallholder dairy producers and their associations.
Speaking to journalists at the workshop, the Project Coordinator of FAO in Borno State, Hassan Ali said Nigeria was on the right path to trapping the full potential in her dairy and livestock industry with the writing of Nigeria Livestock Transformation Policy.
He said every stakeholder in the industry can fit into it for optimal performance.
He lamented that the level of diary production across the African continent has not been up to that of western world.
Ali said: “If you go to Africa countries, we are not reaching that level, we are still importing milk. We have to bring communities to understand the complexity of the diary production.
“We have to create the awareness of the people. We have to bring all the stakeholders together to understand the situation and to share responsibilities.
“Each of us has to contribute to the production system, it cannot work if everything is left in the hands of government agencies. All responsible organisations have to be part of the process.”