Relevant agricultural and media professionals on Tuesday and Wednesday met in Abuja to discuss the roles of farmers, academia and the media in achieving sustainable animal feed production and food security in Nigeria.
The experts spoke at the second edition of the National Animal Feed Summit organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and other relevant partners including the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), its sister organisation, PREMIUM TIMES, and Sahel Consulting Agriculture and Nutrition Limited in Abuja.
This year’s summit, themed “Harnessing Alternative Feed Resources for Sustainable Animal Feed ”, brought together several relevant agriculture experts from the private and public sectors, feed millers (toll, commercial and on-farm), media experts and academia in an effort to chart the way forward for the development of Nigeria’s feed sector and agricultural value chains at large.
During the first panel session of the event moderated by a project officer at Sahel Consulting, Hammed Jimoh, on Wednesday, the panellists discussed the theme “Achieving feed and food security in Nigeria through the commercialisation of alternative feed utilisation”.
One of the discussants, Mope Omotosho, a registered animal scientist, said several sustainable agricultural practices are available but that the farmers are not aware of such initiatives.
“We need extension services to achieve this,” she said.
She noted that by the time Nigeria starts compounding or processing feed for animals, the nation would be in trouble because it is not harnessing its potential effectively.
Mrs Omotosho explained that in the feed milling industry, the major crops being used are maize and Soya beans and the nation needs to improve its production level.
While making her presentation on the “Prospects of Alternative Feed Resources Utilisation (Insect)”, Cordelia Ebenebe, a professor of Animal Science at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, said insects are essential components in the production of highly nutritious animal feeds.
She said insects have the potential to meet the animal protein needs of feed milling and poultry industries.
Speaking on insect availability, Mrs Ebenebe described insects as ubiquitous, adding that they have adapted to many environments and that they have a high rate of multiplication making them available at all times except for seasonal ones.
Mrs Ebenebe said the more reason why farmers should use insect meals is that they contain bioactive substances such as antimicrobial peptides, antioxidants, immune system stimulation and microbiota modulation.
With these bioactive substances in livestock feeds, she said, it will help develop the immune system of the livestock, preventing the animals from falling sick.
In his presentation, Yarama Ndirpaya, director of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, said Nigeria is facing a feed and food security crisis that is compounded by the COVID-19 global pandemic and its effects on the food value chain in the country.
He added that the pandemic, insecurity, climate change and post-harvest losses, among others, have significantly disrupted already fragile value chains across the country, including people’s ability to produce, process, and distribute food.
Mr Ndirpaya said Nigeria’s animal feed sector remains underdeveloped, largely due to high production costs.
“70 per cent of the operational costs of most poultry, aquaculture and other livestock operations go to feed,” he said, adding that “climate change has affected human lives and has changed the world.”
On his part, Adekeye Adetayo, a crop pasture expert, said in an attempt to feed animals, experts must not create another problem for the environment.
He said degraded lands can be converted into pasture cultivation in an effort to curb climate change.
In a swift intervention, Mrs Ebenebe said the integrated farming system is the right way to go in order to curb the emission of greenhouse gases as a result of agricultural activities in the environment.
Speaking on the roles of the media, PREMIUM TIMES Managing Editor, Idris Akinbajo, lamented that there is no proper synergy among government agencies to ensure that people don’t suffer the way they did during the last flooding in many Nigerian communities.
However, Mr Akinbajo noted that the media is really trying to deepen climate change and food security reporting in the country.
“The media does not change society. The media will report, the media will investigate but it is the responsibility of the citizens to hold their government officials more accountable as much as possible,” he noted.
On agricultural policies like the Anchor Borrowers Program launched in 2015, Mr Akinbajo said the problem of the programme was the lack of transparency.
He said due to a lack of transparency, many of such programmes failed.
“If you want success for the agriculture sector, ensure transparency,” he added.
He explained that factors such as desertification and insecurity are also some of the challenges that affected some of the enrollees of the ABP from paying back their loans.
“In the Ministry of Agriculture, it is so difficult to get details of who is benefitting from what,” he said.
In his remarks, CJID’s Executive Director, Tobi Oluwatola, said it is important to ask ourselves the question of what we need to do to improve the agricultural business environment.
He queried how much of the money budgeted for farmers in the country truly gets to the farmers.
“It is important that relevant individuals within the agriculture space should collaborate with the media to keep the government accountable,” he said
Mr Oluwatola said: “We all need to work together to make sure that we can track how agriculture funds in the country are being utilised.”
Speaking on the impact of the cash crunch on farmers, one of the discussants, Ogechi Okebugwu, programme director of Small Scale Women Farmers Association of Nigeria (SWOFON), said the naira scarcity period was a challenging time for farmers.
She said most of them (farmers) didn’t have cash and recorded no sales.
“They were giving out ( selling off) their goods at cheaper prices,” she added.
She said during the International Women’s Day celebrations, they collaborated with other partners in Abuja to visit rural communities to educate women on the need to open accounts so that they can have alternatives.
In his presentation, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Modern Agricultural and Allied Practices, Hakeem Ajeigbe, urged farmers to increase dry season cultivation of grains including legumes for food, feed and crop residue.
He said long-duration photosensitive cereals are essential for high biomass production (silage/hay) in feed production.
On his part, the President of the Potato Farmers Association, Daniel Okafor, during his presentation on potatoes as an alternative feed for livestock, urged researchers to train farmers to know more about extension services.
Mr Okafor said farmers need more irrigation and water pumps to be able to produce more feed for both humans and livestock sustainably.
Speaking on quality assurance, Mrs Omotosho said those who are into feed milling should have their protocol for receiving their materials. They should have facilities for testing the materials they are receiving, she said.
She noted that the nation needs a feed central laboratory in Nigeria with properly calibrated equipment for feed millers.
In his intervention, Mr Adetayo said there is a need to do more surveys to add more feed resources to existing data banks.
Speaking on the regulatory framework for supporting the utilisation of innovative technology for feed production, Godwin Oyediji, the founder of Animal Science Association of Nigeria, said the nation needs regulation to support the upstream industry in Nigeria.
He said Nigeria has so many regulations and that in any standard regulation, there is a need for proper consensus.
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