Re-imaging Pastoralism and Livestock Development in Nigeria -By Mohammed Bello Tukur

Filed under: Agriculture |
Mohammed Bello Tukur

Mohammed Bello Tukur


Nigeria’s has a population of more than 160 million according 2014 estimates. This large population provides a great potential for harnessing its agricultural potentials especially the livestock sector to meet growing demands in meat and dairy consumption. Meat, apart meeting our protein needs and preserving our eco-system “meat in soup” has become integral component of our menus. And “no meat” meal is usually looked down.

In festivals and ceremonies, meat is a near obligation. There is a saying in Africa that “You can’t have a feast without meat”. Of all the meat consumed, beef and mutton, rank highest followed by others like poultry and fish. Then pork and of recent, donkeys, horses, rabbits, grass-cutters, dogs, monkeys had all joined the meal menu in Nigeria and other African countries. In almost all urban social settings no relaxation spot is complete without the Suya man, pepper soup and roasted fish. Apart from meat, the growing urban populations have high demand for milk, cheese and other dairy products.

Against the above background, it has become imperative if not urgent, for Nigeria to harness its livestock potentials to meet growing demands. Trade in livestock and allied products runs into billions of naira yearly, with millions of people ranging from Transporters, “Checkpointers”, Marketers, Butchers and Meat sellers benefiting from Livestock production mostly done by Pastoralists and Rural Farmers.

Though the livestock sector had over years continued to provide sustainable livelihoods, nutrition and food security, create jobs, generate incomes, create wealth, trade vocations, and had served as a basis for social relations and empire building, it has suffered much neglect with crop-biased policies by successive Governments. This has made Nigeria a net importer of livestock from West and Central African countries.

Livestock imports and trade though regulated is loose due to our porous borders and unregulated international transhumance. Our ports, health and quarantine officials had continued to intercept illegal poultry imports on almost daily basis. This has attendant risk factors like the spread of trans-border animal diseases and threat to human health. Apart from this unregulated transhumance had increased competition and conflicts with Nigerian pastoralists and host communities due variance in climatic and cultivation patterns.

Nigeria’s as stated earlier has huge livestock population. In 2003, the Presidential Committee on Livestock Development estimate Nigeria’s livestock population to about 15 million cattle, 28.69 million sheep, 45.26 million goats, 5.25 pigs with more than 1 million traction animals like horses, camels, donkeys. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2014, estimate that Nigeria has a livestock population of about 19 million cattle, 38 million sheep and 67 million goats. The discordant figures are indicative lack of good data in the sector which hampers proper planning. The last livestock census in Nigeria was conducted more than 22 years ago.

Despite the rising demand for meat and other livestock by-products, a combination of several factors had militated against the wholesome development of the sector since the early 1970s. These factors include crop-biased policies, conflicts with crop producers, livestock diseases, poor veterinary service delivery and input supply, and of recent cattle rustling and theft. Further poor production methods, poor infrastructural development, poor regulatory frameworks, lack of financial and risk management support all militate against the development of the sector.

The Livestock sector had not lacked interventions both at the continental, regional and national levels. How effective they had been is yet to be felt. The Africa Union (AU) Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) has made livestock development a key component of its development programme so also the AU Africa Policy Framework for Pastoralism. The ECOWAS Agriculture Policy (ECOWAP) also has a Strategy for the Development and Transformation of the Livestock Sector as component. The National and Regional Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIP/RAIP) all have livestock development components that have yielded much result.

Now is seems interventions by International Financial and Development partners have moved from neglects to exclusion of Nigeria. The recent regional action plan worth $248 Million US dollars to promote pastoralism and livestock production in the Sahel put by the World Bank, FAO and ECOWAS does not include Nigeria. The programme is called PRAPS in its French acronym and targets Six Sahel-Francophone countries; Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Mauretania. Converse to the PRAPS project, the World Bank is developing an action plan to promote trade in Livestock and Meat in West and Central Africa that includes Nigeria. In effect Nigeria is targeted as a huge off-loading market ground for other countries livestock products whilst its producers are ignored and don’t benefit much from home policies.

The prohibition of international importation of beef by Nigeria and the recent exclusion of “meat and processed meat products” from obtaining Foreign Exchange (FOREX) by the Central Bank of Nigeria will not help Nigerian Livestock producers much. It will rather spur the economies of neighbouring countries in view of the ambitious interventions mentioned earlier. For the dairy sector, there seems to be no meaning support to promote or protect it. Nigeria has become a huge dumping ground for powdered from Europe, Asia and South America.

The Nigeria National Agricultural Investment Plan has five strategic programmes (NNAIP), taking cognizance of the regional and continental plans has put programs to push agricultural development (including the livestock) forward. These include the Developing Agriculture Policy and Regulatory Systems (DAPRS); Food Systems Network (FOODSNet), Rural Sector Enhancement Program (RUSEP), Agriculture Commodity Exchange Market (ACCOMEX), Raising Agriculture Income and Sustainable Environment (RAISE), Maximizing Agriculture Revenue in Key Enterprises (MARKETS), and the Water, Aquaculture and Environmental Resource Management (WAERM). Excellent policies, but not felt by rural farmers and Pastoralists.

It is not all so gloomy. There is a ray of hope. The recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to come up with comprehensive livestock plan and take steps to curb farmer-pastoralists conflicts has rekindled hope that we will see actions that will overcome the challenges of livestock production and plight of producers.

It is the hope and prayer of Livestock producers especially Pastoralist that under President Buhari livestock production will fare well not necessarily for his Pastoralist’s background but for the reason the President comes from Daura, a Semi-Sahelian city at the heart of the livestock production belt affected by decrease in pasture and water, forcing Pastoralists to migrate southwards. The President had also chaired a multi-sectoral Pastoralists Development Organization that had worked to develop the sector. The President is also the World Bank/ECOWAS Focal Head of Government to promote trade in Livestock and Milk in West Africa. The President was Chairman of the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), which came up with a good action plan to develop the livestock sector.

The FMARD committee had just submitted its report and recommendations to Government. Part of what it did was to review all past reports, policies and interventions like the First Livestock Development Programme, the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) Livestock Development Programme, Report of the Presidential Committee on Livestock Development in Nigeria; 2003, the Recommendations of Governor Suswam on Developing Grazing Reserves and Report of the International Conference on Development and Security Challenges of Pastoralism in West and Central Africa organized by the Office of the National Security Adviser. It also came up with short, medium and long term strategies to curb farmer-pastoralist conflicts and develop grazing reserves and stock routes.

Whilst anticipating the implementation of the committee’s report, from a producer’s perspective there is need to point out to government that the development of the livestock should move beyond the template of grazing reserves and stock routes only. This is not to under-estimate the importance of grazing reserves and stock routes. There is need for actions that will spur the entire growth of the sector and improve the lives of producers and others along the value chains.

Livestock Producer Organizations and Pastoralists Non Governmental Organizations need to re-energize and build strong base to enable them lobby and push government to develop the livestock sector. As it is today most of the organizations are too engrossed in conflict-related issues for them to lobby a shift in government and development partner initiatives to enhance production. There is need for capacity building and training of members of these organizations for them to have sustained high level engagement with policy makers and decision takers both within the executive and legislative arms of government. ECOWAS had created a good platform for active engagement with livestock producer organizations in West Africa, but the impact of the engagement on development in Nigeria is not felt.

Connecting research to development and growth is extremely important. There are thousands of literature and field works done by Universities and Research Institutes that had not impacted positively on the development of the sector. Livestock production also needs a multi-sectoral approach beyond the Ministries of Agriculture. Ministries and Agencies like the Ministries of Water Resources, Environment, Education, Foreign Affairs, Science and Technology, Internal Affairs, Boundaries Commission, Information, Metallurgical Institutes and Security agencies are all key stakeholders in finding solutions challenges to Pastoralists production issues.

The development and security challenges of livestock are well documented in the policy documents and regulatory frameworks. Solutions had always been prescribed but they tend to end up on shelves. Here comes the need for robust advocacy by Pastoralist organizations. They need to build synergies with Farmer Organizations and Good Governance Civil Society Organizations to ensure challenges of the sector and rural populations and economic actors are addressed. Today is the turning point. We need to take advantage of the moment to push the livestock agenda to the front burner of national discourse and tap on the huge potentials.

Mohammed Bello Tukur is the Acting Secretary General of a Pan African Pastoralists Organization; the Confederation of Traditional Livestock Breeders Organization (CORET). He was Secretary of the NSA Committee on Pastoralism and Insecurity, and Member; Federal Government Committee on Livestock, Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes Development. He writes from Abuja-Nigeria.