Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Did you know?

I recently watched a documentary and learned that cattle is imported into Nigeria. Yes, rice is imported but cows? It was so unbelievable that I googled it and to my surprise about 30 percent of the cattle in Nigeria was imported from Chad, Niger and even New Jersey. I learned that the last time a census of our cattle population was taken was in 1992 and there was about 13.9 million cattle in Nigeria. Let us assume the cow population increased by 100% every 10 years, we should have about 56 million cows and if we subtract the 5.7 million cattle that was lost in 2012 due to the floods, there should be about 50 million cows. Yet, we do not have enough cows for consumption, reproduction and export.
Why should we care that we import cattle? First, considering the abundance of land in the North and that rearing is a prized institution there, is it not sad that we are not able to  enough provide cows for domestic consumption? Second,importing cows is another example of Nigeria's food security gap and our security challenge. Third, we are still a subsistence  economy where people who live under $2 a day cannot afford to consume beef, what would happen when we get to the Canaan we crave? All we produce apart from oil is for consumption. Is it not time we create an enabling environment for mechanized farming that would increase outputs?
Why do we import cows? We import cows because we do not have enough cows to meet demands. and the available cows are insufficient because:

  • Cattle rearers lack current rearing and cross breeding skills to reproduce healthy cows. Cross breeding is important because irresponsible cross breeding leads to losses of cattle.  For instance, cross breeding of two incompatible cattle breeds produces a weaker cow that would not survive. The solution to this is to teach cattle rearers how to breed cows
  • There is inadequate health care for cattle. According to government sources, inadequate access to vaccinations has caused the death of cattle
  • The culture of grazing, movements and accidents also lead to stock depletion.

My two cents is to start rebuilding our agriculture base by creating interest in all forms of farming- both crop and livestock. A cow is a gift that keeps giving. A cow gives beef, horns (for art), hide (for leather), manure (for energy and fertilizer), the intestines and blood (as food for  humans and other animals) and milk. An industry can be developed around cows.
State governments can partner with interested farmers and transform villages and towns into farming centers. Kwara State has a project along that line but willingness to follow through is hampering its success. Alternatively, governments can invest directly in agriculture by upskilling villagers in new farming methods (on planting/rearing, harvesting/ caring and storing) and provide tools for their use.
Financial Institutions also play pivotal roles in promoting agriculture. One factor hindering the growth of SMEs and by extention agriculture and the economy is high lending rates. The current rates of 25% and above is untenable for anyone who wants to run a business, let alone a group of rearers who might want to start a ranch.
We import a lot of items. Cows should not be one of them.


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