In Nigeria, livestock production is considered the second largest agricultural sub-sector and reportedly contributes 5% of the agricultural GDP. It is considered a “safety net” that helps rural households cushion the shocks they face as small-scale crop producers. Despite its importance to rural smallholders, the livestock sector has remained underdeveloped, with a myriad of factors impacting the productivity of smallholders, and by extension, food security. Livestock plays a significant socio-economic role in the rural economy. 85% of rural households keep poultry and 81% of them keep small ruminants. In the Northeast, the average flock size is 6 small ruminants, 6 birds, and one large ruminant per household. Rural smallholders who make up 80% of the Nigerian farming population and they rely on their livestock for nutrition and a vital asset traded during the lean farming periods, used to secure agricultural inputs for their farms, and to meet their everyday needs including medical emergencies. Livestock is particularly important to women – most backyard production is managed by women; it requires minimal inputs (time and capital), and as such does not increase the time poverty women already suffer. It offers ready cash to meet up with their obligations to the household and women whose mobility is constrained by socio-cultural and religious factors can run their livestock enterprise from home.
Beyond the individual benefit smallholders derive from livestock production at the household level, its contribution to food security cannot be undermined. With factors like the ban on the importation of poultry products, the growing middle class, and dependence on livestock as a source of protein, the demand for livestock is expected to grow, and the FAO predicts that by 2030 , the consumption of animal protein will increase by 73%: demand for small ruminants and poultry alone is expected to increase by about 215% of its current value and supply lagging at 159%. Demand for animal protein is high in both the local and global market and it has become essential that actors in the livestock sector maximize the enormous opportunity by increasing their production capacity to meet this demand.
As a development consulting organization, Ikore is promoting food security by deploying strategies that help farmers produce more and guarantee a profit on a commercial scale in the Northeast, particularly in the BAY-G states (Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe). Three of our contributions to food security are explained in subsequent paragraphs.
Facilitating access to input: We work with producers and input dealers to manage challenges around infrastructure and logistics making production inputs available by establishing retail stores closer to the end-users, in this case – smallholder livestock farmers. Based on a business understanding, we provide a channel for guaranteed offtake of products from manufacturers at subsidized rates and agreed instalments. Through this arrangement, there is consistent access to production input such as feed, drugs and vaccines for smallholders.
Providing business capital through in-kind financing: Ikore through its business initiative tagged; Investing in Impact (Triple-I) engages farmers in livestock (poultry and small ruminants) production. Careful profiling and selection are done for interested farmers using predefined criteria. The selected farmers, having met these criteria are trained in profitable poultry production and small ruminants’ fattening, then provided with needed input to complete two production cycles with each cycle lasting for up to 2 months. On completing the production cycle, they are supported to generate demand for sales of the matured livestock.
Facilitating access to animal healthcare and advisory services: Community animal health workers have been identified as viable actors in the livestock value chain. To enhance production, we leverage a network of our trained CAHW across the Northeast to bridge the gap in rural veterinary service delivery and provision of advisory services, with a direct impact on livestock productivity, farmers’ livelihoods, and livestock security. Using the CAHW model, the market for animal health services drives itself as farmers continue to seek protection for their animals which in turn encourages them to produce more. In a bid to ensure that the works of the CAHWs are promoted among the farmer population in these locations, Ikore also invests in organizing activation events for the CAHW network. Typically, an activation event involves mobilizing smallholder farmers in an entire community to share knowledge about animal health, business management, good management practices, and sessions involving vaccination, purchase of products, consultancy etc. This strategy over the years has greatly improved the care-seeking behavior of farmers.
Summarily, Ikore continues to seek creative ways to scale its existing livestock production drives and generate evidence for the sustainability of new concepts to promote food security through livestock production in Nigeria.