As Federal Government’s emergency on food security continues to gain traction, experts in animal science have warned that climate change is posing a great challenge to the country’s agricultural yield.
Speaking at the 12th Animal Science Association of Nigeria, ASAN, and the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science, NIAS, Joint Annual Meeting and 28th ASAN Conference on Tuesday in Abuja, they called for the adoption of “climate smart agriculture” to meet the country’s demand for food and animal protein.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Aliyu Sabi Abdulahi, in his remarks, noted that Northern Nigeria is hounded by desert encroachment on once arable land, while Southern Nigeria is pounded by the rising tide of coastal flooding and erosion.
Abdullahi added that the country must come to grips with not only mitigating climate change but raising its level of preparedness by putting in place policies and strategies that support climate smart agriculture.
He said for Nigerians to have access to balanced and wholesome diet, the livestock sub-sector of the economy must be made viable enough not only to provide affordable source of protein but create employment and earn foreign exchange for Nigeria.
“This is the essence of State of Emergency on Food Security as declared by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR on 13th July 2023,” he said.
The minster stated that his ministry is “relying on the strong political will of Mr. President recognizes the significance and strategic importance of the livestock sub-sector in Nigeria’s quest for sustainable economic development, and has made it a priority sector in its economic development plans and programmes.”
According to him, the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, meticulously being implemented by the ministry is a testament to the commitment of the present administration to create a robust, vibrant and competitive livestock sector capable of meeting the national demand for animal protein and place Nigeria among top players in the global livestock economy.
Also speaking, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Abdullah Ganduje, said the Federal Government is genuinely concerned about the country’s food insecurity situation and is doing everything possible to ensure that all Nigerians have access to affordable and nutritious food on a sustainable basis.
Ganduje, who was also honoured with an award by ASAN and NIAS, stated that the time has come when all critical stakeholders in the sector must join hands and close ranks to think out how animal husbandry can achieve a quantum lift.
While stressing the importance of agriculture in providing livelihood for citizens, he noted that “the livestock sector contributes nearly 40% of total agricultural output in developed countries and 20% in developing ones, supporting the livelihood of at least 1.3 billion people worldwide.”
He further stated that “the Nigerian livestock sub-sector is very vital to the socioeconomic development of the country and it represents an important source of high-quality animal protein, contributing 36.5 per cent of the total protein intake of Nigerians.
“It also generates employment, income, and earns foreign exchange for the country. The livestock sub sector in 2022 was estimated to contribute about 17 per cent of the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 5.0 per cent of the national GDP,” he said.
According to him, “globally, around 500 million pastoralists rely on livestock herding for food, income, and as a store of wealth, collateral or safety net in times of need. Locally, livestock production systems have the potential to contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and to carbon sequestration in soils and biomass.”
He further noted that there is increasing global awareness about climate change and studies indicating that livestock is one of the contributors to greenhouse gases, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity.
He therefore called for concerted efforts to “be aimed at developing and or ensuring the sustainability of livestock systems that deliver economic and ecosystems services, without compromising the future integrity, health, and welfare of the environment, humans, and animals.”
The former governor warned that “inadequately managed livestock production systems may cause negative environmental consequences such as excessive runoff of nutrients associated with intensive high input systems, overgrazing, as well as soil and rangeland degradation in extensive systems, including negative human health outcomes.”
He stated that the livestock sector is a critical component of the nation’s economy and should be taken seriously, adding that the country has to pay full attention to research and innovation as twin tools for the development of its livestock.
Ganduje also advocated for the development of new variety of maize that will be meant exclusively for poultry, monogastric and dairy feeding.
According to him, “this will be a viable and more sustainable option to importation of the required grain, to save the collapsing poultry industry, a sub-sector that is worth about N1.6 trillion, according to the CBN (2019). It is important to note that this represents about 25% contribution to the agricultural GDP.”
In his remarks, the President of Nigerian Institute of Animal Science, Prof. Baba Yusuf Abubakar, said the theme of the meeting, “Pathways to Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change in Animal Agriculture” was very apt given the current global challenges facing agri food systems.
Abubakar noted that the issue of food and nutrition security are very critical and central to the Renewed Hope Agenda of the Federal Government, stating that as a regulatory body in the livestock sub-sector, NIAS will continue to strive to be very innovative, strategic and transformational.
“The Institute will work with all stakeholders from Government, Academia and, particularly, the industry, in order to be more impactful. Also, as animal scientists, we must make extra efforts towards building bridges of hope, tolerance, cooperation and unity across our profession.
On his part, the President of the Nigeria Society for Animal Production, NSAP, Prof. Francis A Abike, pledged the commitment of NSAP to stand by ASAN and NIAS in achieving their set goals and producing the animal protein needs of Nigerians.
Abeke stressed the need to bring in more heat tolerant animals in the face of climate change, warning that the subsistent nature of animal production in Nigeria cannot meet the protein needs of the country, while calling for robust funding of the sector.
He therefore called on all tiers of government to redouble their efforts in providing suitable production environment through policies as well as improving the funding of this important sector of the economy