NIGERIA– The Federal Government has announced plans to unveil a National Animal Feed Policy document to tackle the challenges affecting the livestock industry and enhance food security in Nigeria.

This initiative aims to address the growing concerns over the rising cost of animal feed, which has been negatively impacting the poultry and livestock sectors.

Ernest Umakhihe, the Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, made the announcement during the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR)’s Resilient African Feed and Fodder Systems (RAFFS) Project Inception forum held in Abuja.

He was represented by Fausat Lawal, Director of Special Duties, who emphasized the government’s determination to encourage innovative approaches to animal feed production, citing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the vulnerability to natural disasters.

One of the major challenges facing the livestock industry is the high cost of animal feeds, which has contributed to surging food prices and inflation. The government recognizes the need to address these issues to ensure food security in the country.

The RAFFS project inception workshop, profiling, and the launch of AWARFA-N Nigeria, along with the feed and fodder assessment, are seen as timely interventions that will provide solutions to tackle food security issues and identify opportunities to support farmers in terms of animal feed.

Huyam Salih, the Director at AU-IBAR, expressed concerns about Africa’s heavy dependence on global imports of livestock products, resulting in an annual import bill of over US$4 billion. She pointed out that the recent drought in the Greater Africa region led to the loss of 9.5 million livestock, valued at over US$2 billion. 

This is equivalent to about twice the total food import budget for Kenya or thrice the export value of coffee from Uganda, Africa’s largest coffee exporter, which earned US$876 million in 2022,” Salih who was represented by Sarah Ashanut Ossiya, RAFFS project officer said.

Salih also noted that conflicts over feed resources between herders, breeders, and crop farmers are persistent in the West and Central Africa regions, often escalating to tribal and religion-based divides. She stressed the importance of addressing these issues and strengthening the feed and fodder sector to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

The livestock sector plays a crucial role in food security and provides a significant source of protein and minerals for nutritional security. The RAFFS project aims to engage with various stakeholders to enhance farmers’ capacity to use fodder technologies, making the sector more productive, resilient, equitable, and sustainable.

Project spans several countries 

Nigeria is one of the six core countries chosen for the implementation of the RAFFS project, alongside Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Salih mentioned that Nigeria is the second country where the RAFFS initiative is being launched.

The Nigeria RAFFS Project aims to improve access to feed and fodder and assess the effects of crises such as climate change, COVID-19, and conflicts in Eastern Europe on feed and fodder supply chains. The findings will inform the development of short-term interventions to address feed and fodder shortages, supporting the consolidation of the project’s five-year strategy and resource mobilization plan.

While livestock production is essential for better nutrition outcomes, it was noted that Nigerians and many neighboring countries consume significantly less livestock-sourced protein per capita compared to the global average. Therefore, linking livestock production to meet human nutrition targets is a priority for this initiative.