The Executive Director of the National Animal Production Research Institute, Prof. Clarence Lakpini highlights the strategic importance of the body to Nigeria’s food security and laments that the institute’s aged facilities are impeding this mandate. Crusoe Osagie presents excerpts from the interview:
Please describe the mandate of the National Animal Production Research Institute?
The National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Shika Zaria is mandated to conduct research into increasing the productivity of food animals through breeding, nutrition, management and socio-economic innovations and packages. These species of animals include but are not limited to cattle for beef and milk, sheep and goats for mutton and chevon, poultry for eggs and meat, pigs for pork, camels for meat and milk and donkeys and rabbits for meat. The research into forage production and management complement breeding and management programmes for optimal productivity of these animals.
For how long has the Institute been in existence?
The Institute derived it existence from the Shika Bull Stud Station established in 1928 when selected proven bulls were kept to breed cows of Pastoralists for improved genetic gain in beef and to a lesser degree milk production. This station translated to the Grassland Research Station in 1954 when various species of pastures were imported from tropical ecological belts of other countries especially Australia, quarantined, screened, propagated and established for livestock production. On 1st July, 1976 a full-fledge National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) came into existence under the administration of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria based on the enacted Research Institute Establishment Order of November 1975. The Federal Government funds it through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) while the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) supervises and regulates its Programmes.
What are the major achievements of the Institute?
NAPRI has made some remarkable achievements in livestock production within the context of our national development. The only poultry developed in Nigeria, tested in all the agro-ecologic zones in Nigeria before registration and release by the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) Ibadan is the ShikaBrown® egg-laying chicken. From the name, it is obvious that NAPRI which is located in Shika is responsible for the pain-staking breeding programme of many decades that gave birth to this chicken. The chicken which is in use by some commercial farms in various ecologic zones of the country have since the year 2000 been proven to be hardy and resilient to the known prevalent poultry diseases and with an outstanding reputation of high egg number and persistence in egg laying. One may ask why ShikaBrown® has not flooded the Nigerian market. This is because our production capacity has been limited over the years by inadequate and obsolete infrastructures and facilities. We are working on this and with the cooperation of Government who has refocused our economy on agriculture and our present spirited advanced moves to have a Public-Private Partnership in our livestock value chain, these limitations will soon be over.
The problem in the Dairy Industry in Nigeria is the low productivity of the indigenous breeds of cattle. Our indigenous animals are characterized by delays in coming to puberty (the reproductive age) and first calving, long calving intervals, infertility, reproductive wastages, low milk yield and short lactation periods. These challenges are not only genetic but complicated by inadequate and inappropriate nutrition packages. The Institute has been able to address many of these challenges by the appropriate use of various reproduction and nutritional interventions suitable for the various breeds in their climatic habitats. Milk yield and lactation period have been increased by cross breeding, artificial insemination and selection. This has more than doubled the efficiency of milk production. Simple and more efficient methods of processing milk using locally designed and fabricated equipment have been introduced to smallholder dairy farmers to reduce drudgery.
The Institute has collaborated and supplied genetically improved species of livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs and poultry to institutional, government and private farms.
Locally available agro-industrial byproducts have been transformed and used to compound supplementary least cost rations for maintenance, production and fattening of various species of livestock including cattle, sheep and goats, pigs, etc.
Various species of indigenous and exotic pasture species have been accessed, screened and evaluated for their nutritional values. Certified ones have been established in institutional, government and private farms in different ecologic zones of the country as appropriate.
Are there duplication of functions with other research institutes and government agencies?
There are three research institutes in the country that are directly related to animal/livestock production. The National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, Plateau State, is mandated to conduct research into all aspects of diseases of animals/livestock with a view to treating and controlling them. In doing this, they are to: develop and produce Vaccines, Sera and Biological for use in animals; carry out Surveillance and Diagnosis of animal diseases; train intermediate Manpower in Veterinary Laboratory and Animal Health and Production Technology.
The Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), Kaduna conducts research into the control and surveillance of Trypanosomes to man and animals. Therefore the mandates and functions of these other two research institutes are clearly different from those of NAPRI but complementing.
Who are your primary stakeholders and how do you link up with them?
All actors in the livestock value chain who have common interests with NAPRI are our primary stakeholders. The research conducted by the Institute is demand-driven to deal with the challenges our producers, processors and marketers face. Other national and international institutes with mandates or related mandates in livestock/animal value chain are also our primary stakeholders with who we relate on science and technology levels.
What are the challenges you have as an Institute and what strategies are you deploying to mitigate them?
The Institute faces a number of challenges which have reduced its impact in terms of programmes and activities as a research Institute. These include job creation and ensuring food security in the livestock subsector.
Specifically, some of these problems include but are not limited to: Inadequate and obsolete equipment and farm machinery. Most of the equipment and machinery we have span more than 30 years old. In this age when technology is changing at a satellite speed, most of them need replacement with “state of the art facilities”.
Dilapidated and inadequate infrastructures limit our potentials. Many of the animal pens and handling facilities still in use are those we inherited since they were built and installed in 1928. The challenges in livestock production today are at variance with those of 1928.
Inadequate and untimely release of funds to the Institute makes planning inefficient and ineffective. We have a large population of various species of livestock and poultry that MUST be fed daily and maintained in good condition for research and production. If there are no resources to produce and purchase the required feeds and medications, we run the risk of losing these animals that are high-priced and have been bred and selected over decades for desirable productive genetic traits.
Lack of retraining and capacity building of staff to update them on developments in their fields of specialisation can make them irrelevant to current trends in the global livestock subsector. To be relevant internationally in our fields of specialisation, we need continuous education to update us on the developments in our specialties. We must be abreast of the new trends in our fields which require opportunities and funding to sustain.
What is the funding like and how do you plan to improve it?
Funding of the Institute has been erratic and grossly inadequate. We do not have much problem with our personnel emolument and Government should be commended but capital appropriation is usually belated and grossly inadequate especially in view of our current economic recession which is a passing phase in our national development. Research in any serious nation world-wide is a primary responsibility of Government because the outcome of research is a public good meant for development. Government has encouraged us to go into partnership with private sector and international investors who can give leverage to the funding fortunes of research institutes. We are exploring this window of opportunity for the upgrade and transformation of the Institute to enhance impactful performance and productivity nationally and international.
In what ways can you make greater impact in the Livestock subsector?
The Institute is reaching out to Livestock commercial and smallholder farmers, pastoralists and entrepreneurs to find out their constraints. Noted commercial livestock farmers like the L & Z Integrated Farms Nigeria Ltd in Kano for dairy, Folhope Farms Ibadan for ShikaBrown chickens, Shonga Farms Holdings in Kwara State for pasture seeds and forages, various universities for cattle, sheep and goats, etc, have been collaborating with the Institute to pursue their mandates. We are widening our collaboration to be all inclusive. Our strategic plan with the Private sector and some International Technical Partners to fully commercialise our research products and services for national and international growth will be impactful.
What contributions can your institute make towards reducing or eliminating the pastoralists/farmers conflicts plaguing the nation?
Pastoralist/farmers conflicts plaguing the nation is as a result of competition for farm and grazing land which is increasingly diminishing as a result of population explosion, environmental degradation, climate change and physical development. To reduce the conflict to manageable level, the livestock production system has to change from extensive towards intensive. This change may not be in one fell swoop. We can intensify training youths and other stakeholders in modern ways of livestock production such as in hydroponic fodder production, intensive pasture production, artificial insemination, feedlot production and marketing. The hydroponics is a technology which enables us produce fodder under intensive management within a 6 day cycle. This minimises the use of land and maximises the yield per unit area within a very short time. The intensive pasture production may be under irrigation using high yielding pastures that can be cut and cured at the optimum stage of growth and conserved as hay for feeding livestock. Green cereal crop can be cut and ensiled for silage to feed high producing livestock during the period of fodder scarcity. Feedlot operations confine the animal to its stall on zero grazing where it is fed. These are technologies which we have been transferring to young livestock farmers who are deployed to us for skills acquisition.
We are also available in establishing suitable pastures with integrated livestock modules on designated land belonging to State Governments, Institutions and private entrepreneurs. Appropriate combination of these technologies will go a long way in reducing the current pressure on grazing land with a consequent reduction in Pastoralists/Farmers faceoff.
How can the youths be encouraged to take to Livestock Entrepreneurship?
By exposing and training them in modern skills in livestock value chain. Easy access to credits and insurance for livestock enterprise should be made available for them and the livestock value chain should be developed for them to key into.
What are the challenges faced in livestock production in Nigeria?
Inadequate grazing land and watering points cause clashes between the Pastoralists and Farmers;
Lack of implementable and coordinated national breeding policy gives room for inbreeding resulting in non-progressive genetic gains in our national herds/flocks; Bad roads and difficulty in transportation of inputs, livestock and their products make competitive markets inaccessible; Effects of climate change are degrading farm and grazing lands making them less available for the increasing national population; Difficulty in accessing credit facilities for livestock enterprise; Ineffective control of trans-boundary movement of livestock from other neighboring countries into the country; Uncoordinated trans-boundary disease control between countries makes the transmission of diseases easy from other adjoining countries into Nigeria.
What are the basic infrastructure that need rehabilitation to make your Institute the hub for livestock revolution in Nigeria?
The hatchery for poultry production needs to be increased in capacity and efficiency.
There is the need to connect the Institute to 33KVA Dedicated electric power to ensure more regular supply.
Rehabilitation of poultry houses and construction of new ones to expand the holding capacity of the buildings needed for expected increased level of production and marketing; Rehabilitation of paddocks to ensure controlled grazing and breeding to prevent overgrazing and inbreeding; Rehabilitation of old animal pens and construction of new ones; Purchase of new tractors and farm equipment for pasture production; Reequipping our laboratories with functional up-to-date facilities; and Rehabilitation of road networks to make them motorable.
What scale of operation do you envisage NAPRI to have to make the desirable impact nationally and internationally?
NAPRI has to have a fully commercialised arm to provide its products for local and international consumption and its services to stakeholders. We want NAPRI live animals, beef, dairy products and poultry products to be of standard quality and competitive for export. The current impetus in the Institute has the vision of making NAPRI the game changer in the livestock industry with functional integrated livestock farm that manages farm wastes for biogas generation and organic fertilizer production. There are so many opportunities for the Institute to play its rightful role in making livestock a steady renewable natural resource that will not only secure food on our tables but also be a major foreign exchange earner for the nation through export of live animals and products. There are markets in Europe and Middle East for Nigerian beef, goats and chickens, in West Africa for milk and milk products, etc. We only need to maintain the standard organic production requirements and organize our markets for export.
What modern technologies do your staff members require to match international competence?
They include but not limited to Molecular biology; Stem Cell Culture Analysis; Production of fodder by Hydroponic technique; and Multiple Ovulation and Embryo Transfer (MOET).
What type of collaborations do you see NAPRI entering into to transform it for greater service delivery?
Public Private Partnership with national and international technical and financial pact; Collaboration with relevant institutes in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR); and Effective extension service delivery to stakeholders along livestock value chain.
In which of your areas of production does NAPRI have competitive advantage?
In poultry breeding and production, we have the only registered poultry in Nigeria; Beef and dairy cattle breeding and production have been improved for higher performance and yield through crossbreeding and nutrition packages; Sheep and goat breeding and production have attained the level of twice annual lambing/kidding;
Pasture seed breeding and production of various indigenous and exotic species have been on for decades; and Conserved forage production of well established indigenous and exotic pasture species.
Are there policies that need to be enacted or changed by Government to promote livestock production and value addition in Nigeria?
Viable insurance policies should be provided to cover livestock production and ameliorate risks and losses; Credit financing should be made readily accessible for players in the livestock value chain at low single digit interest rate and long moratorium; There should be complete waiver or low import duty rate on livestock equipment.
There should be ban on livestock products in order to provide opportunity for local production.
Should Government encourage smallholder or commercial livestock production in Nigeria?
Both smallholder and commercial livestock production are relevant for our stage of livestock development in Nigeria. The smallholder creates jobs while commercial livestock does not only create jobs but provides large quantity of products for the processing industry and export.
What are the risk factors in livestock production and how can they be mitigated?
Feeds for livestock are getting more difficult to get as a result of climate change causing desert encroachment in the livestock producing areas. Intensive feed production can be done in favorable areas of the country and sold to livestock areas where feeds cannot be produced. Moreover where funds permit and the soil is fertile, pastures can be produced under irrigation; Livestock diseases are spreading faster with the movement of pastoralists in search of feeds and water for their animals. Trans-boundary surveillance should be stepped up and veterinary medical care made more accessible and affordable for livestock producers; Cattle rustlers rob the owners of their animals and even kill some of them. Security should be beefed up to contain the menace of these gangsters.