Livestock production is implicated directly and indirectly for 18% green house gas (GHG) emission. The environmental culpability of livestock production is associated with air, water and soil pollution, land degradation; GHG-induced global warming and loss of biodiversity.
Although the livestock sector contributes just about 1.5% GDP in the global economy, its significance as the major source of livelihood for the poorer nations is appreciated providing food and income for 1 billion people globally particularly in Asia and Africa.
The menace of livestock waste is both from intensive and non-intensive production systems. With the global population explosion and the increasing demand for animal food products, livestock production systems have become more intensive than extensive to meet the demands; with an attending decline in ruminant production (which are usually the extensively farmed animals); and an observed increase in commercial piggery and poultry farms.
Most farms start out in areas that are considered rural or outskirts. Livestock farmers are usually the first settlers in an attempt to take their farms away from the urban areas to avoid confrontation with neighbors from odorous emissions of their farms. However, overtime, these farms attract traffic of people and business in these areas and become populated into small towns and the farmers then have to face the issues which they tried to avoid. Hence, more poultry and piggery farms are now found in the urban and suburban areas.
The concern on livestock waste as an environmental pollutant provides an untapped opportunity to livestock and crop farmers through an understanding of the mechanisms that are involved, the long term effects of these and the possible benefits that could arise if this ‘waste’ is properly harnessed particularly in the developing countries where it could have local and international market value; being a readily available ‘resource’.
Most livestock farms in Nigeria have identified waste management as a major challenge in their production. Much of the cost associated with maintaining environmental standards within their community is usually not captured by these farms. However, beyond these the cost of livestock waste include though not limited to:
- · Feed: the quality of feed fed the animals determines the volume and ‘quality’ of the waste voided as no feed is 100% digested in the animal
- · Labor involved in evacuating waste from pens and regular cleaning
- · Additives and other measures taken to prevent odor from waste
- · Social relationship with neighbors which becomes tenuous if they are dissatisfied with the waste management system of the farm
- · Relocation cost; in very extreme cases some farms have been forced to relocate by the environmental management agencies if reports from the community persists
- · Health hazards to animals and humans
- · Environmental costs; among others.
It is argued that contribution to funds for sustainable climate change mitigation from Africa and developing countries in general is low as most of these countries are working towards building their economies. However, little changes in practices that increase climate change and global warming effects like livestock waste management and handling on the part of individuals can go a long way in reducing the immediate effects.
As pointed out by the World Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte at the recently held ‘Be The Movement’ workshop in Warsaw; with the message that ‘each person can make a difference when it comes to climate change’. In her words: ‘‘one person can make a difference, absolutely; that person might be the farmer who decides to plant a different type of crop, it might be you, it might be me. One person can make a difference’’. And by extension, it can be the livestock farmer who decides to add value to his livestock waste and turn waste into ‘gold’ for him and others.
Livestock waste has the potential for contributing to increased agricultural productivity and sustainable food production if awareness on environment-conscious livestock farming is encouraged. It is readily available all year round, it provides good source of slow-release nutrients for crop production, it improves soil characteristics, is a potential source of renewable energy for domestic and industrial use, it could reduce cost on fertilizer usage for crop production, it could have a multiplied effect in income generation and job creation while also reducing imprint on GHG from livestock production. This awareness would be in line with the World’s Bank declaration of 2014 as ‘The Year to Take Action on Climate Change’ and the ‘African Year of Agriculture and Food Security’ by the FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva. The world population is currently held at about 7billion and expected to rise to 9billion in 2050. Agriculture is expected to increase by 70% to feed this population. It follows that intensive livestock production will also increase and so will the volume of livestock waste generated.
Current efforts at managing the effects of livestock waste on the environment include feeding strategies aimed at reducing nutrient excretion through the use of exogenous enzymes targeted at the phytate-P complexes in feed ingredients, periodic application of livestock waste as manure in crop production as well as the use of nanotechnological innovations in feeding systems; which at the moment is still limited to research use. One such innovation that is gaining waves among livestock farmers in Nigeria is the GABINTECH system. However, adoption of new technology is limited by wariness and ‘fetish’ connotations with the exception of few farmers who may be classified as ‘innovators’ or who having run out of options try out new possibilities to stay in business says Mr Taofeek Akinwumi Raheem, the Chief Technical Officer of Starwumi International and sole distributor of the GABINTECH system in Nigeria.
On the part of farmers, in Nigeria, there is an increasing activity of women in the purchase and sale of poultry waste as manure for crop production. Interaction with them showed that there is preference for poultry manure that is friable and dry for vegetable and maize farms in Northern Nigeria. These women are involved in periodic collection of poultry waste from various poultry farms in the south-west for onward transportation and sale to vegetable farmers in the North. The major challenge for poultry farmers is storing the manure until the buyers come for it. Hence the practice of dumping in nearby lands, channeling into streams /rivers still obtains to the detriment of the environment and the unsuspecting individuals who use water from the tributaries of these rivers in rural areas.
Some poultry farmers having realized manure sale as a potential means of recovering the cost associated with waste generated on their farm, make efforts to make their poultry manure acceptable for crop production. These include creation of sloping pits protected from the rain. In this form the manure is kept and further drying and composting occurs before they are bagged and stored away for sale to the buyers. Some farms however see this as a means to contribute to agricultural production charitably while others are only too happy to have the waste taken off their farm and do not actually sell. The former is the case at Sunados poultry farm; located in a very urban area of Lagos in Nigeria. Mr Sunday who operates his farm in a two-storey brick building admitted to the challenges he faced in ensuring the farm was not constituting any environmental nuisance in the neighborhood. He has now developed a process by which he could have the waste stored away for up to 6 months in dry conditions until the vegetable farmers come for it. ‘‘This involves the use bio-organic and bio-friendly inputs in production, of a nanotechnology-device called GABINTECH to control odor from the waste and construction of a holding pit and stowage section on the farm’’.
Another major innovation which is yet to be fully utilized is the Biogas digester. While some farmers are aware of this, only very few are actually taking advantage of the system. With the biogas digester, there is an assurance of conversion of methane gas that would have been released to the atmosphere to useful energy and environment-friendly fuel. It also provides useful effluents that could replace conventional fertilizers for crop production. Thereby converting waste to wealth and encouraging agriculture hence ensuring food security, renewable energy generation and good source of employment for Nigerian youths and women who are becoming more active in agricultural activities.
The major limitation identified by livestock farmers in setting up the biogas digester is the cost of construction and adapting their current system on the farm to working on the biogas digester. Also, there is the issue of skepticism associated with new innovations.
Thus, livestock waste may not necessarily be a nuisance and could contribute to sustainable agricultural production, job creation and climate change mitigation strategies if an awareness is created among livestock farmers on the import of ‘farming responsibly’ and crop farmers on ‘responsible’ use of livestock waste as manure.