Livestock production as a business is seen by most youths as being only for the already rich and wealthy Nigerian, due to the huge start-up capital requirement. Nigerian youth population between the age of 15 and 35 is accounted to stand at 64 million (Nigerian Bureau of Statistics report; 2012). Among these, an estimated 54% are unemployed with the unemployed females taking up 51.9%.
Agriculture has been identified as a viable means of creating gainful employment for youths and women in Nigeria. Despite the promise of better livelihood through agricultural production; youth manpower is yet to be harnessed for agricultural production particularly in livestock enterprise.
Among the ‘excuses’ given by youths for this include: access to land and capital, diseases and lack of expertise in livestock production. Haven been into poultry production myself; I have realized that these limiting factors usually thought to be surmountable only through government intervention may not totally depend on government. In the face of these challenges some youths have ventured into livestock production and are creating more employment for other youths with no assistance whatsoever from the government. An opinion poll of a section of these youths in Ilorin and Lagos, Nigeria to ascertain how they overcame the challenges highlighted above revealed that the challenges are really limiting however they have found innovative ways around them.
Land is available in Nigeria, but access to it for agricultural activities is difficult especially for youths. This is due on the one hand to the lack of funds to acquire it and access to information on other means of accessing it. For instance, in Oyo area of Nigeria, the rural community leases out land for livestock or crop production at a rate of N2000/acre. But not many youths are aware of this and those that are; do not see the opportunity it offers. Poultry and fishery production is predominant among the youths interviewed with the size of the farm ranging from 100-500 birds. Land for production is got from
-using their parents’ or family land;
-leasing land with existing poultry production facilities on it,
-at their backyard with some pen structure constructed,
-using space available at the house of family friends
-adaptation of cage system to maximize the use of space above the ground and ease waste collection
Most of these youths started their production after 2-5years of being unemployed or working. Source of start-up capital include personal savings from the 1 year National Youth Service or from salaries at previous job, with support from parents, relatives and friends; and pooling of resources with colleagues to make a joint ownership of the business. In the last instance, the management of the farm is left in the care of those with some experience in agriculture/livestock production either from their university education or previous job. However, they still maintain a network of senior colleagues and professionals with more experience in the business and are able to make consultation with them in the case of disease outbreak, or any challenge in the day to day running of the farm for free.
Access to market for broiler chickens is also a challenge for this group. My experience in Ilorin brought to my attention the importance of networking in business. My birds were sold through information from friends on those who needed dressed chicken for their events, supply to fast food centers and restaurants. The trending these days is for ‘processors’ who buy live birds from the farmers directly, dress and resell to restaurants, hotels and food joints. Most of these processors are young women, some of whom were into backyard poultry production at their parents’ house (as described above) but had to relocate when they got married.
There is always market for agricultural products especially with the explosion in population. Livestock production (particularly poultry) provides a cheaper source of meeting the protein requirement of the populace and job creation; as most livestock are not seasonal and are available and affordable all year round. However, there is a gap between the farmers and where the demand for their products is; hence the need for the ‘processors’.
Another major challenge identified by the respondents was waste management. Regular cleaning of the pen is done to reduce odor in the neighborhood for those in urban areas while the usual practice is for the waste to be dumped in surrounding land or general dumpsite. This still constitutes nuisance to the immediate environment of the farm causing disapproval from neighbors. Few among the youths are aware of the use of the Gabintech nanotechnology system to eliminate odor from livestock waste and only one was using it on her farm. Beyond the handling the odor, she also has a standing contract with vegetable producers who buy the waste from her farm to use as manure at N100/bag. On her part, she ensures the manure is dry and friable. Very few farmers even among the very established ones exploit the potential revenue from the sale of livestock waste. There is an increasing awakening in Nigeria towards the potentials of poultry waste as a replacement for fertilizer. It is not unusual to find lorry loads of poultry manure being transported to Northern Nigeria from the South West. 75% of the manure dealers are women and the price/bag ranges from N100 to as high as N600 says Mr Ariyo, a farmer and consultant in Lagos.
Since bank loans are not readily available, acquiring land not so easy, nevertheless there is always a way out. The advice to youths is to start small, pool resources together and network. There are so many advantages open to us in this 21st century. We are in connection with the world through our android phones; there is information available to us at the click of few buttons. Our local networks are also important. It is easier to get support from government, funding bodies, relatives and friends when we have put in some effort. In these present times one may not readily find someone to nudge or push you in the right direction; however, looking closely, we find a lot of opportunities around us. Innovation is key to success. Timely access to information is also important.
A changed mindset will go a long way towards reducing the unemployment scourge among youths. It is pertinent to mention that most of us still see farming as being a last resort. The craze for white collar jobs is still rampart, forgetting that the existence of any white collared office job is related to the existence of a production activity somewhere. And there will be no white collared jobs if production stops. I am a testimony to the viability of agriculture as a source of livelihood. I and my siblings owe our education to the income generated from my mum’s poultry enterprise and my dad’s cassava/maize farm; and as an agricultural science teacher. After my First degree, sustenance through my Master’s course was from revenue generated from my broiler sale which was set up as a joint business with a colleague in the backyard of a family relative. The story of the youths identified above buttresses the saying that ‘when you think it’s impossible someone else is already doing it”.
Blog Post by Agbonlahor Ehizogie Marymartha
This was first published in the World Farmers Organisation Newsletter February 2014 Pg 15 to 16