Sustaining livestock development
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Sonaiya, Funso. 1991. Sustaining livestock development. Spore 34. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45561
Dr Funso Sonaiya is a professor at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria. An FAO consultant since 1983, he is also the Coordinator for the African Network on Rural Poultry Development (ANRDP), as well as editing its Newsletter and also the...
Dr Funso Sonaiya is a professor at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria. An FAO consultant since 1983, he is also the Coordinator for the African Network on Rural Poultry Development (ANRDP), as well as editing its Newsletter and also the Nigerian Journal of Animal Production. What are the priorities and options for livestock production in ACP countries, particularly those in Africa? Are extensive or intensive systems more appropriate for large ruminants, small ruminants or non-ruminant animals? And to what extent should traditional knowledge and systems be allied to, or modified by, modern agricultural science and management practices? The usual system of animal production in Africa includes extensive grazing of cattle, semi-extensive or zero grazing of small ruminants and intensive confinement of the non-ruminants. Because consumers prefer beef, there is pressure to increase beef output. However, expanding extensive cattle production increasingly encroaches on the forests leading to massive deforestation and all its attendant evils, and here I am thinking of three separate projects in the south western Nigerian states of Benin, Ogun and Ondo, where large tracts of forest land were sacrificed for extensive cattle production. Also, using the production parameters of fertility, stocking and mortality rates, as well as slaughter age, livestock production in extensive grazing systems has been demonstrated by scientific research to be less than successful in the developing countries of the South. In contrast, because of the astounding genetic improvement in monogastric species within the last four decades, large scale specialized production units have been developed and promoted as replacements for semi-extensive, smallholder production of poultry and pigs. This has resulted in the restriction of intensive poultry production to larger farms oriented toward urban consumers. But the wave of structural adjustment pounding virtually every developing country, and the accompanying high cost of the feed raw materials, most of which are produced outside these countries, have now demonstrated the unsuitability of the present intensive production systems which are based on technologies designed for the economic conditions of the industrialized countries. In effect, both the extensive and intensive systems of animal production in Africa are beset by enormous problems which must be solved in order for any meaningful development to occur. Preferred solutions come from two extremes: those who argue that the necessary technology already exists or is being developed in international and national centres and only need to be properly disseminated, and those who reject modern technology and try to seek solutions in the traditions of each region. While defending traditions will bring little progress, we must be fully aware of the complexity of the many factors affecting animal production in small farms. Clearly, both modern knowledge and the farmers' experience would be essential to improving production. The farmers justifiably mistrust the extension system that repeatedly encourages them to replace secure techniques with riskier, though potentially more profitable, technologies having inflexible management requirements. I believe the time has come for fresh thinking and orientation in the development of animal production in the developing countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Should we continue to push production as a way of meeting the animal protein deficiency? Or should we rather push it as a provider of employment, food security and 'living credit' for rural dwellers? The two approaches are radically different. The former focuses only on production regardless of how and who produces, and on input source and cost of production including environmental and sociocultural costs. The latter, on the other hand, suggests animal production to be rural based, using inputs available locally and providing benefits to rural peoples without damaging the environment in which they live. The decision on the right mixture of the two approaches which is appropriate for any country or situation should be based on information and experiences obtained from many disciplines. Such integrated multidisciplinary studies are new, and are few and far between in Africa and possibly in other ACP regions also. Certainly more exchange should be encouraged of the information and research results that are available. In the future we may need to develop intensive systems for cattle production similar to those already well developed for small ruminants and monogastrics. On the other hand, we may need to encourage extensive production of nonruminants. But, whatever the options to be pursued for the future, this effort is too important to be left to only a section of the population or to decision makers or to aid officials. All hands must be on deck. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CTA.