Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Two Years After, Sokoto's N2.5 Billionn Cattle Project Yet to Take Off

Sokoto — Due to its projected economic potentials, Sokoto State embarked on ambitious N2.5 billion cattle breeding projects. But two years after signing the project's contract, it is yet to leave the drawing board.

Sokoto State, in the face of its huge potentials as well as suitability for livestock rearing, took a giant step in agriculture.Two years ago, the state government signed over N2bilion contract with an Argentine firm, South American Breeding Technologies, SABT for the establishment of a cattle breeding, milk and beef production project in the state.

Based on the agreement, SABT was to train and bring revolutionary change in agriculture, genetic procedure, meat processing and milking machines, President of SABT, Horacio Michelini had confirmed at the signing of the agreement.

The main components of the project were to include a cattle reproduction and the agricultural constituents.

The cattle reproduction component was proposed to involve the technological aspects of artificial insemination, embryo transplant and laboratories for research while the agricultural component was to handle the production of feed and the clusters -existing breeding farms, will form the model operational units.

Explaining the rationale behind the project, Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko had noted that though Sokoto is endowed with numerous resources, one of the major problems faced by the state was the technical know-how to exploit this resource base in other to obtain maximum benefits for the people.

He also expressed concern that combined efforts with sister states with similar endowments have failed to adequately meet the animal protein needs of the people as recommended by World Health Organization.

The Sokoto government Artificial Insemination programme had a target of inseminating 30,000 cows annually and it is expected to rouse the dairy industry in the state.

However, since the signing of the agreement and some down payments, nothing was been heard about the project which has prompted many to ask about the proposed cattle breeding, milk and beef production project in the state.

But Commissioner for Agriculture, Sokoto Dr. Jabbi Kilgori, told Weekly Trust that the project is still on. "In fact, they (the foreign partners) just came about a week ago and they are now working because there was some conditions; you know when you are importing live cattle, you have to go through the quarantine system; you have to get clearance from the pre-shipping agent to prepare document, to fill form 'm', get all the document processed before they transfer the money to them, then they would be able to ship the equipment because it has an agriculture chapter ,it also has a breeding chapter .

The agricultural chapter is supposed to provide equipment for irrigation, land preparation, seeding and other things, while the breeding chapter is supposed to come with a lot of equipments for breeding particularly artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

That has been one of the delays we experience, we have to do a lot of work on the quarantine. If you are bringing cattle, they have to go through quarantine where they are originating and they have to be certified here before they are shipped, also all the equipment we are shipping, they have to go through several processes which we are working through various agents of custom but very soon, we hope within the next one or two months that project will take shape."

He added: "we are hoping before the year runs out, it will really take shape. All the bottlenecks have now been cleared. The partners even sent us message yesterday that they are getting prepared to package and to ship the equipments and we have already engaged transport agent to immediately bring the equipment in."

Dr. Kilgori sheds more light on the project. "We are bringing about 500 herds of cattle, including pregnant cow. We are also expecting about 5,000 embryos, there is going to be embryo transfer, there will also be some dozes of semen coming from the bull which will be planted into our local breeds to be able to produce high capacity cows.

It also involves the setting up of about 13 clusters. You know there are people who are already into cattle production, so we want to use them as centres where this technology can be promoted across the state so that those who have the idea of cattle husbandry and breeding will be empowered.

They will have cattle centre where they can have these live animals brought in pregnant cows, also they can mix them with their own local breed and take benefit of the embryos that are going to be implanted, also the semen.

Across the state we will have 13 locations where you will have this technology being promoted so that in the near future, we will be able to see that we transform our cattle because the local ones has the deficiency of inability to be able to produce adequate milk and as you know there is growing need for milk in the country."

He noted that 60 to70 percent of the milk consumed in Nigeria are imported. "So we have to beef up our local production to meet the growing demand and to also save us the foreign exchange which we invest in buying this milk.

That is the main objective; to really enhance this local breed to produce more milk and to have these exotic breeds coming in to produce more milk, more meat and more leather and other byproducts from the cattle and other things.

So that they will be enhance production because essentially this part of the country, cattle production is one of the major preoccupation. There is no house hold you go without finding one or two herds of cattle, that is why it is a culture that we need to promote to enhance income and wellbeing of the people."

He confirmed that the project cost is about N2.5billion, adding that much of this goes for procurement although there is a training component.

"There is also the training component. You know they have to take our people from here and train them there, show them how it is done there before they come here also. They will be here themselves for two years, set up everything, train our people, before they wind up," he elucidated.

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