To tackle the problem of malnutrition among Nigerian children, the Federal Government has disclosed plans to provide a litre of milk a day to each of the 30,000,000 children in secondary and primary schools under the school feeding programme.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, disclosed this in a meeting he held with a team from the West African Milk Company (WAMCO) in Abuja on Monday, December 7, 2015.
He quoted in UNESCO statistics that said 24 per cent of Nigerian children under the age of five are under weight while 37 per cent are under-nourished and declared that the Federal Government would tackle the problem of malnutrition which adversely affects the intelligent quotient of children.
To address the problem, Chief Ogbe said the Federal Government would, next year, embark on a programme to develop massive grazing grounds for cattle to bring roaming and its attendant problems to an end.
The minister disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would acquire 10 deep water rigs from the Borno State Government and build windmills to operate wells that would provide water for the planned grazing grounds.
He added that the grazing grounds would not only improve the quantity and quality of beef and milk produced in the country, they would also make cattle rearers more sedentary.
Speaking further on the quality of cattle reared in Nigeria, Ogbe said the ministry would partner with some universities abroad and in Nigeria to establish an artificial insemination programme in 200 centres in the country, challenging researchers to look for and introduce into the proposed cattle breeding programmes and animals that adapt well in the Nigerian climatic conditions.
Responding to the Board Chairman of WAMCO, Mr Moyo Ajekigbe, who said the visiting team was in the ministry as a follow-up on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a meeting the company held with the ministry in January 2015.
The minister thanked the company for the efforts in dairy production in Nigeria and said that MoUs of such nature were needed now that the country’s foreign reserve had gone down, adding that there was an urgent need to drastically reduce the country’s import bill through increased local manufacturing.
He advised the company to identify and partner with organisations around the country in order to expand its operations.
He promised the company that the Federal Government would support its dairy production programme and pledged that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture Programme would be fine-tuned to become private sector-driven.
In his presentation, Managing Director of the company, Mr Rahul Colaco, explained that WAMCO, which is an affiliate of Royal Friesland Company, was one of the leading dairy companies in the world.
He explained that WAMCO, producer of the Peak Milk brand which has been in operation in Nigeria for about 60 years, was committed to creating the most professional and attractive dairy production in the country.
Mr. Colaco enumerated various challenges militating against the operation of the company, which include inadequate infrastructure, unavailability of land, and quality of the animal breeds, among others.
He said his company had assisted the farmers in areas of training, technical expertise and access to research and innovations.
He said for the country to achieve self-sufficiency in milk production, measures such as infrastructure, funds, public private partnership agreement and increase in the number of farmers must be addressed by the government.
While seeking for more partnership from the government, he expressed his company’s commitment to improve on its milk production and make it more accessible and affordable to the people.