See the community where dairy business generates cool cash, peace among Fulani, Yoruba farmers
A reporter who was at Iseyin, Oyo State, reports that a dairy development programme in the community is changing the chain of milk processing, storage and distribution in the country
The joy Ahmadu Abdullahi exuded was as apparent as daybreak at the milk collection centre in Maya, the artery of Iseyin, Oyo State. From a broad smile on his face, one could easily conclude that the 45-year-old dairy farmer had got off to a good start in the day. As early as 9am on a Thursday in May, the father of four had already pocketed N7,200 from 40 litres of milk he ferried on his motorcycle to sell at the centre.
Abdullahi struck the daily ‘cool cash’ business six years ago making over N200,000 every month.
Before then, he realised only half of the income after his wife must have worked her fingers to the bone to make local cheese (colloquially known as wara) and hawk it around neighbouring towns for hours. Many times, Abdullahi had used the family’s proceeds to pay crop farmers damages incurred by stray cattle he grazed around communities.
In 2014, those troubling trends changed for good after he enlisted in the Dairy Development Programme, an initiative of FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria to boost local milk production.
Alongside several other herders, the dairy products company trained Abdullahi in how to get better economic value for milk with little stress instead of engaging in strenuous cheese production with meagre proceeds.
“It has relieved my wife of the stress of sitting behind fire for three hours to make cheese and travelling to Ibadan (Oyo State capital) to sell it,” the pastoralist said about the initiative. “I started dairy farming six years ago after the company approached us.”
He added, “I sell four cans of raw milk every day. Each can contains 20 litres and we sell a litre for N180. Before the company started buying raw milk from us, we produced N2,000 worth of cheese with 20-litre milk.”
To guarantee two-litre milk yield per cow daily, Abdullahi now grazes his cattle within the vicinity, feeding them with good pastures and clean water from solar-powered boreholes sunk in strategic locations by the company.
“For a long time, I have not had any misunderstanding with farmers over destruction of farms by my cows,” he noted, grinning from ear to ear.
In a report published on November 29, 2020, titled “Struggle of dairy farmers battling wastage, poor value chain amid huge milk imports,” our correspondent detailed how hundreds of pastoralists, especially women in Bodinga, Sokoto State, worked like elephants and ate like ants.
The story also told of untapped milk potential of a multitude of cows in the agrarian community due to poor value chain, limited market strength as well as lingering farmer-herder crisis caused by open grazing.
The conflict led to the killings of more than 1,300 people between January and June 2018 alone, according to the International Crisis Group.
But in Iseyin, many dairy farmers have outlived those disconcerting scenarios many years ago.
Bello Salihu is another pastoralist in Maya tapping into the DDP. On a daily basis, he smiles home from the milk collection centre with N14,400 in exchange for four cans of milk that once fetched him N8,000 after onerous cheese hawking.
“Our wives went through a lot of stress to sell cheese,” 40-year-old Salihu said. “There were occasions when customers would make part-payments and refuse to pay the balance. But since we started dairy farming, the challenges have stopped and we have more value for milk.”
Most importantly, constant rifts between him and crop farmers had been largely laid to rest and paved the way for peace to reign.
He added, “We don’t graze our cows on a long distance again because we have realised that it is unhealthy for getting quality milk. That knowledge has put an end to fights between us and farmers. There may be skirmishes once in a while but we settle our differences amicably.”
The DDP initiative is working wonders in the lives of Iseyin women in the dairy sector and it is glaring in Amina Idris’ radiant looks.
The imprint of stress she went through some seven years ago when she always travelled to Lagos and Ibadan to sell cheese had long vanished from her face.
Every day, she transports 160 litres of milk to Maya Milk Collection Centre and returns home happily with N28,800.
She said, “My husband has two barns comprising over 100 local cows. We collect eight cans (160 litres) of milk every day from them. Before the company partnered with us, we used milk to make cheese.
“Then, the stress was much more than the profit we realised. I travelled to Lagos, Ibadan and Eruwa to sell cheese. But selling raw milk is less stressful and we make more gains.”
Women in Akele, a suburb of Iseyin, are also taking advantage of the scheme despite lacking formal education. Training delivered in local Fulfulde and Yoruba languages has helped them to find a fortune in dairy.
Amina Galadima told our correspondent about a remarkable improvement in her family’s living standard since they ditched cheese and nunu – locally-fermented milk – for raw milk sold to the company.
“I used to make cheese and nunu every day. I hawked around and travelled to Ibadan to sell,” she recounted in Yoruba, a second local language she understands fairly well.
Amina, whose husband collects 20 to 22 litres of milk from cows daily, said the business was much more productive than cheese making. She also admitted that the scheme had brought about peaceful coexistence among crop and dairy farmers in the neighbourhood.
She noted, “Besides, I don’t have to hawk or travel to Ibadan again. My husband and I have been working with FrieslandCampina for 10 years and we send three of our seven children to school with the money we make from milk sales.”
“Cows give more milk if they are not taken on a long distance for grazing. We have learnt to keep our cows within the vicinity to get enough milk. But once in a while, if our cows stray into farms, we approach the owner and pay for the damage. We handle it in a way that doesn’t lead to a fight.”
At her late 60’s, Amina’s mother-in-law, Alhaja Awawu Galadima, is still adept at milk production that earns her N5,400 within two hours of relaxed labour.
“I sell 30 litres of milk every day,” Awawu, who is the leader of about 50 dairy women in the community, said. “This community supplies about 20 cans of milk (400 litres) to the company daily.”
Her granddaughter, 18-year-old Aminat Lawal, has become proud of the job and intends to take it to the next level after graduating from the university.
“I assist my parents to milk cows, especially whenever the school is on holidays,” the 100-level Political Science student at the Federal University of Lafia, Nasarawa State, stated.
“If I have the opportunity, I will set up my own farm, keep cows there and provide them with pastures. I won’t graze them around at all,” she said.
Aminat’s dream farm fits into what Olatunde Moyosore practises on 80 acres of land in Olora village, Iseyin, through partnership with FrieslandCampina WAMCO.
The 39-year-old farmer has two separate barns where he keeps over 50 local cows and crossbreeds produced through artificial insemination.
From multi-layered 50-acre pastures to a solar-powered borehole, the farm contains everything required for the wellbeing of cows within the expansive yard.
There is also a farmstead providing lodging for Moyosore and some of his workers who are of Yoruba and Fulani extraction.
Through a series of training within and outside the country, Moyosore, a graduate of the Federal School of Surveying, Oyo, has carved a niche for himself as a smallholder farmer, while keeping tabs on latest trends in dairy production.
He spoke of the huge commercial value of crossbreeds, each of which produces at least 10 litres of milk daily compared to about two litres derived from a local cow.
“I sell an average of 120 litres of milk every day and the bulk of it comes from the crossbreeds. This is the future of dairy in Nigeria,” Moyosore remarked passionately.
He added, “I have peace now unlike before when I grazed my cows around the community. They damaged crops and most times I used my proceeds to pay damages. Now, I grow feed for them and they don’t go out. They also drink clean water.”
With eight workers assisting him on the farm and at an annex of about 25 acres, Moyosore continues to grow in leaps and bounds in the dairy business.
“The relationship between me and my workers has been fantastic. There are Fulani among them but we don’t have any issues,” he said assuredly.
One of Moyosore’s workers, 19-year-old Muhammadu Yakubu, confirmed the cordial relationship, saying that he stays in the farmhouse for two months before travelling home to check on his family.
He said, “I collect N20,000 monthly. I have been working with my boss for over one year now and there is a mutual relationship between us. He gives me shelter where I stay for two months before I travel to see my wife and child in Saki (a town in Oyo State).”
Solomon Ogunsola is the manager of a farm located at Iya Ibeji village, along Iseyin Road. He manages a smallholding the size of Moyosore’s annex with more than 100 cows and eight workers on the farm’s payroll.
Ogunsola said, “Ten of the cows are crossbreeds. They don’t graze around. We live harmoniously with farmers because we don’t allow our cows to destroy their crops.”
Interestingly, Iseyin smallholder farmers like Moyosore and Ogunsola ride on the expertise of Deborah Atunbi, an inseminator employed by the dairy company, to increase production and gains.
A graduate of Animal Husbandry, Atunbi said the success rate of artificial insemination in Iseyin hovered around 50 per cent while working tirelessly to improve on the achievement.
She stated, “The farmers have been trained. When they notice their cows are on heat, they call me for insemination. The success rate depends on many factors such as the history of the cows.”
Brisk income for okada riders
In the dairy value chain, commercial motorcyclists well known as okada riders, have also found a stable source of income.
Five cans of milk ferried from a farm to the collection centre attract N2,000 fare which okada riders such as Jelili Usman of Akele village live on.
“We wake up as early as 5am to carry milk to the collection centre. If we carry 100 litres, we will collect N2,000,” he said.
41,000-litre milk sourced daily
The General Manager Dairy Development Operation, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc, John Olayiwola, said the firm had recorded considerable breakthroughs in the dairy development in the country by increasing local milk production from 400 litres daily at the commencement of the scheme in 2010 to 41,000 at present.
According to Olayiwola, milk brought to collection centres undergoes a series of checks before it is certified for human consumption.
He said, “Before we start milk collection anywhere, the first thing we do is to train our farmers in milk hygiene and good practices. After that, we start collecting the milk. We collect milk between 7am and 10am every day. The farmers bring their milk to the collection centre in milk cans which we gave them to ensure hygiene.
“We then carry out tests on the milk to check its quality for human consumption. We also check for dirt estimation to see if the milk does not have sediment and bacteria loads. We collect the milk after it must have passed all the tests for outward movement to the FrieslandCampina plant in Lagos.
“It is an operation that goes on in 27 collection centres every day. The collections centres are in Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara and Niger states. In a few months, we will also have farms in Abuja. We started with 400 litres daily but today we do about 41,000 litres and we are still moving ahead.”
The general manager noted that at the initial stage of the programme, the quality of milk farmers presented at collection centres was poor, adding that it improved over time as a result of several training sessions.
He said, “We teach them how to milk cows, clean their teats and give them the right feed. When we started, we had a lot of rejection but today we have less than one per cent rejection. We started with local cows but today we have a lot of crossbreeds.”