Hydroponics-grown animal feed improves livelihoods and incomes in Nigeria
By Paul Ngosa Mboshya
Over the past decade, the Malakyarari community of Borno State in Nigeria have been affected by conflict, which has negatively impacted livelihoods and household incomes. The conflict has threatened healthcare provision, caused internal displacement, and limited land usage for agriculture and livestock production.
This poses a problem because Malakyarari is situated in a semi-arid climate with a short annual rainfall duration and has rapid desertification rates of five kilometres per year. Because most of the land in Malakyarari has been used for trenches for security measures during armed attacks, there is even less space for the community to use for agricultural purposes.
50-year-old Nana Bala defeats the odds by growing animal feed in Malakyarari’s challenging environment by using low-cost and locally sourced material, enough for her livestock, and selling excess feed to her neighbours. Nana benefited from H2Grow, a hydroponics project under the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator. In 2021, H2Grow facilitated the training of over 170 women in the community to grow animal feed with 90 percent less water on limited land.
Before the hydroponics training, Nana received four goats as part of WFP’s General Food Distribution emergency support that reached 193 households. The knowledge she gained increased her number of goats from four to 17 by 2021 and improved her income.
“I am passionate because it is easy to produce animal feed using maize seeds. I used to spend huge sums of money on livestock feed,” says Nana. “Before I was introduced to the animal feeding units by WFP, I would spend about 2000 Naira (US$ 4.75) a day to feed my goats. I now spend 1000 Naira (US$ 2.75) in two days,” she says.
WFP Livelihoods Programme Assistant at the Maiduguri Area Office in Northeast Nigeria Delphine Ekpang explains that most livestock farmers in the Malakyarari community are mainly pastoralists as their goats graze on natural grasslands and feed on cereal stalks after harvest.
“Before we introduced the hydroponic animal feed units, the majority of the Malakyarari community fed their goats residues of harvested maize and legumes from neighbouring farms for a fee ranging from 1500 Naira (US$ 3) to 3000 Naira (US$ 7) per 50 kg bag,” Delphine explains.
“Some herders would let their goats roam freely in search of pastures, which exposed the goats to theft, diseases and weight loss,” Delphine adds.
WFP and its partner Christian Aid continue to support people like Nana with veterinary support and guidance on quality animal feed production maintenance to avoid mould, which causes livestock diseases.
“We do routine visits and make sure people like Nana are supported. This sustains the hydroponic animal feed project so that the community continually benefits from the gains,” says Delphine.
Delphine says she would like everyone in the Malakyarari community to adopt the hydroponics animal feed because of the beneficial opportunities, like livestock increase and improved incomes.
“I would like to see livestock farmers in Malakyarari adopt hydroponics production because good opportunities exist not (just) by producing the feed for household livestock, but also for sale to other livestock farmers because the market is potentially vast within the community,” Delphine says.
Benefits of the locally sourced low-cost animal feeding units
The animal feed units are made from locally available materials, allowing for easy adoption and replication of technology. The units are usually made from 20-litre plastic containers cut in half. A 1 kg packet of maize seed produces 6–7 kg of animal feed over a seven-day growth cycle using only 5.25 litres of water.
Smallholder farmers need little space and water to grow the fresh animal feed hydroponically. This is beneficial as some of the land has been used as trenches during conflict.
Nana says the animal feed is easy to produce and explains the benefits of the animal feed. “The fresh animal feed has increased my goats’ reproduction rate. The goats now produce more milk for their young. We also consume the excess milk at home,” Nana explains.
Nana, a mother of five, says that because of animal feed units, children no longer herd grazing goats in the field and have more time for school.
“Children have more time for school and time to play with their friends. They hardly fall sick and put up weight quickly because they rarely go into the bush to graze. The feeding units also prevent goats from being stolen,” Nana says.
Increased household income in times of distress
The feeding units have helped Nana’s family during times of need and distress. Nana now sells excess fresh animal feed to her neighbours, and the units have increased the goats’ reproduction rate. Some goats are sold for cash for immediate household needs.
“After producing animal feed, I sell the excess and use the money to buy food for the family,” she says. “When my husband fell sick, I sold four goats at 35,000 Naira (US$ 83), bought medicines and paid hospital bills.”
“My goats are always getting pregnant and delivering twins. I aim to sell my goats to make money and keep my children in school,” she says.
The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.