Meet Dr. Stephen Adejoro, Founder and President of LIFA

“Every holiday, I go back to analyze my data and they come out with beautiful information that can be interventions and provide solutions to issues in the industry as at then which was not as sophisticated as it is now.”  Dr. Stephen Adejoro

 

Last year December, on a cold morning at LIFA’s office in Ibadan, we sat down for a very interesting interview with Livestock Industry Foundation for Africa’s Founder and President; Dr. Stephen Oluwole Adejoro. He is also the contract head of marketing and research, Zartech farm LTD, Nigeria. Dr. Stephen Adejoro is a vibrant Veterinarian who has contributed zealously and meaningfully to the Veterinary Private Practice and Veterinary Profession at large. He was enthusiastic on our arrival and he received us wonderfully well.

 

Dr. Jeremiah Nzere (JN): Sir, why did you start LIFA?

Dr. Stephen Oluwole Adejoro (SA): I was actively practicing veterinary medicine in South-West Nigeria and I was very pressed about documenting cases and data. I was just documenting them. I was just putting them on record. One night, specifically in August 1984, I had a dream and God told me, “All those data you are keeping, you must not lose them, because they would be useful in future.” There is a story behind every glory. Now is the time to tell the story. I was keeping the data. Every holiday, I go back and analyze my data and they come out with beautiful information that can be interventions and provide solutions to issues in the industry as at then which was not as sophisticated as it is now. That brought out the writing of books that were very useful to help farmers in this part of the world. There was no internet then, so farmers could read the books. and that was how it started. It was on for a very long time.

I produced a lot of papers, scientific papers which were read within the country and outside Nigeria until sometime in 2014 when I was in Toulouse, France to present a paper on data interpretation of Marek’s disease outbreak in humid tropical climate. And that data caught the passion of a company in France, Oufris in France. The interpretation of my study then was that hatcheries should not be held absolutely responsible for compensation when there’s an outbreak of Marek’s disease. The notion was that if you have vaccination at the hatchery, the birds are safe, they have solid immunity and they are not supposed to come down. But that’s not what we were finding outside. We found that after 12 weeks, about 3months, outbreaks sometimes occur. And the farmer goes back to the hatchery to start demanding for compensation. And so my study, which was 20 years of Marek’s research in Nigeria brought out clearly a traceability analysis that the vaccination done at the hatchery could break down. And it was not because the vaccination was not properly done, but because there were secondary challenges outside the hatchery. That was how we identified mycotoxins as the core reason why vaccinations were breaking down because the birds were subjected to sub-clinical levels of mycotoxins and that’s why you had outbreaks coming from the farm. From the study you can trace that the hatchery vaccination was successful because it can show you a pattern of mortality that is normal until about 12 months of age. So, this information caught a lot of awareness. And a farm in Nigeria, CHI was the first company to identify this problem and they called me to produce a training in 2005. And that was the training that brought out the ideas for us that we need to do a second vaccination for Marek’s that would look like an amnestic response. At that time, it became clear to me that all other data that I had, all of them I should now interpret them, bring them out and make them available for farmers all over the world. The idea of forming an NGO started coming up until finally in 2015, the lord spoke to me again. He said, “Go and help them develop livestock agriculture”. So that’s the mission. And then, I started looking for opportunities to form an NGO. I came across a daughter lawyer of mine who took it up and then we formed a company.

“Go and help them develop livestock agriculture”.

 

(JN): In deciding on the name of the foundation, what informed your choice of the words “Industry” and “Africa”?
(SA): Yes. In deciding the name, you see Livestock Industry Foundation for Africa. So, Africa was my passion. You see that most of the problems of livestock challenges are recorded in Africa. Because of our location, because of the tropical climate, the climate change itself started around 2000. That was when the near-earth temperature started increasing and the challenges of stress sparking epidemics in 2000. And then we wrote a paper on that: Stress Sparks Epidemic, published by World Poultry Journal in 2000 and that was the beginning. So, the challenges of livestock mainly are underlined by heat and stress. So, I put Africa as my focus because the problems we’re having here in Nigeria, we also have it in Uganda. I have been to Uganda, and Senegal and noted that these are all common problems.

(JN): You are one of the most experienced veterinarians in active livestock practice in Nigeria. What are some of the most memorable experiences you have had that prepared you for LIFA?

(SA): There are so many memorable experiences. I would tell you that as a young practitioner as far back as 1977, the first challenge I had was the problem of mycotoxins. In ‘77/78, finished feeds were still imported into Nigeria. There was a particular occasion when finished feed was imported into Nigeria from Germany. And you know it would take about 3months for it to get to Nigeria, and there was serious mycotoxin contamination. There were mold and aflatoxins and that batch of feed killed about 66,000 birds somewhere in Nigeria. I was involved in writing a report on that. That was the first time I started appreciating teamwork. I was out of the University, into practice as at then and the products were brought to me. I co-opted some colleagues of mine in nutrition and toxicology. I asked the nutritionist, late Dr. Ogundola to go and do a proximate analysis of the feed for me. I asked a toxicologist, Prof Ogbonike. We found out that nutritionally; proximate analysis of the feed was okay, but there was heavy contamination of aflatoxins. I did my own part.

I had experimental birds that I fed, and I found that production was stagnant among many other factors. I joined all these factors together, and I wrote to the company, to the people who brought it to me. That report gave me a lot of tussle, because it led to a court case, and that retarded my practice as a young veterinarian for so many years. But we thank God; we were able to solve it. But that’s a big challenge for someone just coming into practice. I thought I was doing practice but I didn’t note the legal aspect of practice at that time. So that was the first challenge I had.The second challenge I had was the challenge of Gumboro disease. The only lecture I had about it in the University was that “This disease is not in Nigeria.” Just about three sentences. But when I came out to practice, it was the greatest challenge that I had. Farmers were complaining, birds were dying and I started doing research on how we could minimize it, importing my knowledge from virology and bringing it to bear. We were able to use it to minimize mortality and drastically reduce mortality instead of telling the farmer that the disease is self-limiting, that he should just fold his hands and watch 30-40% of his birds dying. I had a lot of criticism at that time too. So that was also a challenge.
It was also a challenge for you to just come out and say it’s research you want to be doing when people are looking for money. But today I thank God that that was my vision because he said “seek ye first the kingdom of God and all other things shall be added unto you.” Now that we have collated all our research findings, it now becomes a story that would be available to many farmers not only in Nigeria but all over the world. These experiences led to some of the solutions we are packaging for LIFA today.

“It was also a challenge for you to just come out and say it’s research you want to be doing when people are looking for money.”

 

(JN): What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in starting LIFA?

(SA): Logistics challenge, funding challenge, but God gave us the ability to overcome them. We came to a conclusion that the major health challenge in tropical poultry production is mycotoxin. And unfortunately, farmers in Africa are looking the other way, spending a lot of money on antibiotics treatment and paying less attention to mycotoxins. Why did I say this? I found out that in all the departments or segments of the livestock industry from the upstream to the downstream, to the table of the consumer, mycotoxin plays a vital role. Mycotoxin in GPS breeders can be vertically transmitted to the offspring; the offspring can carry toxins that manipulate or suppress their immune system, causing a lot of resistance and which the farmer would look at and incur more cost to manage opportunistic infections that occur on the way. So, if the farmer is aware that he should put his money to manage mycotoxins, he would manage a lot of the diseases that are found in his farm. So, we’re passionate to want to team up with different sectors of the livestock food chain that are playing a role in controlling aflatoxin. And that’s what we have been doing. We have been talking with people that produce afla-safe maize, we’re talking with nutritionists that are in charge of seeing that the feed is not contaminated. We’re also looking at mycotoxins in the physiology, pathogenesis and epidemiology of the animal system. And I keep on mentioning mycotoxins though aflatoxin is the core issue that the Government is concerned about.

The major problems we have in the industry are the large molecule toxins, that is, the fuminosins, the zearalenones and the ochratoxins. These toxins can cause non-specific antibody production and that means that if a farmer goes to vaccinate for Newcastle Disease, his chickens can produce antibodies to IB, and that has been wasted. Again, zearalenone for example, mimics oestrogen. The structure of zearalenone is like oestrogen. This is a hormone and it is dangerous for veterinarians and nutritionists to close their eyes to these toxins, because they do compete with the receptive sites that oestrogen would attach to in the system. And when they do that, the cell runs signals to the reproductive system, and you start seeing all manner of infections, including pyometra. So, control mycotoxins and you control a large proportion of infection. We did a study sometime and found that it would cost about 45 million dollars to treat 40 million layer-birds in Nigeria with antibiotics in the country. That translates to about 1,750 naira per chicken. That’s a lot of money. And the cause of this is resistance development.
Another study we did showed the level of resistances we had to the major bacterial diseases of poultry. Colibacillosis is about 75% resistant and then for Salmonella we have only 8% resistance development. And we did the same thing for others and compared with 20 different antibiotics in the market and we were having 75% resistances to 20 different antibiotics in the market, so this kind of study shows that we need to focus on other reasons that minimize antibiotic treatment. This is the reason for my passion on mycotoxins.

 

(JN): Your website mentions your advocacy for national inclusion of LEGS (Livestock Emergency Guideline and Standard). Can you shed more light on the significance of LEGS?

(SA): LEGS is Livestock Emergency Guideline and Standard, and this is the tool that you can use to manage disaster in livestock. We found out that in Africa, except in Ethiopia and maybe Uganda, in West Africa particularly when you talk about disaster, like flood disasters and onset of drought, attention is not given to livestock. In 2007, there was a serious food in Ibadan and another in Abeokuta. There was one that wiped out a lot of fish ponds. So what kind of mitigation? And before you can start incorporating livestock mitigation, you must have a tool to guide you on, “how do you restock? how do you house? “
We want LEGS to be used by NEMA to compensate farmers when there is a livestock disaster. It’s not only just for men. What of the livestock that are lost? And how can the people restart their business and their livelihoods? We are passionate on that and I had a training on that in Senegal.

 

(JN): What has the Nigerian livestock industry lost in the past due to the absence of an NGO to drive advocacy and policy?
(SA): They have lost a lot. The Nigerian livestock industry has lost a lot. You can’t compare us with East Africa and South Africa. Majority of the employment of nutritionists and veterinarians in East and South Africa are done by NGOs. More funds are going to East and South Africa to develop their livestock than you have here. Forget about climate, you see dairy production is well developed there. I was in Botswana and I saw the livestock. Botswana is old Kalahari Desert. But if you see their livestock industry, even their animals are tagged. You see there’s a bell on the neck of the animal that can be traced. These are not funded by Government, they are funded by NGOs. But advocacy, to talk about these things, is lacking in Nigeria. What we have, the most viable Association is the Poultry Association of Nigeria. But they cannot be doing everything alone. You see, you’re arguing for yourself, and you’re arguing alone. You’re the only one arguing, but if there is a third party saying “this is what we should do”. But we don’t have that in Nigeria.
To bring my point home, for example look at glut. One of the greatest ways we can manage glut in Nigeria is just to supply a segmented market. You see, when an egg producer has another place he can sell his eggs too, then less eggs would come to the market just for consumers to buy for cooking or frying. So, value would be added to the egg and the value-added egg, either powder or liquid can be eaten outside Nigeria with a long shelf life. This market is lacking, and if there had been advocacy, this matter would have brought to the attention of some investors that would want to add that kind of value to the egg market in Nigeria.
It’s the responsibility of the NGO to convince the Government, and dialogue with the Government, and make noise about it. These are the things we are missing. We’re also missing a lot of NGO grants that can create employment opportunities and work for our youth. An NGO is supposed to work alongside Government and provide alternative opportunities for people. Not everyone should be looking directly upon the Government. That’s what we’re lacking.

 

(JN): Do you think due to the absence of NGO involvement, the Government’s agricultural policies are skewed in favour of crop farmers to the detriment of livestock farmers?
(SA): You’re quite correct. You would even see that when people are talking about food, they don’t talk about the animal component. I corrected this on one occasion. When you talk about food, a balanced ration is plant and animal. Most of the nutrients we need, that a man would need to grow well; to develop intellectual capacity, the essential amino acids are in animals. So, you don’t have a complete food if you don’t eat meat. So, because we’re energy biased as far as food is concerned in Africa. We want to change the orientation. You need not just food, you need balanced food. And that is the concept of having an NGO to preach that.

 

(JN): What are some of the most pressing issues LIFA is tackling at the moment?
(SA): We have on our hands the policy to influence Government on the no vaccination policy for Avian Influenza. We believe that A.I is endemic and that even the compensation that the Government is supposed to pay, the Government does not have capacity to pay. About 3.5 million birds suffered Avian Influenza outbreak in the last two years and farmers were not compensated, most of them died of hypertension and stroke. It was until recently that the present Government of President Buhari looked into the affairs and the acting president at a time had passion and some compensation was paid to the farmers.
So, our point is this: why don’t you remodify this policy and allow us to have vaccination for our GPS and our parent stock. This way, you would have vertical immune response and antibodies would then go downstream. Again, if you say there’s an outbreak, you can have a regulated vaccination: where the outbreak occurred, do a ring vaccination, not around the country but around where the outbreak occurred. And not going to where the outbreak occurred and start vaccinating outwards, which was a big problem that was done in the past. These are the things that we packaged together that we think we should dialogue with government, not in confrontation but dialogue to see if this can be adopted. If this is adopted, the government can hands-off on compensating because they will now ask insurance companies to insure them. Then you now mark that the vaccination policy. but this vaccination must not be like other vaccinations going on in the country. It must only be guaranteed by government approval, the kind and the type of vaccine to be brought into the country and it cannot be brought into the country without the approval of the Directorate of Veterinary Services. That’s my concern and not just anyone should import the vaccine. It must be identified by the kind that is suitable, and it must be approved by the Government and only then can anybody bring it in. That is the stand of our NGO as far that is concerned.

 

(JN): What goals do you have for LIFA to achieve in the next one to two years?
(SA): Now LIFA is just starting, and all the resources for LIFA are coming from Dr. Stephen Adejoro and I am satisfied providing all those resources. You see, a Yoruba adage says something, “Eleru lo ma ngberu e. Wa a koko gberu e na” which means if you want to carry a load, you must make effort to carry it on your own before other people see you and join you. So that’s what we’re doing now. And we’re lucky to have a passionate secretary for the NGO who is very passionate and is creating waves and he’s travelling all over the country now, attending seminars, creating new technologies for us. I can’t do that kind of running now, so he’s doing the running and we’re very happy about that. So, we’re optimistic. If you start thinking about money now, you see, that’s not the issue. Put in the passion, put in the zeal, then you won’t know when the money would come in, you won’t know when people would support you. So, our goal in the next two years is to see how to empower at least 60 to 100 youths using the mix livestock portfolio and spread through South-west Nigeria.

 

“Eleru lo ma ngberu e. Wa a koko gberu e na”

 

(JN): What role do you think LIFA can play in resolving Fulani-herdsmen conflicts that are prevalent in the country?
(SA): We started a pilot project with Osun state government which is a state that has minimal conflict among herdsmen and arable farmers. Because there was a committee set up by the state Government to look into that area. And the committee came and had a discussion with me. And we proposed that why don’t we think about creating social enterprises, that is the herdsman who roam around the city carrying their milk and cheese which they cannot finish selling, why don’t you create milk processing cubicles with appropriate equipment, then collect these milk, process them together and collect them into yoghurt or cheese, especially that you have a school feeding programme. This yoghurt or cheese can enter the school feeding programme. You would give the Fulani women more time to support their husbands and do other things, and the Fulani men can have confidence in that Government and would listen to the government when they talk, and that can help to minimize conflict.
This program was ongoing in Osun state, but inadequate funds did not allow them to continue with it. At least they started it. That’s one initiative on our hands.

 

(JN): How would LIFA help to increase youth participation in agriculture and lead to job creation?
(SA): We have an initiative that emanated from all our past initiatives and that is our youth empowerment program. This program using mix-livestock portfolio. We identified that cattle fattening and layers, egg production can come together and be used to empower youth.
How did I come about that? I practiced it myself and it was this practice I used to train all my children in school. I practiced it on a small scale using a portion of land at the back of my house, on a 2-plot area and I was able to keep the stock of 25 Sokoto Gudali breed of cattle. It’s humped cattle with very short or no horns at all, and it’s good for meat. We were able to keep it, and people were coming here to the house to buy it. The poultry would bring money on a daily basis because they are laying eggs, and the cattle would be an investment because it appreciates on a daily basis. You can even use the cattle as collateral if you are in a cooperative to take more loans. So, this is an initiative we have for empowerment programs. As I’m talking to you now, we’ve started talking to some people about this, about how we can get this started in South-Western Nigeria. That is one initiative. We’ve published a book on that. The book I authored on that has been published by Lambert publishers in Germany and sold on Amazon, so you can Google it if you’re interested. We intend to use this book massively for this program. Meanwhile, we are intending that royalties that come from the book will help the NGO expand her activities.

Then again, we also have other initiatives, such as researching causes for vaccination failure and then documenting them. All the initiatives are well spelled out on our website, so you can visit it and see them.
I fenced the back of my house with wood, created feeders, created troughs and I made a lairage and in 6,7 months they were big enough. As I was selling them, I was replacing them until my stock was replenished.
(JN): Have you personally practiced this mix livestock portfolio before?

 

(SA): My experience is that I stumbled into it. I was in Bodija market and saw a very sickly Sokoto Gudali calf, and I had passion and I bought it. At that time, this place was still developing so I brought it here and I treated it, dewormed it, gave antibiotics and was resuscitating it and it was doing well. At times, it would go out and in the evening, bellow and come in. So, at a point in time, I had a friend, a professor who wanted to do a burial ceremony and he wanted to go and buy cattle in the market and I told him I had a cow in my house. he was laughing, saying “how can you have cattle in your house?” but when he saw it, he said, “this is the kind of cattle I need” and I bought that cow for 3,500 Naira, kept it for 9-12months and I sold it to that professor for 25, 000 Naira. It was aesthetic, good presentation, and he bought it. But I went back to the market the following day with 25,000 Naira to buy 5 Sokoto Gudali. That was the genesis of my fattening program. I fenced the back of my house with wood, created feeders, created troughs and I made a lairage and in 6-7 months they were big enough. As I was selling them, I was replacing them until my stock was replenished.

 

 

This continued until 1984 when I wrote a book on that, I granted an interview to a newspaper. The late Governor of Oyo state, Oyakhire saw the interview, and he asked the commissioner of agriculture to come and verify whether it was true or not. The commissioner at that time was late Dr. Adegoke. He invited me to his office and I went there. He doubted that I could keep such number of cattle and he said he wanted to see it. So he came, and when he entered and looked at them, he said, “Oh, so it’s possible”. He then asked me at that time to follow him to Oke-Ogun, the savannah part of Oyo state which was my target at that time that we develop as the cattle capital of Oyo state. But unfortunately, we could not continue with that. But I continued with my passion to the extent that I wrote a brilliant paper on how Oke-Ogun should be turned to cattle producing area in Oyo state. You can Google that today: “The Goal of Veterinarians in Livestock Development.” I specifically challenged them that every resource you need to do cattle fattening pogram is in Oke-Ogun.

Every household in Igbeti, in Saki, all those areas have abundant waste resources of guinea corn and other things that you can use. All you need to do is enclose an area where you can put these cattle, and put a feeder, and this can move the veterinarians from urban areas to rural areas to provide veterinary services if almost all the houses have two or three cattle at the back of their houses. Why would a nutritionist not go there and prepare some finished feed for them? This finished feed are needed because you put them on 2 kilograms of finished feed concentrates every day to prevent them from breaking the fence and causing nuisance all around. That ration is about 17% protein and contains about 1,815 calories of energy which can be made specifically for them. So, they can feed on this in the evening, so they would not break the fence. And in the day, they can feed on chaff and other raw materials. A house can have 2or 3 cattle and later if it is dairy that they want to have they can have it. This is the beautiful thing that can be done in Oke-Ogun, it can be done in Ikoyi area of Ondo state, Ilaro area of Ogun state, Ilogbo area of Osun state. We preach it but I hope one day Government would look at it and do it, this is the passion.

(JN): Is there an ongoing programme for the mix-livestock portfolio?

 

(SA): Yes! Yes, this initiative, because Government must not come to guide this initiative, which is why we formed an NGO. If we have the NGO and we have resources for the NGO, we would start the initiative. That’s why I said we have started and some people have shown interest and we have been communicating with them. Once we finalize discussions, we would start selecting youths in some areas in the South-Western region that we can train, that we can equip. maybe if the government sees that it going well, the Government can also come in and they can join us. We are all working for the betterment of the community.

 

(JN): At the beginning of this interview, you made mention of the availability of data as the foundation of this NGO Do you think we have a data gap in the agricultural sector?
(SA): That’s why we started getting passionate on data. Because you find that data that are available are not consistent. If you gather 10 people today and ask them what the population of poultry is in Nigeria today, you’ll also get 10 different figures. And if you ask for the source, maybe only about 30% would tell you this is the source of the data. There was no data around, and we looked at the record we had kept for so many years, and we analyzed and were able to tell PAN that 65% of the poultry farmers in Nigeria are small scale farmers, after aggregating the population of people that came to our clinic after so many years and the general population, we came to a conclusion that this is the percentage that are small scale, medium scale and large scale. And I agree with you that data consciousness is lacking in Nigeria. We need a data bank. Apart from the Federal Office of Statistics (now Nigerian Bureau of Statistics), data is epileptic. But it’s changing now. PAN is collecting data. Under Oduntan, we started having realistic data. I think we are making progress as far as that is concerned. So, I agree that data gap is a factor.

 

(JN): Any parting words?
(SA): Yes. Do what you know how best to do. You see, when you talk of the livestock industry, the livestock industry does not end in production alone. There must be research, there must be information dissemination and documentation. It’s a chain. That’s why we talk of a value chain. In which aspect are you most suitable. I was lucky to identify that mine is to help develop. I have experimental farms, but I’m supposed to collate data, produce books, put them as a resource and allow either university students or a farmer in his farm to go to our website and look at those resources and use them to manage his farm. That’s a big contribution. Look at what’s happening in the university and what’s happening in the field and use the resources to build up your knowledge. A farmer can stay in his farm and use our information on the management of fowl cholera; on the management of Gumboro to improve his farm. So, we are all doing the farming together. So, when we come together, we help develop the animal food chain. That’s where we stand, and that’s what we do. And that’s why I implore everybody: look at the area you are most suitable. Don’t enter livestock because of competition; because so and so has done it one hundred thousand animals. No! No!! No!!! if you do that, you would fail. Look at where you can contribute your quota and then you can have a better result for the society. That is my advice.

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