Ending herders/ farmers’ clashes with cattle colonies
By Titus Agbo
The Federal Government is determined to end herders/farmers’ perennial clashes with the planned creation of cattle colonies around the country. The Minister of Agriculture Chief Audu Ogbe had given the indication immediately after the New Year clash in Benue state that claimed about seventy lives.
He said that the move would put an end to the frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen across the country saying that everything had been put in place by the government to ensure the success of the project so as to solve the continued conflicts.
Such initiative no doubt will ensure a lasting peace between the two groups of farmers and promote prosperity in the land. It is germane and expedient in view of the present drive to ensure not just food sufficient in Nigeria but to transform the country into a food exporting nation. At the moment over 70% of our rice consumption have been achieved locally since the coming of this regime with a plan to get to zero import by the last quarter of 2018.
The multiplier effects of this arrangement cannot be quantified if well harnessed. Facilities are going to be provided to cater for both the herdsmen and their cattle. There will be modern automated abattoirs and special grasses with vitamin and protein fortification to feed the cattle. And because the cattle will be confined and fed well, dairy products which have not been exploited due to the nomadic nature of the herders would be harvested. We spend billions of dollars annually importing milk which would have been utilised in other essential needs if we had been maximising what we have locally.
The cattle colonies from all indications will also ensure that the cattle remain in good health as it provides the platform for proper veterinary care for the animals and as well make them healthier for consumption.
By this we can begin to have quality fresh milk and even processed version thereby reducing our imports if not totally eliminating them. With the arrangement in place, the quest for the diversification of the economy will be further heightened. The herders will be better empowered with improved earnings and the Federal Government and the states/local governments will make more revenues since the herders will be well positioned to pay taxes.
Other advantages will be in the area of employment creation. The programme if well planned will provide direct and indirect employments to millions of youths both skilled and unskilled. Apart from those that will be directly engaged to tend to the cows in the colonies there will be those who will work in abattoirs and the ancillary industries that will spring up. The companies that will establish meat and dairy processing outfits for exports and local consumption will spring up. One will also not foreclose the possibility of investors coming into cattle feeds just like we have in poultry farming
Already, sixteen states according to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Ogbe have offered five hectres of land each for the take off of the cattle colonies. He said that President Buhari has promised to release money to the ministry for the project as he disclosed that so far over six million jobs have been created by the agricultural sector in the last two and half years. He regretted that the critics of the Buhari administration were only focusing on job losses in the cities without acknowledging great impacts coming from the agriculture. Chief Ogbe also added that export earnings from Hibiscus which is usually known as Zobo in our local parlance last year alone was $35 million with the demands for it increasing progressively.
A Federal Legislator, Honourable Dennis Agbo in suggesting for a new method of grazing noted that the National Animal Production Research Institute,(NAPRI) Zaria has the magic wand that could put permanent end to the herdsmen/farmers clashes in the country. Speaking in an interview in his office, Honourable Agbo who is also a member of the House Committee on Agriculture stressed that the institute has the capability to provide quality and enough feeds to take care of whatever number of livestock in the country.
He said “time has come for us to review our cattle breeding system to save further bloodshed in the country and even improve on the quality and quantity of yields for the herdsmen”. Honourable Agbo who represents Udenu/Igboeze North Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives also disclosed that the institute has vitamin, protein and energy fortified grasses stocked in bales in its large warehouse in Zaria that could help the breeders achieve healthier and better yields than what they have presently. Citing the example of the Saudi Arabia which produces a 1.5 million litres of milk daily from cows through ranching despite being in a desert, the federal legislator stressed that Nigeria could do better with modernity given the vast resources available to it.
He further stressed that “the objective of everybody at the moment should be how to guide our herders to modernity by advocating for ranching adding that NAPRI if given the support would provide the platform.” According to him, “what is required is for the herdsmen to be given orientation for a period of one or one and half years within which they will transit from the present nomadic system to ranching and they will be better for it”. Honourable Agbo equally noted that ranching if adopted would trigger of a multiplier effects which would in turn provide employments and investments in the area of feeds. He said that NAPRI alone has 1,200 hectares of land for grass cultivation which if well utilised would be enough to feed the cattle adding that, “once the herders are taught the modern method and they get to know that they can achieve better yields with minimal efforts their fears will be eliminated.”