College ex-provost faults FG’s ranching project, rice production figure
• Suggests way forward
A former provost of the Kabba College of Agriculture, Kogi State, Dr Akin Olonihuwa, has faulted the Federal Government’s proposed cattle ranch development. The former college administrator said “The ranching, as proposed now, will only create fresh civil servants and politician millionaires without addressing the real issues.”
The real issues, he argued, include “The present breeds of cattle in the hands of our herdsmen cannot be ranched profitably as their growth rate is too slow and the milk yield is very poor. We would need to upgrade the breeds first, using artificial insemination or other modern techniques. And this cannot be achieved over night. It will take some years.”Olonihuwa also estimated the preparedness of the government in term of technical expertise to be inadequate.
He asked, “Where are the veterinarian doctors and technicians that will handle the attendant parasite and pathogen build-up in ranches? How much training has the herdsmen received and where are the back-up livestock extension agents to assist the ranchers?”He suggested that “what we need now is a few model ranches across the federation,” where herdsmen could be invited once a while to stimulate their interest and receive some training while the breed improvement program is on-going.
“If we look at the huge challenges facing us in this sector and just rush into ranching, I can see failure steering us in the face,” he said.He was pessimistic on the policy, saying, “Normadic pastoralism is a way of life – a culture, and you don’t change a people’s culture by legislation or government policy. They are bound to resist it.
“And don’t forget you are dealing with families, not just the herdsmen alone. What are you going to do with their wives and where are the schools and teachers for the ranches? Where are the rural sociologists that will persuade these people to adopt this new way of doing things? “I wish I have access to the Honourable Minister. May the Lord help this country.”On rice, Olonihuwa said the production figure flying around as drop in importation is false. The gap between local production and consumption is simply filled by smugglers.
“Visit any market in Nigeria; you will observe that local rice is not up to 10 per cent of total rice in the market, the remaining over 90% is foreign rice that has entered the country without custom duties being paid.
“Our rice policy is good if we continue but we are not there yet. And even if we are there, we would only have substituted importation of rice with other products – tractors, equipment, herbicides, pesticides, fertiliser, etc. Along with our rice policy, we need to encourage local production of inputs, but we shall find ourselves in the usual cul-de-sac, which is power. We can’t produce industrial products competitively without adequate power. [We have] plenty of work to do, you will agree with me,” he added.