Marking grazing reserves, cattle routes in Benue cannot work, says Ortom
NIRSAL launches rail scheme for cows, produce
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said the move to begin remarking of the grazing reserves and stock routes nationwide would not curb the persistent farmers/herdsmen clashes.
Speaking with The Guardian in Abuja, he said the Federal Government should liaise with its state counterparts to fashion out a roadmap to ranch the herds so that they (herdsmen) would make more money and live better.
Ortom said: “I can speak for my state. My fear is that now that we are diversifying to agriculture, everywhere in Benue State today is being identified or cultivated; so it is very difficult to have a grazing reserve or a cattle route. The best approach is for the government at the federal and state levels to provide a roadmap and begin a gradual process that would be used to transit the herdsmen from nomadic life to normal life of ranching their cattle.
“Their children can go to school; they will sit in one place, make money and live in more decent houses. It would help them, but it would need some kind of orientation thence the need for government to come in. If we have succeeded in borrowing the presidential system of government from America, why can’t we borrow the modern system of breeding cattle, which is ranching
“Communities in Benue State are predominantly farmers and have embraced the diversification policy of government to go into massive agricultural production, Ortom said, adding: “We have been unanimous in Benue State about ranches. As a government, it is our firm belief that we need to sit with the Federal Government and agree on a roadmap because it is not something that can be done overnight. It requires massive education of the nomads, the herdsmen. Government must also provide an enabling environment and the facilities as well as educating them on the advantages available in ranching than grazing.”
And to ease transportation, boost value chain and avoid needless clashes between farmers and herdsmen, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) has launched a rail transit scheme for movement of cattle and agricultural produce from the north to southern markets.
According to a statement by NIRSAL’s Coordinator, Research and Strategy, Bello Abdhullahi Abba, said the scheme, being operated under a partnership with Connect Rail Services, a bulk freight and logistics service provider, was to reduce transportation cost by over 20 per cent, minimise wastage and spoilage of goods in transit by over 40 per cent.
He hoped that the programme would reduce pressure on foreign exchange and the nation’s road network.
Three weeks ago, the scheme was test-run where cows were transported from Jebba to Lagos by rail within two days for a journey that takes several days by road. The arrival of the cattle in a much better condition than herded ones generated excitement in Oko-Oba, Lagos.
The formal launch of the scheme takes place next week in Gusau and Sokoto where cattle would leave immediately for Lagos.