What is cattle colony?
At a time when Nigerians are aggrieved with apprehension that the worsening massacres of innocent farmers in parts of the country by suspected Fulani herdsmen may be getting out of control, the Federal Government may be stoking more fire by proposing to establish what it calls cattle colonies in different parts of the country.
Cattle colony is not a strategy for grazing cattle but a centre for cattle and beef product sales. Besides, there is only one cattle colony in the whole world found in Pakistan. It is therefore, worrisome what the Federal Government intends to achieve by establishing cattle colonies across Nigeria.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh had disclosed in Abuja at a stakeholders meeting that the Federal Government is putting everything in place to establish cattle colonies that would solve the continued herdsmen/farmers conflict in parts of the country.
According to him, the cattle colony project will start immediately following the offer of five hectares of land by 16 states in the country, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to help the ministry with money for the project.
While Ogbeh did not disclose the 16 states that have donated hectares of land for the project, he said facilities will be provided to take care of the herdsmen and their cattle, which they (herdsmen) have said if water and grass were provided, they would not be moving with their cattle.
Certainly, what Ogbeh is describing is ranching, which he is confusing with cattle colony. Whereas, a ranch is an area of land with facilities and structures set up for raising grazing livestock such as cattle, for meat or wool, cattle colony is totally different both in terms of purpose and structure
According to Wikipedia, “Cattle colony is one of the neighbourhoods of Bin Qasim Town in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. This neighbourhood of Karachi is the centre of cattle and meat trade in Karachi. The cattle colony is the dairy products shopping and supply centre of Karachi. There are also many abattoirs and meat warehouses located in the cattle colony.”
It is very clear from the foregoing that cattle colony is entirely a Pakistani idea for its local cattle and beef market economy.
The cattle colony is one and exists only in the neighbourhood of Bin Qasim Town in Karachi. It is not in any other place in the entire Pakistan or elsewhere in the world. No other country in Africa, Asia, Europe, Americas or Australia has cattle colony. Thus, there is only one cattle colony in the world. Talking about cattle colonies in Nigeria, as Ogbeh is contemplating, is a misnomer.
Moreover, since cattle colony is essentially devoted to the sale of cattle and beef products, it is, therefore, not one of the modern methods for raising cattle or other livestock. At best, it is an innovation for efficient cattle sales along with its beef products.
Nigeria’s problem with cattle borders on grazing and watering of the animals. This is best done in a ranch, as in other parts of the world. Ignoring ranching, which is the globally accepted modern method of cattle farming and instead presenting cattle colony suggests something is fishy.
It is baffling that the minister is introducing something that is alien to the world of cattle/livestock industry. Ranching remains the modern and most widely used method of raising cattle. To avoid confusing Nigerians, it is appropriate to understand what cattle colonies are as against cattle ranching.
Cattle colony is like a shopping complex where cattle and meat trade are carried out. The colony has nothing to do with rearing/grazing cattle and other livestock. It is out of place for the minister to be talking of establishing facilities to take care of the herdsmen and their cattle in a cattle colony. This can only be done in a ranch. Any herdsman or cattle in a cattle colony is there for trading and slaughtering of the cattle and not for grazing.
The string of abattoirs and warehouses that are established in Pakistan’s cattle colony show that it is entirely a market for beef cattle. Could the minister now see that the cattle colony is a place for slaughtering the animals and not for grazing? Can we call a spade a spade and save this country from avoidable crisis?
If the Pakistanis who introduced cattle colony in their cattle economy established just one colony, why then is the minister talking about establishing cattle colonies all over Nigeria? And, if no other country has adopted the concept of cattle colony, why is Nigeria toying with it? Why are our leaders so obdurate and unwilling to do the right thing in the national interest?
The insinuation that the cattle colonies proposal is intended to be used to Islamize Nigeria is gaining traction. Consequently, some governors in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria have rejected the idea. Where do we go from here?
It is not that Nigeria is among the largest cattle/beef producers in the world. Nigeria is nowhere to be found among the world’s largest beef producers.
Available information shows that the United States is the leading world beef producer (20%), followed by Brazil (15.4%), European Union (13%), China (11.4%) and India (7%). Out of the 53 largest beef producers ranked in the world, only two African countries are included namely South Africa at 13th position producing 1.44% of world beef and Gabon at the 53rd position with negligible per cent.
In all of these countries, ranching is the accepted method of cattle farming. My study shows that Gabon has most of its cattle in ranches. Countries like New Zealand, whose livestock population is more than the human population, have their livestock in ranches. The argument that the Fulani’s traditional nomadic lifestyle has to continue cannot survive the test of time in the 21st Century as humanity passes into post modernisation digital economy.
There has to be a deliberate attempt to get the herdsmen to adopt ranching in this modern era. There are few indigenous cultures around the world that are still stuck in the primitive wandering lifestyle. The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania that rear livestock in semi nomadic fashion are even being tamed to be sedentary.
The Tanzania and Kenya governments have instituted programmes to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle. While it may not be easy to change them, a concerted effort in that direction will definitely bring change. Nigerian authorities should do likewise except there is something else.
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