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Ban on open grazing: Practicability amid attractive options

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Cattle ranch

Hot on the heels of the proclamation by the southern governors to ban open grazing, as already legally done in Benue, Oyo and other states of the federation with enabling laws enacted by the state houses of assembly, the unanswered question relates to the issue of alternative means.

The Southern Governors had in their communiqué urged the Federal Government to support willing states to explore alternative means of cattle breeding.

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At some point, various stakeholders have suggested the establishment of modern ranches, and most Nigerians agree that, in tandem with the modern-day realities, open grazing is outdated, and ranching is reasonable.

The dilemma, however, remains the modus operandi in the face of mutual suspicion, with some traces of facts, that herders’ mission goes beyond ordinary grazing.

Various initiatives, no matter how vague they appeared, have been suggested by the Federal Government, but with stiff resistance from the people of southern Nigeria.

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RUGA, a programme of the Federal Government was proposed by the Muhammadu Buhari government through his former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe.

Another scheme that has met with rejection is the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which in actual fact contains components of RUGA.

RUGA

Policy statement of Establishment of RUGA Model Pilot Settlements in 12 states proposed in 2019, under its the ‘Implementation Strategy,’ states: “This special intervention project shall be executed in eight (8) pastoralists settlements per state in conjunction with the respective state governments, FMARD Regional and State Offices, Departments of Animal Husbandry Services, Agricultural Land and Climate Change Management Services, Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Rural Development, Extension Services, Registered Pastoralists groups (MACBAN, Kulen-Allah, etc), Animal Inputs suppliers, Resident Surveyor in FMARD, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment.”

The proposed components include Water Infrastructure – Solar powered borehole with overhead tanks and water harvesting structures/micro dams; Feed/Fodder/Forage establishment to incorporate ruminant supplementary feed for dry season and development of 50ha pasture plots; Abode RUGA infrastructure and sanitary facilities; Construction of RUGA structures with red bricks for sedentarization of pastoralists. (8 pilot RUGA model settlements per state), procurement and installation of solar light, construction of sanitary blocks, provision of two blocks of toilet per RUGA settlement of five rooms each with squatting bowls.

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Other components include Animal Health Support with construction and equipping of one block of Animal Health Centre with accessories per state, deployment of Animal Health Service provider from the state/local government veterinary services; Human Support including School, Dispensary, Construction and furnishing of blocks of three classrooms per settlement, construction and equipping of one room dispensary per settlement and deployment of health care provider by state/local government and lastly, a Security Post with watchtowers, operational wears, desert boots and raincoat, ballistic helmets, and bulletproof vests.

Following widespread protests by Nigerians, non-governmental groups, religious bodies and activists not only in the southern part of Nigeria but also in the north-central and other zones, RUGA was redesigned as presented as The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).
The National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP)

The NLTP Strategic Approach, on the other hand, states: “Based on feedback from the state-level and national consultations, strategic intervention areas are proposed that support improved performance and sustainability of livestock production and value addition, underpinned by productive infrastructure and technological interventions along the livestock value chain…

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“The main thrust of this strategy is to support and strengthen the development of market-driven ranches in the livestock ecosystem for improved livestock productivity through breed (genetic) improvement and pasture production, in addition to efficient land and water productivity improvements,” with some ‘supporting pillars.’

Despite the appearance of a true livestock programme, critics have also condemned the lopsided nature of the NLTP, saying it revolves around cattle breeding in favour of mainly Fulani pastoralists while excluding poultry, piggery, fish and goat farmers who have been mainly operating on personal or corporate infrastructure without government massive investments as proposed in RUGA and NLTP.

This further fuels further suspicion of ethnic colouration to a supposedly national programme.

Scholars, Agro-industrial Investors’ Input
The dilemma of the southern governors, however, is choosing between privately operated and public owned ranches, as most communities in the southern states have repeatedly kicked against accommodating Fulani herders amid them following cases of farmer-herder clashes, banditry, kidnapping and killings which the paramilitary agencies and other law-enforcement agencies appear incapable of tackling.

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Scholars like a former Regional Coordinator, Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA), Prof Adebayo Kolawole, who is a farm extension specialist, said the southern governors should emplace infrastructure and policies to “encourage private ranches,” saying the public ownership of such facilities would not encourage efficiency and prudent management of public resources.

He inferred that public resources on private businesses of herders would be unfair to poultry and other livestock farmers.

A feed miller and food processor in Ijebu Ode, Mr Segun Shewoniku, also said the southern governors have only made public what was agreed upon. They should send bills to their respective houses of assembly for appropriate laws.

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He added: “It’s then we can say they have done something. Then we can think of alternatives that include establishing ranches under various arrangements like Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT), among others.” He also suggested resuscitation of abandoned cattle ranches

He specifically advised against them to “Avoid Federal Government’s monetary assistance, else ownership might be high jacked and be made to serve the wrong people.”

But, the President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ibrahim Kabir, said the southern governors should participate fully.

He said: “When this fully takes off, there are many deliverables and both the farmers and herders will maximise a symbiotic relationship, whereby farm residues will be bought from the farmers to feed the cattle and manure to be used as organic fertiliser could be bought from the herders.”

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He also said: “The ranches can be sustainable in the long run because the herders can pay fees to be there as time goes on and this will be used to offset the investment by the government. Where necessary the ranches can be interconnected by creating clearly defined routes between them with grazing and drinking areas in them.”

A former Provost of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Ibadan, Dr Ademola Raji, who was also Director of Livestock in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture under former Minister of Agriculture, Dr Adesina Akinwumi, said open grazing is an uncontrolled system of rearing cattle and it is not acceptable anymore because the land belongs to somebody else.

He recommended private ranching as livestock businesses are private, and owners should be able to develop private mini ranches.

He said: “Cattle rearing is a business. So, do it as a business. Get land, buy the land, develop it and move in your animals and give them feeds and water. It is like poultry. You can rent or lease land for mini ranches.”

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General Manager, Tuns Farms, Ososgbo, Taofeek Badmus, said: “I see the ban on open grazing as a welcome and bold move by the Southern governors. The ban should have been expected.

“The next line of action by the governors should be presenting alternatives to open grazing that could actually work in Nigeria.

“Ranching, as practised in Eastern African countries such as Botswana, is a very profitable and workable system. Botswana, for example, even exports beef to global markets and should be commended.

“Some of the reasons the similar RUGA system as proffered previously did not work and was kicked against by the southern communities was because it appeared that the Fulani herdsmen were getting preferential treatment in the form of free land as proposed in that system.”

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He said ranching, as a system, is the ideal way to raise cattle for it improves productivity and profit, prevents stress caused by constantly being on the move and energy can be concentrated on production.

“A variation of the ranching system employed in other countries is what Nigeria needs. Systems, where herdsmen buy the lands and ranch on them or lease the land they ranch on or even ranch in partnership with the landowners or the government, would be profitable to everyone involved,” he added.

Plans By Some States
Chief Press Secretary to the Osun State Governor, Ismael Omipidan, said the state government had set up a committee to fashion out a modality to implement the policy.

The committee, he said, would consider every possibility capable of finding a workable alternative to open grazing, either through the public or private sector, or both. He added that the committee would interface with farmers.

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All the states in the Southwest have emplaced legislations and forces to implement the ban through the Amotekun Corps as a network to tame insecurity.

Officials of governments said the corps would execute the laws when all states make legislations against open grazing, as they have been doing in Ondo State.

Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor, Mr. Taiwa Adisa, said the Oyo State anti-grazing Law 2019 has taken care of options that could be explored.

The law stipulates the procedures to be taken while applying for land to develop private cattle ranches, which include application to the family that owns the land, and if the family agrees to sell or lease the land, it would write to the Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture, and the ministry would write to the Ministry of Environment if the application from the family is approved.

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The State Ministry of Environment, Adisa added, would then conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and if approved, would be presented to the governor, who reserves the final say, for approval.

PRIOR to the meeting of the Southern governors in Asaba, Delta State, last week, Ondo State government had been making efforts to embark on a mechanised ranching system.

But with a recent statement credited to the states government, it appears Ondo will relY on resources from the national livestock plan for the alternative to open grazing.

However, what remains unclear is whether host communities, which have kicked against RUGA, NLTP, would support the state on the Federal Government-sponsored ranches, which would imply shedding the land to the Federal Government for herders’ use.

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Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu said during the meeting in Asaba that: “This message is not new. We looked at what is happening in our respective states. Most of the states have passed laws on open grazing. Virtually all of us have passed that law.

“The Federal Government should give money for ranches to be created. That is why it is part of our recommendation that states who want to create ranches be supported.”

Meanwhile, a year after Governor Akeredolu was sworn in, in 2017, he brought in investors to resuscitate the ranch established in Auga by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s administration during the Western Regional government.

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