The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development – Chief Audu Ogbeh has held sensitization forums with stakeholders in Adamawa State on the Federal Government’s plan to establish cattle ranches in some parts of the country to address the lingering crisis posed by the clashes between herdsmen and crop farmers in Nigeria.
Speaking at the Government House, Yola, Chief Ogbeh lamented the long neglect of cattle breeders in Nigeria, a sector he described as having single handedly sustained the livestock industry and meat supply for the nation.
“We want to find a common solution where the herdsmen will be involved and the solution which will bring joy to all Nigerians without any exception. The conflicts have generated a great deal of tension and very strong reactions. Some of the violence has been extremely regrettable but all that has happened because over the years, we really haven’t done much to support the herdsman. There has been a tendency to forget that the herdsmen are farmers. And while we have done a lot to support the cassava framer, the corn farmer, the rice farmer, the wheat farmer not to mention the groundnut farmer, the soya beans farmer, we have tended to carry on as if the people rearing cattle are really not part of agriculture. So, we have let them roam in search of grass and water, we have let them live for hundreds of years without sustainable family life but let them suffer the vagrancies of wild life. Snake bites, scorpion bites, death in the bush, ambushes, kidnapping as if they are not part of the overall agricultural programme of our country. That has to stop. And once it stops, I can assure you the kind of revenue that will flow to Adamawa for instance will be unimaginable.”
According to the Minister, the Federal Government has designed a plan to address the problem by building ranches with facilities to feed the animals; settle their keepers and their families/wards into a comfortable lifestyle. This he explained would stop the indiscriminate movement of cows in search of grass and the attendant clashes which have led to loss of lives and destruction of crops.
To ensure the availability of high quality grass to feed the animals in the ranches, Ogbeh maintained that plans have begun with the importation of high quality grass seedlings to be planted and multiplied on Nigerian soil. Chief Ogbeh pointed out that settling the current Herdsmen/farmers clashes through the proposed ranching system would help secure the nation source of meat, improve milk production, help save foreign exchange and stop the importation of milk.
“We spend 1.3billion dollars a year importing milk. The quality of beef we eat is not the best. The yield of lactation per cow in this country is about 1 litre. We can do 25 litres or 30 litres of milk per cow per day. We are here to discuss with you and the herdsmen as part of a sensitization programme to introduce to them what we want to do and to make them a part of it and to solicit the support of your government. We are going to grow grass, special kind of grass. Some with a protein content of at least 18%, we are going to give them boreholes and water and establish larger ranches and improve the grazing reserves in such a way that the cows don’t need to move and the families can settle. We can give some good education to their children and health facilities. And for those who want to buy cows, we can have a cow market here. We are also going further with the ministry of internal affairs to get highly trained rangers from the civil defence corps to protect the cows from rustlers. It is the duty of government to protect these investments and we are going to do that. We want to say to the entire citizens of Adamawa and Nigeria as a whole. You don’t have to be Fulani to keep cattles. I keep some but my cows don’t roam.”
Adamawa State Deputy Governor – Hon. Martins Babale, who stood in for the governor currently attending Umrah in Saudi Arabia, applauded the Minister’s initiative, pledging the total support of the state to see to the actualization of what he described as the best strategy so far proposed to put to rest the age-long herdsmen/farmers crisis in Nigeria.
“We totally welcome the Federal Government’s plan and we are going to increase the amount of lands to give you for the ranches. A grazing reserve is just one aspect of a herder’s life. Based on the yearnings of herders when we interacted with them, what they want to request from the Federal government is an establishment of Pastoralist Commission, a Commission that will look into all aspects of their lives. This will greatly help in addressing the resolution of the recurring herders/farmers clashes.”
At the palace of the paramount ruler of Adamawa Emirate – the Lamido of Adamawa – Dr. Muhammadu Barkindo Musdafa, the Hon. Minister was received by the royal father and members of the Emirates Council. Speaking on the purpose of the visit, the Hon Minister described the role of traditional rulers in the advancement of agriculture at the grassroots level as crucial, noting that no development efforts in the sector can really go far without the involvement of the rural areas where the core business is essentially agriculture.
He observed that by virtue of being one of the states with the largest grazing lands and a large number of cattle breeders in the whole of Northern Nigeria, Adamawa was crucial to the resolution of the current crisis. He appealed to the royal father to use his position as the Leader of the Emirate to give his support and blessing for the implementation of the ranching project.
Welcoming the Hon. Minister and his team, the Lamido of Adamawa commended the Minister for the laudable initiative and noted: “You are the first Minister to have shown true commitment to the resolution of this crisis which has been with us for too long. Your name will be written in the history books as the Minister who remembered the herdsmen and tried to make life easy for them. You have my full support. We will help and support your efforts to achieve these great objectives.”
Highpoint of the visit was a Town Hall meeting with executives and members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, where the Minister answered questions from the gathering and assured them of the Federal Government’s plans to invest massively in the proper breeding of their cattle; for better productivity; higher economic returns and settling the keepers to easier lifestyles. Chief Ogbeh also re-iterated FG’s plans to provide security for their investments in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior.
Responding to a question about some states which do not want to participate in the Federal Government’s Ranching system, Chief Ogbeh stated: “For other states in Nigeria, some have said they have no lands to give, we have no quarrels, those who have, we work with but any time they change their minds, we shall be there. Our job is not to discriminate but to be impartial.”
Representatives of the various groups within the Miyetti Allah Association expressed gratitude to the Minister for taking the time to engage them in the dialogue and promised to cooperate and give all the necessary support for the success of the new scheme.
Among Adamawa dignitaries at the town hall meeting was elder statesman and seasoned Administrator – Dr. Ahmed Joda. The Minister was accompanied on the visit by the Permanent Secretary – Dr Shehu Ahmed and other staff of the Ministry.