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Farmers, herdsmen clashes: To hell with cattle colony, stakeholders tell Ogbe

Farmers, herdsmen clashes: To hell with cattle colony, stakeholders tell Ogbe

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Steve Agbota 08033302331

Policy inconsistency and somersault have been the major challenges facing most sectors of the Nigerian economy over the decades. It has also been argued that the inability of government to define clear-cut policy in the agric sector has been traced to the root of frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

Unfortunately, the ongoing crisis between farmers and herdsmen has continued to deal a deadly blow to the country’s economic development to the extent that feeding it citizens remains a huge task. Already thousands of citizens who could have contributed to the nation’s economy have lost their lives, properties and investments.

However, following the tragic killing of 73 people during the violent attack on Logo and Guma in Benue State on January 1, 2018, the Federal Government proposed the establishment of cattle colonies as a way to end incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen across the country.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, announced the proposed cattle colony at a Strategy Retreat for civil servants and political appointees of the ministry in Abuja recently.

But the ministry’s proposal has been stoking fire among Nigerians, as stakeholders in the agricultural space in the country described the idea as opaque, archaic and old-fashioned, noting that cattle colony will never work in Nigeria. Ignoring ranching, which is the globally accepted modern method of cattle farming, and presenting cattle colony will not be accepted, the stakeholders insist.

Some are already convinced that setting up colonies for herders could breed another crisis because it means government is trying to compel strange bedfellows to co-habit. They maintain that a society of people with different goals and inclinations cannot enjoy harmony but will always be in crisis.

Going by the explanation of 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.”

This means the colony has nothing to do with rearing/grazing cattle and other livestock as Ogbeh projected it. 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.

Ironically, no country in Africa, Asia, Europe and America has cattle colony in the world. However, the only cattle colony in the world is in Bin Qasim Town in Karachi. Even the colony is not in any other place in the entire Pakistan.

Thus, establishing cattle colonies in Nigeria as is being considered by Ogbeh should not be given any attention because it is not one of the modern ways for raising cattle or other livestock anywhere in the world.

However, stakeholders said the idea of investing in ranches across the country would be better and urged government and lawmakers to forget about establishing cattle colonies and the proposed grazing bill in the country.

It is pertinent for both government and stakeholders in the agricultural space to find a lasting solution to the crisis between farmers and herdsmen because it is having major negative effects in the nation’s food sector and the entire economy.

Daily Sun learnt that the ongoing conflict between farmers and herdsmen across the North-Central is costing Nigeria at least $14 billion in potential revenues annually. Investigations reveal that the average household affected by conflict today could see income increase by at least 67 per cent and potentially 220 per cent or higher, if conflicts were resolved.

Already, states like Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba, Bauchi and Kaduna are experiencing about 40 per cent decrease in grains production. Over 35 per cent of local farmers abandoned their farms for herdsmen in the region, while death rate increased in Benue, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna by 27 per cent.

According to the Deputy Managing Director of Peniel Gerar International Limited, Ojiefoh Enahoro Martins, the unlawful activities of herdsmen, if not managed properly, may increase cost of food by 45 per cent by 2020.

He added: “If we are buying a small tuber of yam during surplus at N700, then during scarcity it will go for N2,000. Agriculture is not paper talk nor office work but field work. We need a sustainable agricultural development scheme if we really want to have success. For months now, I have been in the North working with local farmers. After my daily market with them, I end up shedding tears because they work hard daily for 12 months and earn little.”

An agricultural analyst who doesn’t want his name in print said that cattle colony is like a shopping complex where cattle and meat trade are carried out daily for economic purposes. “I have been in agribusiness for more than 12 years now. I will tell you, if anybody comes to tell Nigeria that a colony is the act or system of rearing or grazing cattle in the realm of commonsensical, such person needs to be examined physically and mentally. My brother, colony has nothing to do with rearing or grazing cattle and other livestock.

“I was a bit confused when the minister was talking of establishing facilities to take care of herdsmen and their cattle in a colony. Such facilities to take care of herdsmen and their cattle can only be done in a ranch not in colony because colony is for trading and slaughtering cattle and not for grazing and rearing.”

He said it was barbaric for any cattle herdsman to carry ammunitions and kill farmers, destroying farmlands and properties in the country, noting that “this is the period we need state and local government police.”

According to him, the world cattle inventory in 2017 is at 998.3 million heads and India had the largest cattle inventory in the world in 2017 followed by Brazil and China. He said roughly 63 per cent of the world’s cattle are in India, Brazil and China.

Statistically, as at 2017, India was the number one in cattle business with 303,305,000 representing 30.39 per cent, followed by Brazil with 222,037,000 cattle representing 22.64 per cent while China which occupies third position with 100,085,000 cattle represents 10 per cent and United States of America in fourth position with 93,500,000 cattle represents 9.37 per cent and European Union in fifth position with 89,250,000 cattle representing 8.94 per cent.

He added: “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 per cent of world beef and Gabon at the 53rd position with a minute percentage. If these countries can accept ranching as modern way of rearing cattle, I wonder why someone would suggest cattle colony for us in Nigeria? A country like New Zealand, whose livestock population is more than the human population, has its livestock in ranches. Why would Nigeria go for cattle colony? Except there is something government doesn’t want us to know.”

He said government at all levels must institute programmes that will encourage the Fulani herdsmen to abandon their traditional nomadic lifestyle and embrace ranches, adding that it may not be easy to change them at the start but a concerted effort in that direction will definitely bring change.

Meanwhile, National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Ibrahim Kabiru, said if someone has cattle in a ranch, they belong to one person and one will not say it’s a colony but sub-colony. He explained that all over the world, where they have industry for livestock, especially for cattle where milk is a very good commodity, catle farming is done in ranches.

He stated that, “the gravitation towards colony by ranches is very welcome. We have to think properly and it takes time and a lot of resources. I think what Nigeria is trying to do is public colony of cattle because the owners of the cattle cannot for themselves build these colonies or ranches. The government has to build it for them because you want them to corporate and live together in harmony in one location, which you call colony.

“If government can do this for the herders, then I think it is possible. But is it feasible?  No! The reason it is not feasible is that if people do not believe that they are from the same Nigeria, have one common goal and one focus of improving Nigeria, will they be together? Or when they are pursuing different goals, will they be together? It is not possible to keep people together from different directions and have them live in harmony. So when you keep them in that colony considering the fact that they are coming from different backgrounds and different expectations, there may be quarrelling and misunderstanding.”

The Managing Director of Highhill Agribusiness Development and Incubation Centre (HABDEC), Adeniyi Sola, said that cattle colony will not be feasible because cattle is like every other business, noting that there is nothing special about cattle.

He said, “the way the Federal Government is now making cattle special by seeking to create colonies for herdsmen is unfortunate because cattle is like any other livestock we rear like your piggery and chicken. This is a business! Each business person must handle his or her business very well.

“If government is ready to help, it comes as an incentive, exposure, training and empowerment but not forcing it on the entire country or trying to implement it on behalf of these people by saying we are going to be having colony in every state. No! It will not work.

“Now, I think the first thing we need to know is that we are in a new generation and things have to be done in the right way. Even if they don’t do it now, if they don’t do it tomorrow, one day, we are going to do it.”

He said the reality is going to hit Nigerians in the face because there is going to be a lot of nomadic activities and cows milling around everywhere. He said there is need to put “our cow in the right place, which is through our ranches, growing our grasses, probably implementing technology such as hydroponics. So the issue of colony is a no no thing for farmers because we don’t encourage it and we don’t want it.”

He explained: “I don’t know where colony is being practiced in the world. What I know is cluster, which is like having farmers in clusters. They might have ranches in clusters; that is Mr. A B C D have their ranch in a particular location so that they can jointly have access may be to a very big stream or very big open field off the ranch. The meaning of this is that they share infrastructure, they have a kind of collective purpose and they share commerce. The meaning of this is that you have your animal there, you have the abattoir there, the dairy farm to extract milk is there as well and having the same set of goals in a particular location. We have Argentina and other set of people around the world where they have this cluster.”

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