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Benue Kicks as FG Creates Herdsmen Settlements in 12 States

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Benue Kicks as FG Creates Herdsmen Settlements in 12 States
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By Chris Gaga, Markurdi

The Federal Government yesterday said it has begun works on the establishment of “Ruga Settlements” for herdsmen in 12 pilot states nationwide.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alh.

Mohammadu Umar, made this known in an interview in Abuja with newsmen on the sidelines of a workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated legislation in West Africa.

He said the farm settlements when fully established would address the incessant clashes between Fulani cattle rearers and farmers.

Umar explained that the pilot programme had already commenced on a 31,000-hectare in Kotongora, Niger state.

According to him, the required facilities for a basic life and treatment of cattle are being provided to enhance productivity, even as he noted that the government would replicate the programme in selected states as work “is ongoing in the 12 pilot states”.

He said six settlements will be established in each of the pilot states.

Umar, who added that the centres would be expanded and adequately equipped, and assured the beneficiaries that government would do all that was necessary to enlighten the herdsmen on how the use of ranches could make cattle rearing more profitable.

He said the government would sensitise the herdsmen to the social and political benefits derivable from such settlements.

The permanent secretary explained that various spots would be established for the pastoralists to be able to milk their cows.

He also said dispensaries would be established to prevent the misuse of antibiotics.

The “Ruga Settlement” idea was an initiative of the National Economic Council (NEC) presented under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027).

It was an initiative to stop the age-long herders-farmers crisis and to massively develop the livestock industry.

The initiative seeks to promote ranching as the way forward for cattle rearing in the country.

According to the permanent secretary, nomadic livestock production in Nigeria is facing major challenges and is at crossroads due to declining availability of pasture, overgrazing, and expanding fatal conflicts between pastoralists and crop farmers.

He said the impact on food and nutrition security as well as ”public safety and national security are huge and far-reaching, therefore government is bent on making the plan to work as it has commenced.

“Under the new plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognise with cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme.

“These cooperatives will then be able to get rental agreements for land from state governments and also benefit from ranch resources on several terms including loans, grants, and subsidies,’’ he said.

Mr Suffyan Koroma, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, said the workshop was organised to prepare the organisation’s representatives and respective countries and regions to work out ways to tackle the impending dangers of AMR and AMU.

“This is because the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture contributes to the spread of AMR and also undermines the efficacy of veterinary and human medicines. FAO is set to provide support to governments and stakeholders to adopt measures to minimise the use of antimicrobial and reduce AMR,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Benue state government has kicked the purported plans by the Federal government to commence establishment of RUGA settlements in selected local governments of Benue state.

In a Press statement by Terver Akase, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom, reiterated that Benue does not have the land for grazing reserves, grazing routes, cattle colonies or RUGA settlements, but accepted that the State only has land for the establishment of ranches.

Ruga which is said to mean ‘Fulani Settlement’ in some parts of the states across the country is a directive of the federal government being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture Abuja. It is said to be implemented in Otukpo, Tarka and Ukum LGs of Benue State.

The Statement reiterated the firm stand of governor Samuel Ortom against grazing reserves and other policies rather than ranching, noting that the state government was ready to support any one who is ready to establish ranching in the state.

It maintained that Benue people were totally against the federal government’s RUGA and would not accept any imposition of any policy bothering on animal’s husbandary in their lands.

“We find the approach of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture not only as a gross violation of the Ranching law but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of Benue State.

“It could be recalled that the people and government of Benue State rejected cattle colonies and still reject the policy in whichever robes it is disguised,” it reads.

The CPS explained the Governor’s resolve that ranching remains a lasting solution to the incessant herders and farmers crisis which the country ought to embrace.

“We wish to remind those pushing for Ruga settlements that the Constitution of the country gives states the right to make laws for the governance of their people. Any attempt to subvert such right is a direct attack on the Constitution. Those behind such a move are enemies of peace and progress.

“The Government of Benue State is willing to support cattle owners to establish ranches as stipulated by the law prohibiting open grazing.”

Meanwhile, the need to support the full implementation of the Anti Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law has been advocated as a stand point to possible return of peace in all communities of Benue State.

Also, the need for government to create jobs for the growing population of youths in the country so as to curtail youth involvement in cultisms and other crimes has been advocated.

These were the fallout of a one day Peace Architecture Dialogue (PAD) meeting on the theme; “Transforming the Farmer-herder Conflict and Promoting the Freedom of Religion and Belief in Nigeria’s Middle Belt” as organized by Search for Common Ground in Makurdi.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Orientation, James Agbo observed that if the Benue peoples open grazing prohibition law is faithfully obeyed as been implemented, peace will be inevitable in the state

Agbo encouraged the police and other security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities of ensuring that laws of the land are respected by all inhabitants, even as he urged ‘Search’ to take the sensitization to the rural areas too.

The Ter Makurdi, Chief Sule Abenga employed NGOs such as ‘Search’ to adopt the Anti Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law as a stand point to their peace  crusade in Benue.

Chief Abenga expressed believe that the initiatives such as SEARCH would help sensitize the people and concerned agencies towards advancing peace in the society.

He challenged parents to see every youth as their wards by inculcating moral values especially when such wards are engaged in social vices.

The Chief assured of the cooperation of the traditional institution at ensuring that the NGO records success in their goals.

Representative of the Benue State Police Command, DCP Ibrahim Zakari, noted that for peace to be achieved, the causes of crisis must be highlighted and tackled accordingly.

He identified some of the causes to include increase in d country’s population, recklessness on the part of cattle rearers amongst other things.

In a presentation titled, “Distinction between Cultism and Miscreant Activities to Breach of Peace in the State”, representative of the DSS,

Benue Command, Austine Audu identified peer group influence, drug addiction, poor parenting, frustration and the like as major causes that endear youth to cultism and other vices.

Audu while commending the state open prohibition law, called on government to step up action in the creation of jobs so as to disenable the youth from constituting miscreants in the society.

He challenged the media to step up enlightenmenymt programmes on the need for peaceful coexistence, even as he called for reorientation of students in the tertiary institutions against social vices.

Some Stakeholders at the dialogue meeting including the Chairman of Miyethi Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria(MACBAN), Zakari Mohammed, representative of Benue State Planning Commission(BSPC), Mrs. Nambativ Helen, representative of the Benue State Vigilante Group, Dr Daniel Bo, AFAN and other stakeholders made various contributions bothering on the peace move.

Benue State Coordinator of ‘Search for Common Grounds’, Chorbe Joshua appreciated stakeholders for their various contributions at ensuring the possible return of peace, adding that the resolutions met at the meeting will  enhance the next action plan of the organization.

Agriculture

Nigeria will Soon Witness Food Sufficiency, Price Reduction – NACGRAB

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The National Centre For Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), says Nigeria will soon witness sufficiency and price reduction in food commodities.

The NACGRAB Acting Director, Dr Anthony Okere, stated this at the end of a 2023 Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting on Seed For Resilience (SFR) organised by NACGRAB in collaboration with Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) in Ibadan.

He said SFR came into existence in 2021 to improve the efficiency of NACGRAB genebank and enhance the use of conserved genepool by farmers and other users of genetic resources in Nigeria.

Okere said the project had exposed the diversity of sorghum, cowpea and other crops to farmers and other users in Nigeria in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and boost farmers’ productivity and ensure food and nutrition security in Nigeria.

He said that the project was successful, based on feedbacks from farmers and other users that the good quality seeds planted this season yielded well in multiples, compared to year 2022.

“Farmers now feeling free to come to NACGRAB genebank to demand more diversity of materials that could help them to get higher production which in turn would lead to food sufficiency and price reduction in Nigeria soon.

“There are availability of quality seeds in NACGRAB genebank that farmers can plant and generate good yield due to success of this project.

” Various farmers can now dwell in more crops instead of one or two crops; this project has made it possible for farmers to plant diversity of quality seeds and generate good yields which in turn will lead to food and nutrition security in Nigeria,” Okere said.

Dr Olabisi Alamu, the Activity Team Leader, User engagement of the project, said that NACGRAB and other stakeholders had been engaging with farmers about the project in the past three years.

Alamu said that farmers in Oyo, Niger and Kano states had been exposed to diversity of seeds of cowpea, sorghum accessions and other seeds conserved in the genebank.

He said that most farmers now had access to the seeds and were now using them to enhance production, increase their yields and income generation.

” In all the three states, we have 49 cluster groups; the Seed for Resilience (SFR) project has impacted over 1,000 farmers over the past three years.

“Some of them have been adopting it as a result of good quality, traits, early maturity varieties, high yields among others,” Alamu said.

The team leader said that some of the farmers had also multiplied the seeds they selected in year 2023 and as well disseminated it to other farmers, to enhance the use of the materials in the genebank.

The Oyo State Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Abass Adewumi, said the project had exposed them to a lot of things they needed to know and apply on their farms for crops to germinate well.

Adewumi said that the research project had also exposed them to know suitable seeds for planting in certain environment which could give better yields, to maximise profit and shun the old ways of planting seeds. (NAN)

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Agriculture

ActionAid Frowns at Allocation of N1bn for Purchase of Agricultural Fund’s Office Building 

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ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) has raised concern over the allocation of N1. 2 billion for the purchase of office building for the National Agricultural Development Fund (NADF) operation in the proposed 2024 national agricultural budget.

The organisation also frowned at the allocation of N70 million for the purchase of office furniture, partitioning and fittings in the capital budget after the provision of budget line of N27.

5 million for office rent and maintenance of office building.

Mr Azubike Nwokoye, Programme Manager, Food and Agriculture AAN, said this while speaking with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

Nwokoye described the allocation of N10 million for residential quarters in the recurrent expenditure as worrisome.

He says “NADF is going to be an additional fund to the agricultural sector that will mitigate the challenges of low releases, lack of releases and untimely releases.

“The fund is meant to put in more funding for agricultural sector in key areas where there are urgent need and where gaps exist. “

Nwokoye emphasised that should a new building and furniture be provided in  year one, maintenance should not be required as these were fixed assets that required no maintenance in one to three years.

The programme manager, who further pointed out the allocation of N450 million for the purchase of operational vehicles, queried the kind of vehicles and the number required for the NADF.

He says “this is not necessary. A brand new operational staff bus cost about N30 to N50 million and the fund cannot use more than three of such buses aside very few executive cars”.

Nwokoye commended President Bola Tinubu for the provision of the take-off grant for the NADF.

“We pushed over the years for the creation of a separate fund to support agricultural development in the country as our budget cycle and limited funding cannot cater for the needs in the sector.

” The 2024  budget, allocated to the NADF a total sum of N102.5 billion out of the toral agriculture sector budget of N362 billion.

“This is 28 per cent of the overall sector budget for agricultural financing. Of the total N102. 5 billion of NADF, N150 million  or 0.1  per cent is for personnel salary, N350 million overhead (0.1 per cent) and N102 billion capital expenditure  (99.5 per cent), “he said.

The manager recommended that N100 billion allocation for capital expenditure for NADF should be targeted towards achieving the commitments of the president’s state of emergency on the food security situation in the country.

He, therefore, suggested that the fund should focus on extension services, access to credit, women and youth in agriculture, appropriate labour-saving technologies and inputs.

According to him, the fund should as well focus on post-harvest losses reduction supports in the area of processing and storage facilities, trainings, market access, irrigation, Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA). (NAN)

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Agriculture

Food Security: Zulum Unveils 7 Pilot Irrigation Schemes

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Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, on Wednesday, said that his administration has initiated seven pilot irrigation schemes to boost agricultural productivity and enhance food security.

Zulum stated this at the inauguration of the Mafa Irrigation Scheme in Mafa Local Government Area of the state.

He said the irrigation scheme would be established at Gajibo; Jafi, Baga, Logumani, Damasak and Dadin Kowa communities in Dikwa, Kwaya Kusar, Kukawa, Ngala, Mobbar, Bayo and Mafa LGAs.

The governor said the initiative would enable the state to key into the President Bola Tinubu’s “Renewed Hope Agenda” to enhance food security in the county.

“The establishment of the Mafa rrigation scheme has started, we have so far identified a number of farmers and provided them with agricultural inputs.

“We intend to engage at least 10 per cent of the communities, especially in the dry season farming.

“Our focus is to drive into President Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, we will engage in wheat farming among other valuable crops.

“Most importantly, we want to see how we can improve the livelihoods of members of the communities.” he said.

The governor also inspected facilities including a fully solar-powered free-flow deep aquifer borehole with 30-litre per second discharge capacity and 2.4 million litres capacity earth dam.

According to him, the project is aim at addressing shortage of potable water in the town. (NAN)

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