Edo, Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara are amongst the first batch of states that have agreed to set up cattle ranches as the federal government moves to end the herdsmen and farmers conflict that has led to the death of hundreds of people and destruction of farmlands and properties worth billions of naira. The states will host 94 ranches.
The development which was announced Tuesday in Abuja, is the first phase of the national ranching project under the National Economic Council’s National Livestock Transformation Plan.
While presenting the plan during a media briefing with senior editors, the Secretary of the NEC Sub-Committee, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, said the Federal Government and states would spend N70bn in the first three years of the pilot phase of the programme.
Governor Samuel Ortom, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Audu Ogbe, and the Coordinator of the plan, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, were members of the NEC committee present.
Kwasari also said that N179bn would be expended over a period of 10 years on the national livestock implementation.
Vice president Yemi Osinbajo chairs the NEC, which has governors of the 36 states as members.
“The National Livestock Implementation Plan is a mediation stemming from meetings and recommendations of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and NEC in 2017 as regards state interventions following the incessant pastoralist-farmer conflicts,” Kwasari said.
He disclosed that in April NEC approved the pilot implementation of the Federal Government-States Joint Ranching Policy as recommended by the sub-committee.
A ranch design has also been proposed in models of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states, he said.
The project is expected to take off in Benue and Nasarawa states as soon as possible.
The session was facilitated by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) – a non-government organisation.
He said: “In addition to loss of human lives, it is estimated that Nigeria loses about $14 billion (N5.04 trillion) annually to herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts.
“Domestic annual milk production in Nigeria is only 400 million litres, resulting in supply gap of about 700 million litres.
“To fill these growing gaps, Nigeria spends a large amount of its scarce foreign exchange resource to import livestock products, with average of $480.6 million (N173.3 billion) worth of milk imports alone per year.
“The National Livestock Implementation Plan is a mediation plan stemming from meetings and recommendations of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and the National Economic Council (NEC) in 2017 as regards state interventions following the incessant pastoralist-farmer conflicts.
“A Ranch Design Plan has also been proposed in models of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states. We will have clusters of 30, 60, 150, and 300 cow ranch models in a location within the donated and gazetted grazing reserves.
“The total spending for the 10-year period is slightly in excess of N179 billion. Funding for the first three years of the pilot phase is about N70 billion.
“The ranch is also designed as an integrated business which makes provision for (a) the development of commercial crop production to support livestock through the supply of quality fodder and other feed materials, (b) the formation of producers into clusters to create viable ranch herd sizes, and (c) creation of cooperatives to facilitate improved access to inputs, infrastructure, finance, markets, and support services.”
Ogbe said there was no going back on the creation of ranches, dismissing the insinuation that the government planned to seize land from owners or communities.
He said the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers were not about anti-open grazing laws.
“So the conflict didn’t begin because the laws were passed. No, the conflict has been brewing but the laws were enacted in desperation by a state. Farmers went to the governor and complained, ‘they are killing us’, so the governor says, ‘let me pass a law’. If we did what we are doing now 20 years ago, we will not be where we are now.
“The truth is that open grazing is no longer viable. We may not end it in one day, but it has to end and government has to help. This conflict is not peculiar to Nigeria alone; it’s happening in Argentina; it happened in the U.S . in the 19th century, in Pakistan and others. So, this is what we should have started doing 20 years ago. We didn’t and that’s why we are where we are.
“Lastly, the government has no intention of seizing anybody’s land. So, the idea that somebody is going to forcefully take the land is not true. In Fashola’s farm, there are Fulani residents there who speak Yoruba fluently.
“One of them said, ‘we have found peace here’. They produce fresh milk for Friesland Capina. If you see the turnover of Friesland Capina during their annual turnover, you will be amazed. These are the issues.
“The ECOWAS Treaty says free movement of human, animals and goods. We had a meeting with the ECOWAS ministers here. We are going to have another. We will tell them, ‘you must do what Nigerians want’. Roaming around is no longer an answer. We may have to shut our borders. How large is the Nigerian border space? 4037 square kilometres is the landmass from Sokoto to Badagry and from Borno to Calabar. Added up it’s plus 830 kilometres of coastline. Half of our borders are open . Should we build a wall? People wander in and out. So it is a very complex thing.
“When we implement this thing, how do we prevent cows from West Africa marching in when they like with no respect for our tradition and cultures? These are the problems we face.
“There is an experiment we did in Kano. The firm tried to settle a number of herdsmen in a location and they gave scholarship to their children. If your male child is in school, they buy your milk for N120 per litre but if your girl child is in school, they buy it for N140 per litre and believe me, every morning Fulani send their children to school while they milk their cows. They have to be in one place. So a lot of incentives will come and we will use the cow dungs to generate electricity.”
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, whose state has suffered gravely from the crisis said over 180,000 internally displaced persons were in eight camps in the state.
He said: “We have over 180,000 IDPs in eight camps and over 5,000 people living with relatives. We have had massive support from all over the world and this is attributed to the media, and I commend this.
“I believe that after this interaction, there will be more to do. The Presidency is not sleeping. They have devised various ways in giving us additional information to help us shape our opinions and also express our opinions on how best this challenge can be surmounted.
“A committee had earlier been set up, headed by my colleague from Ebonyi and, unfortunately, he is not here. He and members of his committee visited Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, and Zamfara states. Of course, they came back with a report, which was considered and far-reaching decisions were taken as to how they will summon this challenge.
“I’d like to appreciate the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo for his able leadership and for helping us to come this far. People say from where I come that ignorance is darker than the night and so when you’re informed, you’re in a better position to represent issues properly.
“For me, as the governor of Benue State and someone who has been affected by recent challenges of farmers and herdsmen, I must commend the media in Nigeria. You have done very well, and maybe for other states that have been affected as well, you have represented the issues well.”-The Will