It seems the solution to the problems of incessant herdsmen and farmers’ clashes are in sight with efforts being made by stakeholders to support establishment of ranches in the country. But what are the challenges? EPHRAIMS SHEYIN takes a loot at the situation.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh recently said that 11 states had provided 55,000 hectares of land for the establishment of ranches to curb clash between farmers and pastoralists in their states. He listed the states to include Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Gombe, Katsina, Taraba, Niger, Adamawa, Jigawa, Sokoto and the FCT.
He also stressed the need to improve livestock and dairy industry in the country, observing that the country had more than 19 million cattle, 41 million sheep and 72 million goats as at 2011. “The way forward is to strive to attain self-sufficiency in animal protein by checking constant exposure of our cows to long distance trekking in search of pasture which affects their productivity.
“This administration has therefore set out to establish ranches to be planted with high quality improved tropical grass and legume species. We shall provide irrigation for all year commercial fodder production to enhance settlement of pastoralist and ensure cattle, sheep and goat improvement through an expanded breeding programme that would use artificial insemination,’’ he explained.
Analysts note that the Federal Government must have reason for keeping the pastoralists in established nets, preventing them from one point to another in search of green pastures. They also observe that it is safer to curtail the movement of the cattle since such movement often results in the destruction of crops and clashes between the herdsmen and the farmers.
In spite of this, Dr Mohammed Ahmed, immediate pass Chief Executive Officer of the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, said a successful bid for ranches must involve mass investments from governments and other stakeholders.
“Ranches are capital intennsive; government must ensure that there is enough water and all-year-round grass for grazing. The Fulani herdsmen must also be encouraged to cut grass in the rainy season and store same for use during the dry season in addition to being educated on how to manage limited space.
“I am not sure that the typical Fulani man in Nigeria will happily embrace a ranch, but with the current realities, settling them in one place is the best way out, especially if they can have what they want where they are settled,’’ he said.
In his view, Dr Sylvester Akut, a specialist in livestock medicine, said the regional body such as ECOWAS must encourage other West African nations to establish their grazing fields or ranches. According to him, this will control the movement of cows and sheep from in and out of Nigeria, especially since herdsmen from neigbouring nations have often been accused of causing conflicts with local Nigerian farmers.
“It also means that the Nigeria Immigration Service must come in to check herdsmen’s illegal entries into Nigeria because one nation cannot carry the whole burden. It is true that some of these countries are very dry, but their governments must be supported to establish ranches or grazing reserves using the River Niger that passed through their nations.
“From experience, the herdsmen/farmers clash is a bit complicated and requires all hands on deck. I will suggest that government must ban night grazing immediately the ranches are established because that is common among foreign herdsmen.
“Such night grazing is usually dangerous because the cows and the herdsmen cannot different between the grass and the crops,’’ he said.
Analysts have however observed that while government is working towards establishing ranches, the herdsmen have kicked against it. The herdsmen will not accept ranches; we shall prefer to explore our traditional grazing routes/reserves,’’ Alhaji Sale Bayeri, the spokesman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the umbrella body of the Fulani herdsmen, said recently.
MACBAN reaffirmed Bayeri’s position during the public hearing on perennial clashes between herdsmen and farmers organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, National Security and Intelligence. In a presentation by its National Legal Adviser, Mohammed Bello Tukur, MACBAN suggested that stakeholders should rather demarcate routes and cattle resting points with support from technical and financial partners.
“MACBAN rejects the setting up of ranches and support the establishment of grazing reserves; we want government to create a ministry of livestock development to ease the establishment of the reserves,’’ he stated.
On his part, Sen. Jerry Useini, who represents Plateau South, where the ranch for Plateau is to be established, said that he was opposed to its establishment because there was no consultation before the decision was taken.
“We just woke up and heard that cattle ranches will be established in parts of Plateau. Such decision cannot be popular because no one was consulted and neither was any wide enlightenment carried out,’’ he said.
Mr Timothy Golu, who represents Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam in the House of Representatives, agreed that ranches were better options but insisted that some issues ought to be addressed. “Ranches are far better than grazing reserves if we are to check incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen, but we must be able to listen to what the ordinary farmers feel about what is being worked out.
“We must carry the farmers and traditional rulers along in carving out the affected areas. We must carefully work out and ensure payment of compensations, otherwise we shall only be breeding another recipe for even worse crises,’’ he said.
Malam Adamu Palna, a farmer in Mangu, shared Golu’s fears, saying: “decisions are taken at the top with the real farmers and owners of the land only getting to know at the point of execution. “If we want these schemes to succeed, we must involve the very local farmer because it is he that knows where the shoe pinches.’’
On his part, Prof. Obadiah Mailafia, political economist, argued that that the first step towards the success of the ranches would be to conduct a census of herdsmen and their cattle. “We must take a census of the herdsmen and their cattle. Those of them that are not Nigerians should be repatriated to respective nations.
“Ghana did that recently and repatriated 50,000 herdsmen and their cattle. Nigeria may have to do that if the step will bring peace to our nation,’’ he said.
In his response, Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau said that much pain was taken to examine all options before the ranches option was agreed upon and solicited stakeholders’ support on the decision. “No human policy or plan can be perfect, but we want those with reservations about the ranches to suggest something better because it is not enough to just oppose what is being worked out since what we are doing is in the interest of peace,’’ he said.
Also, Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue said “the ranches remain the generally acceptable practice and will serve as the permanent solution to the unending clashes between the herdsmen and farmers.’’ By and large, analysts agree that although the option may have its shortcomings, it remains the best method of curbing clashes among farmers and herdsmen. (NAN)