Cattle Ranching

The challenge for Northern governors is not the easy one of announcing the end of open grazing, it is what they will do to improve the breed and over what time span. It is actually dangerous to announce the end of open grazing without a plan on how to end it.

The fastest way to create the greatest misery for the highest number of Nigerians is to try to break-up the country. For this reason, I always re-read the quote from one of the best historians we have ever had that:

“There is no easy way to pull this country apart. The problems arising from such an exercise will be far bigger than the problem of trying to keep it going. The value of the size, the market, and the varieties of cultures etc. are important and should not be neglected.” – Professor Ade Ajayi

We should always remember this. Nonetheless, there is always a risk that in spite of the potential advantages of staying together, the politics of brinkmanship that we play could one day throw us all into the abyss.

Following a number of eviction threats against pastoralists in the southern part of the country, the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) met this week to discuss the tension generated by the eviction orders. They correctly identified the current crisis as one that could do serious damage to the already fragile security situation in the country. If reprisal attacks occur, they would be followed by further re-reprisal attacks and the situation could get out of hand. According to the communiqué they released on Tuesday, they called for an urgent meeting of all the 36 state governors to meet under the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) to discuss the issue holistically, with a view to resolving all the areas of misunderstanding and conflicts arising from these threats and suspicion for the sake of national unity.

The communiqué called on political leaders to segregate between criminality and social groups in their domains, with a view to treating criminals as what they are. The 19 northern governors announced that the current system of herding, conducted mainly through open grazing, was no longer sustainable in view of growing urbanisation and populations, adding that they will aggressively sensitise herdsmen on the need to adopt new methods of herding through ranching or other acceptable modern methods. The governors, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to support states with grants to directly undertake pilot projects of modern livestock production that will serve as springboard and evidence for breaking resistance to the full implementation of new methods of livestock production. I agree with this statement. The reality, however, is that the transformation of livestock production was first announced by the Northern Regional Government in 1965, over 55 years ago, but the steps to implementing them have not yet been taken. It is easy to say, let’s stop open-grazing; it’s another to provide the policy package, investments and support to make this a reality.

The Federal Government, working with governors, needs to develop a new comprehensive policy framework that actually spells out the steps that could lead to the modernisation of livestock production in the country. The framework must be designed to be mutually beneficial to pastoralists and farmers.

Pastoralism is the main livestock production system in much of Africa, whereby pastoralists live in semi-arid zones. It is a historically developed strategy to cope with the uncertainties associated with climate change, the build-up of parasites and other related challenges. It is above all an efficient way to produce livestock at relatively low prices through the use of non-commercial feeding stock. A pastoralist cow goes to market after four years of open-grazing and sells for N150,000 to N250,000. It produces between one and two litres of milk daily, while other African cows produce 15 to 20 litres daily. It’s simple economics, our hardy all-suffering cows cannot be fed with commercial feed because the return on investment will simply not exist. To stop open grazing is possible, BUT only if we cultivate an improved breed that has much higher levels of productivity than we have today.

The challenge for Northern governors is not the easy one of announcing the end of open grazing, it is what they will do to improve the breed and over what time span. It is actually dangerous to announce the end of open grazing without a plan on how to end it. It is also dangerous not to seek a way out of open grazing because Nigerians from all sections of the country are associating the growing insecurity in the country to the pastoralists community and are taking measures against them. In other words, the most urgent task before the country is to develop policy measures that would address the issues that have arisen.

As violence between herdsmen and farmers has grown and developed into criminality, rural banditry and mass kidnapping for ransom, popular narratives creating meaning, context and (mis)understandings have emerged. The narratives in the media and popular discourse have become part of the drivers that are expanding conflicts in the country. The protagonists have been associated into ethno-religious categories that fuel conflicts between two distinct groups depicted as perpetrators and victims, respectively. The result is negative stereotyping between “the one” and “the other” that lead further to ethnic and religious bigotry, which fuel the hate process. We must get out of this hate trap.

The Federal Government, working with governors, needs to develop a new comprehensive policy framework that actually spells out the steps that could lead to the modernisation of livestock production in the country. The framework must be designed to be mutually beneficial to pastoralists and farmers. Any policy that does not take into consideration the welfare of both sides will most likely fail or meet resistance by either side. While it is clear that pastoralism is not sustainable in Nigeria over the long term due to a high population growth rate, the expansion of farming and loss of pasture and cattle routes, at the same time, pastoralism cannot end or be prohibited in the short term, as there are strong cultural and political economy reasons for its existence. It is important, therefore, to develop a plan for a transitional period during which new systems would be put in place.

Experts should be assembled to map out the duration, strategy and timelines for the transition plan. As there is no miracle model for solving the problems, the plan should simultaneously pursue a number of models including:

The commercial feeding of cattle requires developing sufficient capacity to produce high nutrient grasses in order to meet the feeding needs of the improved herds. Given the climate crisis, we need to develop alternative low water and drought resistant grasses to be used to sustain the new industry of the commercial feeding of the cattle.

Ranching in lower population densities, where it works best. Some people have suggested the Sambisa Game Reserve in the North East for this in jest, but why not? Defeat Boko Haram and transform it into a major meat and milk producing zone;

Pursuing semi-intensive systems of animal husbandry in concert with requisite investments in infrastructure, training, extension, marketing and animal health service delivery, in conjuncture with the private sector;

Dangote adbanner 728x90_2 (1)

Continuing the traditional form of pastoralism for a period to be agreed upon with some improvements (in the form of coordinated mobility between wet and dry season grazing areas and effective management of farmers and pastoralists relations).

We need to evaluate our grazing reserves policy as most of them are located in forests that have today become ungoverned territory housing both pastoralists and armed bandits. There has to be a new approach to open up the forests, for easy access and surveillance, while developing the infrastructure that would allow for intensive livestock breeding. In so doing, we need to also think about our ecology and the importance of maintaining our green cover and actually growing the green belt in the Sahel.

The commercial feeding of cattle requires developing sufficient capacity to produce high nutrient grasses in order to meet the feeding needs of the improved herds. Given the climate crisis, we need to develop alternative low water and drought resistant grasses to be used to sustain the new industry of the commercial feeding of the cattle.

Finally, let us not forget that there are two narratives about pastoral-farmer relations in Africa. In some countries such as Nigeria, it has been left to deteriorate almost to the point of no return. In other countries such as Chad, Ethiopia and Niger, the pre-existing institutionalised and functional mechanisms for pre-empting and resolving conflicts between farmers and pastoralists have been maintained, thereby reducing serious conflict.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.

Support PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.

Donate


TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401…






PT Mag Campaign AD

Source

Tell us your view below: