For some years, the herdsmen menace has led to crisis of unimaginable proportions. It has led to loss of lives, livestock and properties worth billions of naira. At some point, it appears that the government could not contain the situation. The matter escalated so much that some states came up with anti-grazing laws to prevent open grazing in their states.
This law was resisted in some of the states and more killings took place, especially in Benue State. According to the government’s estimates, Nigeria has loses about $14 billion or (N5.04 trillion) annually to the herdsmen/farmers conflicts. It is cheering that at last, the Federal Government has yielded to the ranching option as the solution to the herdsmen’s menace or what in official parlance is regarded as herders/farmers clashes or crisis.
Whichever name that applies, the free roaming of cattle has caused more harm than good in recent times. It has led to countless killings of many Nigerians in all parts of the country, especially in the North-Central zone. It has also heightened the security problems in the country. Many Nigerians have been in the forefront of ranching advocacy as the most feasible solution to the herdsmen problem.
Many opinion writers and newspaper editorials have made case for ranching as the solution to the herdsmen’s killings in the country. The advocates of ranching believe that it is the modern system of animal husbandry and the best way to rear cattle in the 21st Century. Ranching will lead to high productivity in terms of quality cattle and milk.
Ranching will also improve the economic wellbeing and health of the cattle breeders as well. Ranching will make cattle breeding more businesslike and attractive to young school leavers than nomadic pastoralism that the herdsmen are used to. The arguments which are in favour of ranching are legion and cannot be exhausted in one article. Countries that produce most cattle in the world do so through ranching.
Nobody can discountenance the fact that modern ranching is the way to go. It is the way to the future. It is indeed the best solution to the problem of herdsmen/farmers clashes. It is good that the government has now seen the light that ranching is the way to go. The epiphany coming at this time though belated is still better late than never.
Therefore, the government should be applauded for taking this decision to build ranches in the designated states. This experiment should be given a chance by all the stakeholders. If the government gets it right, more ranches will come up. That will translate to more business and employment opportunities in the country.
There is no doubt that a majority of Nigerians will be elated with the decision of the Federal Government to deploy N70 billion to establish and manage pilot ranches in 10 states in the next three years. This translates to N7 billion per state if the money is distributed equally. This experimental project which will take off in Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo,
Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara should be made to work so that it will succeed.
As explained by Andrew Kwasari, a technical adviser to the government on the project, “The National Livestock Transformation Plan” has six key pillars. These are economic investment, conflict resolution, law and order, humanitarian relief, information, education and strategic communication and cross-cutting issue.
The plan also revealed that the economic investment pillar is tailored to support and strengthen the development of market-driven ranches in seven pilot states for improved livestock productivity through breed improvement, pasture production and efficient land and water management.
There is equally a plan to have ranches of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states. The plan contains other details that space constraint will not permit to be reproduced in this article. The intention of the government is apparently good in theory. It is only left to be practically implemented. It is the practice that will demonstrate if the plan is good or not. That is why the plan must be faithfully implemented. The plan will only be perfected through practice.
All the same, government should carry out more enlightenment campaigns in English, Pidgin and local languages so that most Nigerians will understand its intention on the project and be carried along. The campaigns should be carried out through all organs of mass media, including the town crier. This is very vital for the project to succeed.
Since we have cultural and environmental differences, the ranching project must be made to suit the environment and culture where they are established. The communities where the ranches will be sited should be consulted and carried along as well as the local government authorities concerned.
It is a fact that all the states of the federation are not equally endowed in terms of land resources.
Some states have more land than others. It is good that the ranches will come in diverse sizes. What is suitable for one state may not be suitable for another. The government must take this into account. Since this is a pilot project, there is need to borrow ideas from countries that have ranches.
There is the need for practical experiences from these countries so that we can have a smooth transition from nomadic pastoralism to ranching. Government should do more consultations with all the stakeholders to iron out the grey areas in the project. There is the need to spell out what every stakeholder will contribute to the project and what they are expected to get out of it.
The ownership structure of the ranches should be clearly stated right from the onset. The laws governing the establishment of the ranches and how they will be operated must be coded in clear and plain language to avoid creating ambiguity that will later lead to avoidable crisis. It is strongly believed that getting the ranching project right will largely put behind us the herdsmen/farmers clashes that have claimed many lives and destroyed many properties.
This will only be the case if the plan is properly executed. Let the government and all the stakeholders give the project the required attention and chance to succeed. The earmarked money for the project should be judiciously used.