AS farmers-herders crisis continues to rage across the country, the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science, NIAS, Tuesday, called on the Federal Government to transform 405 grazing reserves into ranches in order to solve the protracted and degenerated crisis.
This was stated in an address by the Registrar, NIAS, Prof Eustace Iyayi, during a press conference held in Abuja with theme, ‘The Lingering Farmers-Herders Conflict in the Country and the Impact of Scarcity of Maize and Soybean on The Poultry and Feed Subsectors’.
Iyayi who expressed concern over the spate of destruction of lives and property as a result of the conflict described cattle as a national asset in terms of protein, wealth, sustenance, and dependence it gives to Nigerians.
He also explained why the Institute is making its position known on the conflict is because it has regulatory functions which over the years have no doubt enhanced capacity within the livestock industry with an inclusive method of regulation, as against the stick-wielding approach, which was the initial fear of some practitioners.
He added that the institute’s ultimate goal is to guarantee food security and safety and have the Nigerian livestock industry organized, enough for self-regulation in line with global best practices that will leave no breathing space for quackery and adulteration.
He said: “The country has continued to witness an escalation of the conflict between farmers and herders both in intensity and widespread. What started as a dry season phenomenon in some parts of the country has gradually spread to almost all regions with a ferocious intensity bordering on criminality.
“Familiar problems- relating to land and water use, obstruction of traditional migration routes, livestock theft, and crop damage- tend to trigger these conflicts. But the causes run deeper mainly as a result of drought, desertification, degraded pastures, dried up natural water sources across Nigeria’s far northern Sahelian belt and forced large numbers of herders to migrate south in search of grassland and water for their herds. Insecurity consequent upon the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, banditry, and cattle rustling in the North West and north-central zones have also prompted increasing numbers of herdsmen to migrate south.
“While the government has been trying to resolve the conflicts, they have continued unabated resulting in the loss of lives, displacement, distrust, destruction of properties leading to food insecurity and unemployment.
“Among other solutions being proffered by the government, the Institute strongly advocates the establishment of ranches as a way of resolving the crisis. We must move away from the transhumance mode to the modern and more sustainable ranching method of cattle production.
“All gazetted grazing reserves (Adamawa, 31; Bauchi 27; Borno 15; Gombe 4; Jigawa 2; Kaduna 2; Kebbi 1; Kogi 1; Kwara 1; Nasarawa 7; Niger 2; Plateau 1; Sokoto 8; Taraba 9; Yobe 17; Zamafara 6, FCT 4 and Oyo 2: 140) plus the ungazetted ones giving a total of about 405 should be transformed to ranches. This has previously been recommended in policy dialogue on the transformation of grazing reserves to ranches after a joint meeting with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, on April 17, 2017. The Institute reiterates that this policy be adopted immediately.
“Cattle remains a valuable national asset to the country and its production must be sustained.”
He also recommended that a commercial pasture production value chain should be established as part of the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP, and modalities for its operation on a private-sector basis worked out.
“This should be an attraction to our State Governments as a means of income generation and employment of youths. The Institute recommends that government should work with the various Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the involvement of the private sector for operationalization of the ranching and commercial pasture projects”, he said.
He also disclosed that “The Institute will be establishing model units at its National Livestock Training Center in Kachia, Kaduna State for the breed improvement of our livestock.
“We aim to produce more meat and milk on less land towards the overall objective of lesser herd size and more income on less land.
“About 2000 Community Animal Husbandry Officers who are Graduate Animal Scientists will be capacitated in the next three years to join our pool of experts in the Institute in Sustainable Commercial Ranching and Pasture Production.
“The Institute calls on all stakeholders to embrace the measures being put together by the various governments and experts from the Institute to create an enabling environment for the sustained production of our national cattle herd, which is a veritable asset.”
Therefore, he urged the Federal and State Governments to tap the institute’s expertise in establishing ranches and development of high-yielding pasture for cattle production as a measure to solve the lingering conflict.
However, the NIAS boss raised concern over moves in the country’s poultry industry to lay-off 10 million Nigerians following numerous challenges plaguing the industry, mostly occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic that massively affected maize and soybean production including the rising level of insecurity and flooding.
“Consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disorganized the international supply chain, lingering insecurity in the North East and North West, farmers-herders conflicts, and flooding in some grain-producing areas of the country, the livestock industry and particularly the poultry subsector has been hit by maize and soybean scarcity.
“In addition, maize and soybean are being exported leading to local scarcity and price escalation of the two commodities.
“Increasing prices of the two essential commodities have resulted in the increase in the price of finished feed by about 75 per cent. This has led to the closure of small and medium sized poultry farms thereby threatening about 10 million jobs.
“To save the poultry industry from total collapse, the Institute urges the government to immediately halt the exportation of soybean and maize and grant import permit for them at the official rate.”
According to him (Iyaye) the Institute is working with critical stakeholders like Feed Industry Practitioners Association of Nigeria, FIPAN, Maize Growers Association and Research Institutes under the Triple Helix Model (Research-Development-Industry) “to develop high yielding varieties on less land. The current maize yield of about 1-2 tonnes/ha cannot sustain our demand for human and livestock consumption. We should be doing up to 7-10 tons/ha.”