Last week, the Federal Government announced plans to establish cattle colonies around the country in order to settle down nomadic herdsmen and also reduce the frequent clashes between farmers and herders.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh made this announcement at a retreat for staff of his ministry. Among the strategies to be adopted, he said, is a drive for improved breeding through artificial insemination.
“We want to handle the issue of cattle rearing and crisis between farmers and herdsmen and actually bring it to a halt,” Ogbeh said. He added, “A culture must not be left because it is a culture. If it is harmful, we reform it.
We are talking of cattle colonies, not ranches.” Even though the government did not fully explain the idea, it is apparent that the proposed cattle colonies are bigger than the earlier planned cattle ranches with full facilities such as schools, hospitals and markets.
Many states have promised to allocate land for this solution. “Sixteen states have given us land to work on; the programme is not going to be cheap,” the minister said.
He also hinted that the herders are united with his ministry on this proposal: “In our interactions with the herdsmen, they always say that if we have water and grass, we will not move anywhere.”Already, some sections of the country are kicking against the plan. Governor of Abia State Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu said his state has limited land and that it would be unfair to his farmers to allocate land for “alien occupation.” He said, “We don’t have enough land for our agricultural activities and our people want more land.”
Also, a Yoruba group, Odua Nationalist Coalition (ONAC) expressed the same sentiment warning that they “would not cede one inch of Yoruba territory.” The leader who has approached this plan with a refreshing attitude is the governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong. He views this as a business opportunity.
“We are talking about ranching,” the governor said. “We are talking about the development of livestock business and I cannot use the work ‘anti’ to start driving people [away] who are interested.”
If Lalong’s business interpretation of the policy holds, and we think it does, then there shouldn’t be compulsion in participation.
Let states which are willing to participate start and let states which have balked at the idea be convinced by the results.
If the experiment succeeds, states that establish cattle colonies would soon be able to demonstrate the benefits to non-participating states in the form of greater security, better social harmony, blossoming business opportunities and cheaper meat, milk, cheese and kpomo.
If the cattle colonies live up to their billing and flourish, it also means more internally generated revenue for the hosting states. It is understandable at this time that some states are hostile to the idea so soon after the sad episodes of the killings in Benue State and other places.
We believe that the passion and fury will ultimately subside and all parties would come round to see the idea of cattle colonies as a very good medium and long term solution to a festering national problem.
It is also important to point out that efforts must be made at the design and implementation stage to ameliorate environmental and other problems that could arise from massing cattle in colonies. Apart from huge quantities of droppings, cattle also emit a lot of gas due to their inefficient digestive processes.
All these could however be harnessed for other industrial and domestic uses, including power generation and crop fertilizer. Another environmental issue will be the carbon dioxide that the animals will generate, but this can be ameliorated by planting a lot of trees all around the cattle colonies.
We congratulate the Federal Government and Minister of Agriculture for hitting on this solution and we urge them to proceed with it without further delay.