Creating Cow Colonies Rather Than Grazing Reserves : What’s In A Name?

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The Oasis Reporters

January 11, 2018

When will the despicable human misery in the middle belt end as the nation debates the options between open grazing, cow colonies and cattle ranching?

In a bid to try and stop the morbid massacres in the middle belt part of Nigeria most especially in the home state of the Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbeh which is Benue and other neighboring states like Plateau, Nassarawa, Kaduna etc, a Federal Government delegation, security agencies and five governors held a six hour long meeting and issued a communique.
The Agriculture Minister, Audu Ogbeh said: “Over the years, we have not done much to look seriously into the issue of livestock development in the country. People ask the question; why should government get involved, why shouldn’t the herdsmen manage their own livestock? I am sad to tell you that in the last 50 years, until recently, we may have done enough for the rice farmer, the cassava farmer, the maize farmer, the cocoa farmer, but we haven’t done much for herdsmen and that inability and omission on our part is resulting in the crises we are witnessing today.

”In Europe, every cow that is farmed gets a subsidy of six Euros per day, we have done next to nothing for the cattle rearer and, as a result, his operation has become a threat to the existence of our farmers. That is what this communiqué will seek to resolve.”

The minister added that the Federal Government was “planning a programme called cattle colonies, not ranches but colonies where at least 5000 hectares of land would be made available, adequate water, adequate pasture would be made available.

”We also want to stop cattle rearers from roaming about. The culture of cattle roaming about will be stopped. The cattle will be provided with water and adequate security by the rangers, adequate pasture, milk collection even security for rustlers to enable them live a normal life. This has been done elsewhere in India, Ethiopia and even Brazil.”

Once these lofty goals are attained and peace returns to the Middle belt food growing region, every one in Nigeria and indeed the world would heave a huge sigh of relief that at least, the horrendous sights of despicable murders carried out by pitiless herdsmen militia would no longer assault sensibilities in the social media for a long time to come, hopefully.
With about 40,000 persons displaced in Benue and perhaps over 10,000 farmers and family members killed, the Federal Government has decided to ban open grazing of cattle.
What the peripatetic Fulani would lose by moving from territory to territory, trampling on crops and human lives, they now gain land on the blood of tens of thousands of people executed by them.

According to the communique after the meeting read by the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortorm, accompanied by his Taraba State counterpart, Darius Ishaku, said: “The meeting noted that all animal farmers must ranch their cattle and livestock for better productivity. It also observed the existing synergy between the security agencies and between the states and the Federal Government .”

Minister of Interior, AbdulRahman Dambazau and Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh met with Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Tanko Almakura (Nasarawa), Abubakar Bello (Niger) and Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna).

Also at the meeting were Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, Commandant-General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Gana Muhammadu, Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) Mammam Daura, among among others.

Livestock farmers are to be enlightened on the benefits of keeping their animals in a location.

The meeting also admonished Nigerians to live in peace, being the only way to resolve the perennial clashes between the herdsmen and farmers.

The grey areas observed in the laudable communique is that while the governors are insisting on cattle ranching which they’ve always suggested, the Agriculture minister is talking about cow colonies, which looks like grazing reserves by another name m. On Paper, it looks good.
But have the angle of self help security been examined?

By the time exclusive colonies are created for herders, would it not become a safe haven for militias that can still threaten neighboring communities, where criminal perpetrators would dissolve into and no other security force can penetrate to apprehend offenders?

Going the full hog into more profitable ranching might seem a better option, with national security outfits going on patrols, and all herdsmen militia, disarmed.

What Audu Ogbeh said about providing the cow colonies with adequate water is an excellent idea. Trouble is, most middle belt communities lack safe drinking water. Boreholes are harder to drill there unlike in the far northern states, which is an intriguing aspect of geology and geography that semi arid areas have more underground water accessibility than the surface water rainforest regions in the middle belt and the south. This is the reason Kano in the semi-arid north has more robust potable water supply than Anambra, Oyo or Enugu State in the south for that matter.

Water is easier and cheaper to drill in the far north. Water meant for cow colonies and ranches and it’s spill over would have the added advantage of turning the desert green, checking desertification which will be a win-win situation for the livestock, afforestation and the herders who would be in the midst of co – religionists and fellow northerners. Even the greening of the north from the excess water drilled would enable spin off crop and grass cultivation next door to the well demarcated ranches in a region where land is in excess. More jobs would be created and the entire nation would prosper by it.

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Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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