Implementing anti-open grazing laws -By Babafunso Sonaiya

Filed under: Political Issues |

Armed Fulani Herdsmen

The claim of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association that “anti-grazing laws are… to destroy our means of livelihood” should be viewed in the proper context. The reality is that the Fulani and the 14 other ethnic groups engaged in cattle herding in Nigeria, are unfamiliar with any other method of producing cattle apart from open grazing. It should be taken as a cry for help. It is true that cattle production is an economic activity which is in the private sector, but we are in a unique situation. To put our 19.5 million cattle (using the figure in the editorial) into ranches will require a significant effort from many institutions, groups and individuals. John T. Taiwo, a registered animal scientist and the Director of the Department of Animal Husbandry Services in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has estimated that it will cost about N1.1m to establish one hectare of improved pasture plot with chain link perimeter fencing and entrance gate. Technically, ranching requires knowledge and skills in the areas of range management, animal production, animal health, and business management which the traditional pastoralists lack and will need time to acquire.

The infrastructural requirements for ranching are basically three: Grazing land to provide grass and legumes to feed the animals; fencing to keep them from straying into crop farms; and water for the animals to drink. A ranch can be a fenced natural (i.e. unplanted) grassland, a sort of “grazing reserve”. The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, confirms that there are 415 grazing reserves with a total land area of above four million hectares in the country. With a very good grass species, the carrying capacity of one hectare is about four mature beef cattle. For 20 million cattle, we need about five million hectares of natural pasture. In 14 grazing reserves, one each in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, Oyo, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara and the FCT, there has been infrastructural development by making available improved pasture seeds of Napier grass (which are available from commercial seed companies in Nigeria), establishment of 50 hectares pasture seed multiplication centres, and provision of solar and wind mill-powered boreholes. For the number of cattle we have, our ranches should focus on deliberately sown pastures using improved grass and legume seeds and supplementing with cotton seed cake, salt lick and vitamin-mineral block. Sown pasture ranches can easily carry up to 10 animals per hectare instead of four animals that the natural grassland ranches can carry. That means we will need only about two million hectares of land instead of five million.

It is necessary to use cattle breeds that will perform well in ranches. The Bunaji (or White Fulani) is the most commonly known cattle breed but it is just one of the four indigenous breeds that have been recommended for ranching because they have high yield potential. The other three are: Wadara, Sokoto Gudali and Adamawa Gudali, according to Baba Yusuf Abubakar, a Fulani from Gombe State, a professor of animal breeding and the former Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria. He asserts that these four breeds can meet the requirement for modern beef production without cross-breeding with imported exotic breeds. I have advocated the 14 FMARD Livestock Investigation and Breeding Centres to be converted into Cooperative Livestock Innovation and Breed Multiplication Centres to serve the Livestock Producers Associations such as MACBAN as test stations for animal performance, feed and equipment. For ranching to succeed, there must be emphasis on genetic evaluation and breed improvement of cattle.

The greater challenge is to build the capacity for ranch management and to assist the cattle herders in proper utilisation of the ranches. In 2016, capacity building of pastoralists was carried out in Kaduna, Jigawa and Niger states in collaboration with the Allan Savoury Institute. That ranching will take a long time to become established had been recognised by all stakeholders in the cattle industry. But when and how should it be started nationwide has been a major point of disagreement. The anti-open grazing laws have provided the golden opportunity to start ranching development immediately. The question remaining is: How?

For this, we need to learn from how commercial poultry production came to be established in Nigeria, particularly in south western Nigeria. Commercial poultry became established in the South-West because the Government of Western Nigeria promoted it by: consistent extension training of potential commercial poultry farmers; establishment of poultry breeder farms to supply day old chicks (e.g.at Agege, Lagos and Iwo Oloba, Osun); support for the establishment of Livestock Feeds Ltd by Pfizer in Ikeja, Lagos; and the support for locally produced eggs by strategic location of MANR Kiosks(e.g. outside the Kingsway Store at Dugbe, Ibadan which sold imported eggs).

I agree with Jinadu Maina, a Fulani, a Veterinary Doctor and former Director of the defunct Department of Livestock and Pest Control Services of FMARD, that commercial cattle production needs a similar approach. It is, therefore, recommended that such concerted efforts be made by the 21 cattle producing states which already have grazing reserves that can be centres for the development of clusters of cattle ranches.

We have a long history of cattle ranching to draw lessons from both our successes and failures which include the establishment of: government dairy farms in Vom, Plateau and Agege, Lagos in the 1940s; LIBCs in many locations in the 1950s; public-private-partnerships for smallholder fattening schemes in many locations in the 1960s; state cattle ranches in most Northern states in the 1970s; special cattle ranches in Mokwa, Niger, Adada, Enugu, and Fasola, Oyo, in the 1970s to 1980s; private cattle ranches that are functioning even now (e.g. Maizube Farms, Niger, and L&Z Integrated Farms, Kano).

On the political front, President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2015, constituted a committee on Strategic Action Plan for the Development of Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes nationwide. One of the committee’s Terms of Reference was to develop short, medium and long-term strategic recommendations that will end the persistent farmers and pastoralists’ conflicts in the country. The short term recommendation was the establishment of a National Programme on Grazing Reserves and Stock Route Development. The Federal Government is also proposing a form of political solution through negotiation and dialogue with state governors to grant land for grazing reserves in their states, with a promise of funds to develop such reserves. There is a proposed bill currently pending before the National Assembly to establish a Federal Commission to Cater for and Manage Transhumant Stock Routes and Grazing Reserve Areas. All these political actions should be modified to include ranching. Hence, to implement the anti-open grazing laws, we should establish a National Programme on Ranching, Grazing Reserves and Stock Route Development; a Federal Commission to Cater for and Manage Ranches, Transhumant Stock Routes and Grazing Reserve Areas. Interested states can be encouraged to “key in” into these federal initiatives towards a National Ranch Development Plan. If we can establish 100,000 ha of ranches in 2018, that is already five per cent of the total land area needed for accommodating all our cattle on ranches. That should be a valve to release the pent-up emotions, prevent further conflicts and enable all livelihoods of herders and farmers to be protected. The National Programme, Federal Commission and National Ranch Development Plan can continue the development of our cattle industry.

Sonaiya is Professor of Animal Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State

 

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