The Federal Government has proposed the setting up of ranches in 10 states of the federation in a bid to find a lasting solution to the intractable farmers/herders clashes, which have heightened the nation’s security challenges in recent times. The states are Oyo, Benue, Edo, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba and Zamfara.
Announcing this in Abuja, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, the Secretary to the National Economic Council’s subcommittee on National Livestock Transformation Plan, said that the project which is planned as a joint effort between the Federal Government and the collaborating states would gulp N70billon in the first three years and about N179 billion by the end of the first ten years.
According to Kwasari, the “ranch design has been proposed in models of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states” This, he said, would involve ranch models of 30, 60, 150 and 300 cows sited in locations within grazing reserves. He also explained that the ranches would ultimately expand to provide integrated solutions that would include basic amenities and infrastructure for the occupants.
However, the ranching initiative is trailed by criticisms of many stakeholders across the country. The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum had objected to the plan to spend public funds to build ranches for cattle breeders. While the group commended the government for embracing ranching, it also pointed out that cattle rearing is a private business that is profit oriented. Following the mounting criticisms against using public money to build ranches for cattle breeders, the Federal Government came up with an explanation that the planned cattle ranches to be built by the federal government and the selected states across the country are not solely for Fulani herdsmen alone. Government said that the ranches will be for any individual, who is interested in grazing his cattle in any of the facilities in the 10 states where the pilot scheme will commence.
No doubt, the farmers/herders crises have degenerated over the years and led to loss of lives and properties. This can explain why some Nigerians see the ranching initiative as another cattle colony in disguise. And that is the more reason some people are opposed to it. The lingering problem of the herders/farmers clashes would not just go away like that without workable solutions.
To make the plan succeed, it should not be made to give advantage to certain group of people or tailored to enable one group to take over other people’s lands as being mooted in some quarters. The government can learn from the experiences of countries where ranching is in practice.
It is not in doubt that ranching remains the solution to the frequent herdsmen/ farmers clashes in some parts of the country. But the issue of the Federal Government’s financial involvement in the project, which ought to be a private business, should be further interrogated and streamlined.
Fierce critics of the project are opposed to government’s financing of such a private business. But from what can be gleaned from the plan, participation in the ranching initiative is not limited to any one ethnic stock or region. It could be a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved if well planned and executed.
Ranching will eliminate open cattle grazing, which is the main cause of frequent clashes between herdsmen and local farmers.
Therefore, let all the stakeholders hold a dialogue on all the contentious issues and possibly resolve them. Interestingly, a pilot scheme offers room for adjustments and corrections. The federal government should do a rethink concerning its financial involvement in the project.
Like other businesses, those involved in cattle rearing should be the ones that should finance the building of ranches for their cattle. Government can assist them in the process where necessary through loans.