From Magnus Eze, Abuja
The Federal Government may have jettisoned the idea of developing grazing reserves across the country, preferring instead to pursue the development of ranches.
No fewer than 14 states have provided 5,000 hectares of land each amounting to 70,000 hectares for grazing reserves.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed government’s new direction in Abuja yesterday while declaring open stakeholders’ meeting on ranch development, said Nigeria must embrace modern ways of livestock development.
“Grazing reserve is meaningless if there is no appropriate grass, water and medical service for the cattle. And don’t forget, these animals also carry diseases, particularly tuberculosis and trypanosomiasis, to mention just two. Past experiences in the creation and management of grazing reserves have shown that many stakeholders were left out of the planning and management which eventually led to the loss of these facilities to buildings and farmlands.
“Nigeria is taking this bold step by clearly breaking away from the traditional livestock rearing practices and we have to embrace modern methods involving private sector development in animal production, processing and marketing where direct interests of pastoralists, investors, development partners and small-holder positions along the livestock value-chain is incorporated,” he said.
Ogbeh added that as part of the efforts to stabilise cattle rearing through the establishment of large hectares of paddocks, government would also provide irrigation for all year round, growing of grasses, boost production of fodder in all parts of the country as well as pursue the establishment of dairy farms.
The minister also said in furtherance of the intensified efforts to add value along the livestock value-chain, schools and hospitals would be established for families of cattle farmers where large ranches are located.
He appealed to critics of government’s initiative of developing ranches to understand that herdsmen are also farmers who equally deserve government support, stressing that rice, coffee, cocoa, wheat and sorghum farmers had variously received support from government.
Ogbeh noted that it was the years of neglect suffered by cattle farmers that prompted them to resort to self-help in an attempt to breed their cattle.
“Of course, the violence is bad, but the fact is that the cattle farmer is an important segment of our agricultural development programme,” he said.
Attempt by government to reactivate 415 grazing reserves in the country and the creation of new ones had met stiff opposition because of the perceived security threat posed by the presence of herders, especially in the Middle Belt region and the Southern parts of the country.