BusinessDay

Of grazing, ranches and routes

“The quality of solutions must be superior to the problem”

We have now arrived at a point in time where entire villages are sacked and razed because of access to grazing fields by herdsmen. How did we get here?

Nigeria has had nomadic cattle herdsmen before I was born, they move seeking green shoots of grass to feed their cows. This community of nomadic people have had a special status in Nigeria, the federal government set up a Commission of Nomadic Education to educate them.

However Let’s get down to it, we can’t in 2018 have cow walking from the Northern Part of Nigeria to the Southern part of Nigeria to graze, no sir, that system of agricultural activity is dead. Its dead for many reasons, the simplest being that cows walking lose weight, thus its meat yield is poor, if we simply kept the cows in one place, in a ranch and fed them, then processed them for their meat we will have fatter cows, more meat yield, and thus more protein for the nation. Let’s not even talk about cows trampling on farm produce as the go through “grazing routes” ….

So this article argues for grazing reserves, not grazing routes. The practice of cattle walking to grazing fields, in effect the nomadic tradition has to end, but everything comes to an end.

A lone man with a herd of cows

So lets focus on grazing reserves, this is not a new idea, in 1954, a study called the Fulani Amenities Proposal was done. The proposal suggested the creation of grazing reserves, a paper done by Dr Ismail Iro on Grazing Reserves Development states that By 1964, the government had gazetted about 6.4 million hectares of the forest reserve, ninety-eight percent in the savanna. Sokoto Province had twenty-one percent of the land, followed by Kabba, Bauchi, Zaria, Ilorin, and Katsina, with 11-15 percent each (Awogbade 1982).

In 1965, the  Nigerian Government incorporated the Fulani Amenities Proposal into the Grazing Reserve Law. By 1980, Nigeria had established 2.3 million hectares of grazing reserves, At the close of 1992, the government has identified over 300 areas with twenty-eight million hectares for grazing reserve development. About forty-five of these areas, covering some 600,000 hectares, have been gazetted. Eight of these reserves, totaling 225,000 hectares, are fully established.

So we have grazing reserves, to be specific state lands , taken by the Federal Government and designated as grazing land. The problem today is that the grazing policy has not kept pace with realities on the ground. In 1964, when the Northern Government set aside 6.4m hectares of land  there was no Abuja FCT, so Abuja “encroached” on the livestock grazing land…what land area was used to compensate the cattle herders?

This “compensation” and realigning of the grazing reserves earlier established to reality I believe is what the National Grazing Routes and Reserves Bill 2016 sought to correct. However, note that the past grazing bill was for lands in Northern Nigeria, the new bill is for land everywhere in Nigeria. Why? Climate change

The issue really is not grazing lands or routes but climate change. Climate change and massive deforestation has turned the North to deserts, cows cannot commercially graze in the North…. thus the simple solution is to move Southwards where there is still green grass. So what happens when the green field in the South are depleted? will we move our cattle to Cameroon? We must devise better solutions to the climate change and deforestation issue,

The short term solution are ranches in the Southern Part of Nigeria, owned by the states and private sector and leased to the private cattle owners to graze on.

Instead of a Grazing Commission appropriating private and state lands, crate a Grazing fund, the fund can get its revenue from taxing abattoirs per head of cattle killed, about 5,000 cows are killed daily in Lagos alone, a N500 tax per cow is N2,500,000 a day.

This fund will guarantee payment to private and states for the leasing of their land by the cattle owners. So the grazing fund will issue adverts for suitable land, specify amenities, etc states and individuals can bid and their land is designated grazing reserve land. The cows graze, the Fund pays the state or land owner. The lands left to fallow can easily become grazing reserves, the owners get paid. Let’s just keep it simple.

Keep in mind, the first Sovereign Wealth fund in the world was The Permanent School Fund (PSF) created in 1854 by the state of Texas to benefit primary and secondary schools The PSF was endowed with public lands, which cows ranchers paid grazing leases for access to the land by their cows. The funds raised went to fund schools in Texas.

According to the National Population Commission 2006 figures and Landmass complied from NPC Report, 1991, Benue and Plateau States have very low population density, eg Lagos is 2,695 but Benue population density is 124 and plateau is 55 So nothing stops Benue and Plateau States from creating land trusts to lease land to the grazing trust and earn cash. This way there Is a direct economic benefit of cows grazing to the people of Benue. its a clear form of IGR to the state, just as in Texas.

What will then also happen is a multiplier effect, as cows graze in one spot, they can get immunized, killed for beef, skin, etc, Benue and Plateau can become the center of a modern livestock ranching and vaccines industry in Nigeria, Cows don’t have to walk to Lagos they can be killed, shipped in refrigerated containers to markets across Nigeria from the grazing fields of the Benue Plateau

The narrative on grazing must change from rights of cows to graze to positive economic impact of cows grazing in one area.

Long term solution? we must defeat the Sahara Desert encroachment, its not impossible, Israel is a major exporter of fresh produce but half the land is desert, with no water, but Israel has turned their deserts green and feed themselves from that desert., The Governors facing desert encroachment should go to Israel and ask them how they keep cows in deserts.

If Israel is far, go to Sudan, in Sudan DAL farms keeps cows in air-conditioned pens away from the heat and can milk 56 cows in 10 minutes…this is Sudan.

Then fix the cutting of trees, provide subsidized coal from Kogi and Enugu to the North, provide gas to the villages, soon there will be no trees on Northern Nigeria at the current rate of felling.

Unless this is done, after the cattle, the people of the North will also migrate to the south to escape the deserts.

Fixing the encroachment of the deserts is really fixing agriculture and irrigation in Nigeria, and both are not rocket science., its just hard work

 

Its our problem, we can fix it..

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