• Sunday, July 14, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Farmers back proposed ranching law

Farmers back proposed ranching law

…As Northern leaders, herders oppose bill

Nigerian farmers have embraced the proposed ranching law amid staunch opposition from the herders’ community and northern leaders.

The legislation, titled “A Bill for an Act to Establish the National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation, and Control of Ranches throughout Nigeria; and for Connected Purposes, 2024,” aims to regulate grazing and promote the establishment of ranches.

This initiative seeks to mitigate the long-standing conflicts between farmers and herders, which have claimed over 60,000 lives, according to a report by Nextier SPD.

Sponsored by Titus Zam, a senator representing Benue North-West, the bill has scaled its second reading in the Senate.

Read also: Plateau:10 lives lost as herders strike Bokkos despite security presence- community leader

Pastoralists, however, describe the bill as a recipe for chaos, arguing that it will not address the protracted farmer-herder clashes in the country. The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani socio-cultural association believes the bill if enacted, will breed bad blood among Nigerians instead of resolving the challenges afflicting the livestock sector.

In contrast, farmers see the bill as a sustainable solution to the problem. Kabir Ibrahim, the president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), expressed support in an interview with BusinessDay, stating that ranching animals yields higher economic value.

“We welcome the bill,” Ibrahim said. “If you ranch animals, you will get more value from them. It is a very welcome development.”

However, Ibrahim emphasized the need to make the bill more accommodating. He rejected the proposal that ranches should only be established in herders’ states of origin.

“The myopia of saying that ranches should be confined to specific states is wrong; it should be more accommodating,” he said.

Ibrahim noted that the pastoralist community and northern leaders have voiced their rejection of the bill because they are probably still unaware of its benefits and stressed the need to educate them on the advantages.

“The context of pastoralism is a way of life. When you show them the advantages, they will understand. Some clauses in the bill stigmatise herders and confine them to their origin, which will lead to resistance,” he added.

Adeola Adegoke, the national president of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, also backed the bill, noting that no farmer is spared from the farmer-herder clashes. He highlighted the significant destruction of cocoa farms, particularly young trees, due to the movement of cows.

“Just the action of passing through the farms, not even grazing, is destruction. They also feed on plantains often planted alongside cocoa trees to protect them from direct sunlight,” Adegoke said.

He emphasised that ranching is a sustainable solution to the farmer-herder crisis and rejected the proposal that ranches should be limited to herders’ states of origin, noting that the benefits of cattle are enjoyed by all states.

Read also: Open grazing: Benue issues 14-day ultimatum to herders

The restriction of ranches to specific states has also faced stiff opposition from northern lawmakers especially the proposed provision that ranches should be established in pastoralist states without forcing it in other states that do not have pastoralist communities.

Several lawmakers, including Godswill Akpabio, the Senate president, argued against the provision which resulted in a heated Senate debate on June 5.

Kawu Abdulrahman, a senator representing Kano South, declared that northern senators “will fight it to the end.”

The Miyetti Allah has vowed to resist the bill, while the Northern Elders Forum has backed the position of the Miyetti Allah.

The bill has been referred to the Senate committees on agriculture, trade and investment, judiciary, and legal matters for further legislative action, including public hearings. The committees are expected to report back next month.