The National Livestock Transformation Plan, a project of the Federal Government, in partnership with the Netherlands Government has received a boost following the launch of a new ranching hub in Awe local government area of Nasarawa State.
This is a shift from the controversial RUGA policy of President Muhammadu Buhari that was widely opposed by a section of Nigerians, some state governments and notable groups in the South-south and the middle-belt regions.
With the launch of the new ranching hub in Nasarawa, the scheme is expected to be replicated in other states that had indicated towards finding a lasting solution to herders/farmers clashes.
The ranching hub which covers about 22,000 hectares of land will see Nasarawa and four other states benefitting from the Federal Government’s €400,000 grant for the implementation of the NLTP project in the affected states.
The grant was secured from the Dutch Investment Agency, where President Mohammadu Buhari, during his visit to Netherlands, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), to cover Adamawa, Plateau, Gombe and Nasarawa States as a pilot scheme.
The €400,000 grant is to cover 50 percent cost of the pilot start-up of the NLTP model in Nasarawa State for 30 pastoralist households.
The NLTP programme is not only expected to stem the tide of insecurity in the country but also proffer solution to the farmers/herders crisis, especially at the Nasarawa/Benue borders, hence the choice of Awe.
The initiative in 2018, as adopted by the National Executive Council (NEC) in 2019, was designed to partner states interested to provide land for livestock farmers to practice.
Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong, minister of agriculture and rural development, Sabo Nanono, the Dutch and Argentinian ambassadors to Nigeria as well as Abdullahi Adamu, chairman Senate committee on agriculture were among those who witnessed the flag-off of the programme in Awe.
Speaking at the launch of the project, the Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Sule, said the state decided to key into the NLTP, even before he came into office, because of security challenges occasioned by farmers/herders conflicts along the boundary with Benue State.
“On arrival, we were faced with many challenges and one of the biggest challenges was that of security,” he stated.
According to the governor, Nasarawa State also decided to key into the scheme because of the inherent economic benefits associated with ranching.
Governor Sule added that the desire to maximally utilise the hitherto abandoned grazing reserves, which have become the hiding place for criminal elements, motivated Nasarawa State to adopt the NLTP.
He noted that every state has grazing reserves, but that the security of the people was more important than the ownership of any land.
The governor appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for making the scheme a reality and appealed to the Federal Government not to limit the commencement of the NLTP to Nasarawa State, but to extend it to Plateau and other states identified for the take-off of the project.
He particularly thanked the Netherlands Government for the financial support to make the project a reality.
Minister of agriculture and rural development, Mohammed Nanono, commended the Nasarawa State governor for not only accepting the initiative from the Federal Government but for working tirelessly, to accelerate the launching of the NLTP first model ranching hub project in Awe.
Nanono, therefore, underscored the challenges confronting the nation’s livestock sector, ranging from poor productivity, poor land management, climate change, outdated animal husbandry practices, among others, which became a recipe for the breach of peace and security due to incessant clashes involving farmers and herders.
The worsening security breaches, according to the minister, “necessitated for a holistic resolution that will cater for not only improved productivity in the livestock subsector but also justice, security, recovery for victims of violent clashes, as well as human capital development.”
Giving an overview of the project, the national coordinator and senior special assistant to the president on agriculture, Andrew Kwasari, said the essence of the NLTP is to gradually develop the livestock subsector.
Kwasari explained that the Awe model ranching hub, would demonstrate ranching to the pastoralists and take them in batches at the household level and put them through the know-how.
In his remarks, the governor of Plateau state, and chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, Simon Lalong commended Governor Abdullahi Sule for flagging off the project, adding that Plateau State would be the next in line.
Lalong further assured the people that the plan would end the farmers/ herders crises that have been causing the destruction of lives and properties in the country.
He, however, expressed concern over the recent crisis in Bass/Ryom that led to the loss of lives and properties, assuring that with the project in Plateau State, peace would return in the various communities, while condoling the families of those affected in the recent attacks.
In a goodwill message, the Dutch ambassador in Nigeria, Harry Van Dijk, said the NLTP was a fallout of the signing of an MoU between President Muhammadu Buhari and a consortium in the Netherlands, to develop ranching in Nigeria.
Bala Dabo, chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) who spoke on behalf of herders in the state, expressed gratitude to the president and the state government for making the project a reality.