By Bakare Idris
The anti-open grazing bill passed in some states across the federation may signal a revolution in the long battle against agro pastoralism which has constantly resulted in bloody confrontations between farmers and herders.
The ban on open grazing has already taken effect in Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Lagos and Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and others, while legislative process in other States.
Livestock farming has played a pivotal role in the development of human civilisation around the world, and it continues to play the same role in the global economy. It has done so by increasing quality food products and generating employment opportunities.
The recent challenge arriving from cattle breeding in Nigeria can be associated with climate change and local politics. In the last couple of years, open grazing has triggered conflicts between host communities and migrant herdsmen, leading to several untimely deaths in many states particularly in Benue and Plateau sates north central Nigeria.
Aside from the deaths of so many Nigeria farmers, it has also led to the loss of property worth several millions of naira, food shortages and high cost of food items due to destructions of farm crops.
The idea of moving cattle to the field for sedentary grazing has resulted in damages people investments and means of livelihood. While some crop owners sometimes get compensated, other incidents would lead to bloody conflicts. In some cases, farmers too have been accused of poisoning herds of cattle.
Criminals from neighbouring African countries have also allegedly hide under herding to perpetrate crimes such as kidnapping, banditry, raping, and arm robbery across the country making open grazing a serious national security threat.
In today’s world, technology is the weapon of first choice to overcome most challenges associated with livestock production. Technology can as well transform the cattle industry for the benefit of all if only Nigerians are ready to make that conscious and deliberate effort with enabling environment.
In poultry business, Nigeria has successfully applied genetics to produce high-yielding day-old chicks, hybrid seeds to increase the yields of maize and soybeans for massive production of quality commercial poultry feeds, and veterinary science to deliver healthcare services to poultry.
According to Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), this technology transformation has made Nigeria’s poultry industry worth about N10 trillion making it the biggest in Africa.
This poultry revolution did not just happen; it was made to happen by deliberate government policies, public-private sector partnership and the Nigerian spirit of entrepreneurship.
This approach can be adopted to fully transform cattle rearing business from open grazing to modern day cattle colony and ranches.
To make this happen, cattle rearers need to face the reality of seeing cattle rearing as a serious business that requires good investments because cattle rearing remains a critical aspect of livestock farming producing beef as a major source of protein.
Thus, agricultural experts and analysts suggested ranching as good alternative to open grazing.
In their opinion, this can be actualized without endangering cattle production and put a stop to deadly confrontation between herdsmen and farmers
Speaking on this, Tolulope Ogboru, an environmental law researcher described ranching as a more sustainable form of rearing technique.
She called for proper investments, planning and implementation strategy to achieve benefits of ranching.
Also, Oluwatoyin Adejonwo-Osho, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos said ranching method stipulated by the law, requires the pastoralists be highly trained and educated on this modern mode of cattle rearing.
Adejonwo-Osho stressed further that switching to a new form of cattle rearing suddenly without putting in place appropriate mechanisms is not inappropriate.
Meanwhile, in as much the 17 state governors in southern part of Nigeria have ordered ban on open grazing and endorsed ranching, it’s economically wise for the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), to engage with governors in southern states and work out strategies for effective implementation of ranches.
In order to change the killer herdsmen identity associated with Fulani herdsmen hiding under open grazing system to commit crimes, it is high time MACBAN leaders key into ranching and drive investments that will transform their business into modern and best global practices in agro livestock production. This will go a long way in reducing difference kinds of criminal atrocities being perpetrated against Nigerians in the name of pastoralism.
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