NIGERIA’S agriculture ministry has said that it will proceed with the establishment of grazing routes across the country despite the widespread opposition to the practice because many herdsmen cannot afford to operate ranches.
Over recent years, Fulani cattle herdsmen have wrecked havoc across Nigeria as their livestock have damaged farms and crops. When farmers object, the herdsmen respond brutally with bloody attacks in villages and rural communities that very often leave dozens of villagers dead.
In response to the crisis, the Southern Governors Forum recently met in Asaba, the Delta State capital and issued a communique banning open grazing across the 17 states of southern Nigeria. Their stance has been widely welcomed by a majority of Nigerians who see it as a solution to the crisis, pointing out that ranching will end the destruction of farm crops and end the incessant clashes.
However, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development officials have indicated that the operation of cattle routes will continue. Winnie Lai-Solarin, the acting director of the ministry’s animal husbandry department, said the recovery of cattle routes would continue, although mainly in non-conflict zones.
He added that existing routes that had been encroached upon as a result of the development of public infrastructure might be left out of the recovery exercise. According to Ms Lai-Solarin, while cattle ranching had been one of the major options canvassed for herders, not every pastoralist would be able to afford ranching at the moment.
Ms Lai-Solarin said: “There are some stock routes that we have across the country and in the past, we had monuments along these stock routes, particularly the primary stock routes. In the course of farming or other human activities along those stock routes, the monuments were altered but we know where they are, so we are saying that some of them can be retraced.
“For those that are not encroached upon and are not in conflict zones, we will go ahead to retrace and guide the pastoralists along them. We didn’t get to where we are today in one day and so we cannot expect that every pastoralist should suddenly start ranching now.
“Some would still have to move but let’s keep the movement as safe as possible and in areas that are not conflict zones. We are not going to retrace stock routes where there are infrastructures that are for the public good.”
Agriculture minister Sabo Nanono, had announced on Thursday that the Federal Capital Territory and 22 states had registered for the National Livestock Transformation Plan as part of measures to establish grazing reserves in their domains. He also announced that seven of these states had earmarked 400,000 hectares of land for the initiative, as the establishment of grazing reserves were currently ongoing in Nasarawa, Borno, Niger, Kaduna and some other states.