Feature: Boosting Herders, National Prosperity through RUGA
By Obike Ukoh, Nigeria News Agency
The recent statement credited to Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State brought to the fore, once again, the need to improve the well-being of herdsmen through acceptable grazing programmes, like the suspended Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) project.
The governor said recently in Sokoto, that states where Fulani people are not indigenes will not be required to implement the RUGA settlement initiative.
The governor said that the RUGA settlement initiative was for states that could cater for the Fulanis, and was targeted at making herdsmanship a socio-economic investment not a socio-cultural issue.
“So states where indigenes are not Fulanis, cannot be asked to implement RUGA, it is for states that can cater for the Fulanis and wish to improve their herdsmanship.
“That is why we are developing RUGA in Kano State so that Fulani people can be in one place and enjoy all the social services like other people of the state.
“The type of herdsmanship the Fulanis are doing now will be improved, so that they can produce more cows, more milk and ensure more economic prosperity for themselves,” Ganduje said.
The governor said that there was need to ban the seasonal migration of Fulani herdsmen from the north to the central and southern parts of Nigeria.
“No better way to improve their lives if you don’t prevent their migration from the north to the central and southern parts of Nigeria.
“Fulani migration should be banned, otherwise they will continue to suffer and the security challenges in the country will continue to exist,” he added.
The Federal Government had on June 25, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, announced plans to establish RUGA settlements across the country.
The announcement of the programme generated a lot of controversy which led to its suspension.
Presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu who replied critics, said the project was designed to promote livestock production.
“RUGA settlement seeks to settle migrant pastoral families in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organised place, with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics, markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products,” he said.
He said beneficiaries would include all persons in the animal husbandry sector, not only Fulani herders.
Even before Gov. Ganduje’s suggestion that Fulani herdsmen should be banned from migrating to the south for grazing of their cattle, South-East governors had earlier latently made the suggestion.
The governors said the only deal reached with Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), was that when the Federal Government revamped grazing reserves in the north, all the cattle rearers in the south would take their cattle there and rely on the grasses grown in the south.
Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, via a statement by Emmanuel Uzor, his chief press secretary, said there was no plan for a RUGA settlement in any part of the South-East.
Umahi said members of MACBAN and the South-East governors would achieve symbiotic trade of cow and grass.
The statement reads: “Umahi was the Chairman of National Economic Council Sub-Technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen Clashes, and he toured states of Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Zamfara and two other states.
“One of his recommendations to the Federal Government is to revamp grazing reserves in the north, where all the cattle rearers in the south will take their cattle to and rely on the grasses that are grown in the south.
“The way it works is that the herdsmen will bring down their cows to the South-East and sell to us as meat, while they will load the grasses which are grown here in the same trailer, with which they transported their cows, to feed their cattle in those grazing reserves which should be made comfortable for them.
“By this, herdsmen are expected to embrace anti-open grazing by returning to the ranches in the north and do their business on the trade by barter basis of selling cows to the south and buying grasses to feed their cows in the north.”
While nothing concrete had been done to implement the recommendations of the National Economic Council Sub-Technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen Clashes, oil rich Akwa Ibom, had placed order for 2,000 cattle from Brazil for the state’s cattle ranching programme.
Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Information, Charles Udoh, who disclosed this recently in Uyo while addressing newsmen, said the state was desirous of producing sufficient meat, with a view to increasing protein intake for people of the state.
He said: “The ranch was established in conjunction with foreign investors, the cattle have been quarantined.
“The reason we quarantined the cattle was that, first we needed to inoculate them.
“What I mean by quarantined is that we needed to get them acclimatised to the weather and prepare them for the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
“While we quarantined and inoculated them, we tried to get some pregnant because it is a long journey and some could die on the way. These are rare breed of cattle that can produce milk and meat at the same time. We are expecting 2,000.”
The ranching programme of Akwa Ibom, recommendations of the National Economic Council Sub-technical Committee on Farmers and Herdsmen Clashes and position of South-East governors, showed unequivocally that cattle rearing is a private business.
Stakeholders echoed it in their various comments about RUGA.
Southern and Middle Belt leaders, before the suspension of the programme, described RUGA as “repugnant, repulsive and provocative.
“Cattle rearing is a private business that should not have the involvement of government; government interested in the unity of the country should not dabble into such business which tends to promote one ethnic group over another.”
Sen. Gershon Bassey, in his contribution, reiterated that cattle rearing is private business, and advised the Federal Government to allow it remain a private sector matter.
He commended the Federal Government for suspending the programme and advised that RUGA should be jettisoned as Nigerians rejected it.
He said: “A lot of people who are far more experienced and knowledgeable in this matter (cattle business) than me, have proffered so many solutions like ranching, but I think the key thing from my take away is that this is a private sector matter.
“It is essentially a private sector matter and not a public sector matter and therefore solutions should be tailored to creating enabling environment and also taking people’s liberties into account.
““So, these are not things you can decree or you can force people to do. There are things that are done voluntarily like we do in the private sector.
“In private sector there is the issue of demand and supply and if people want something, a need is created for that thing but if people don’t want that thing, there is no need to try to force it down their throat.’’
Though a private business, Prof. Jonah Onuoha, has advised that the RUGA policy should be supported as it would solve the attendant problems of open grazing.
Onuoha of the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said when fully established, it would address the incessant clashes between herders and farmers and curb open grazing of animals.
“To me the aim of the policy is to end constant clashes between farmers and herders.
“If herders and their cattle are quarantined in a settlement, farmers and their crops will have a sigh of relief as there will be no cattle to destroy planted crops,” he said.
He said there were lots of benefits attached to the RUGA settlement, while the overall benefits include a drastic reduction in conflicts between herders and farmers, a boost in animal protection, complete with a value chain that will increase the quality and hygiene of livestock, among others.
The don said besides Fulani people, other ethnic groups rear cattle.
“Fulanis are not the only herders in this country, there is no tribe you will not get people who are cattle rearers.’’
O.A. Lawal-Adebowale, in his Dynamics of Ruminant Livestock Management in the Context of the Nigerian Agricultural System, noted that about 90 per cent of the country’s cattle population and 70 per cent of the sheep and goat populations are concentrated in the north.
“Among all the livestock that makes up the farm animals in Nigeria, ruminants, comprising sheep, goats and cattle, constitute the farm animals largely reared by farm families.
“ Nigeria has population of 34.5 million goats, 22.1 million sheep and 13.9 million cattle.
“ The larger proportion of these animals’ population are, however, largely concentrated in the north.
With state like Benue, where no fewer than 81 herdsmen had been convicted and 3,000 cows arrested under the state’s anti-open grazing law, there is no better option to boost the prosperity of Fulani herdsmen than heeding the advice of Gov. Ganduje and other stakeholders on the need to stop migration of cattle. (NANFeatures)
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