Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh speaks on the controversies of cattle colonies.
“The colony was purely a biological expression for a concentration of animals – bees, buffalos, etc. It wasn’t intended to suggest that we were about to seize land from people and handover to herdsmen coming from some other part to colonize them. I must say I do regret the reaction and the suspicions that have arisen. There was no attempt, there was no contemplation to seize their land to give herdsmen.”
On plans to have cattle colonies, instead of ranches:
The colony was purely a biological expression for a concentration of animals -bees, buffalos, etc. it wasn’t intended to suggest that we were about to seize land from people and handover to herdsmen coming from some other part to colonize them. I must say I do regret the reaction and the suspicions that have arisen.
On what cattle colonies would entail:
There are hundreds of ranches within a colony. From our point of view of economies of scale, it’s better to manage a colony than a ranch. The idea is that within a colony there are many ranches. So, you can provide security, gather milk, and generate electricity. So, the idea is to have this large settlement, instead of single ranches all over the place.
On the size of land for a colony:
We had asked some of the states for an average size of the land of about 5,000 hectares, and we wrote to all the states. About 30–40 ranches can be within that area- each ranch keeping about 400 cows because there are 19million cows in the country.
On if state governments are expected to provide the infrastructure for cattle colonies:
Yes. The state government owns and provides the land. There is a management to look after the place to make sure the water system is working, that the place is being re-grassed as the cows eat, and so on.
Herdsmen have always paid tax and they paid dutifully. Now the Local Government system is gone, so now they roam and in the process of roaming, they walk into people’s farms, eat their crops, a dispute comes and then they shoot. We can’t afford that forever. There was no attempt to walk into states, seize their land and give them to herdsmen to own and establish emirates.
Very few ranches harbor more than 300 cows and if we have to do that, there would have to be 711 ranches per state. From a point of view of health, it’s not very safe even for the human beings. From the point of view of managing the cattle, it’s almost impossible to manage. That is why we wanted clusters of ranches.
On if the Miyetti-Allah Association supports the idea of cattle colonies:
Yes, they do, even though they don’t understand the concept of a cattle colony. They talk of ranches, but I know when I talk to individual herdsmen, that they are not fully aware of what a ranch takes to run. Ranches succeed very well in Europe because every cow on a ranch in Europe has a subsidy of €6 per day. We can’t afford that here, and the way to cut down the cost is to make sure there is enough cattle we can provide for- security, water at a reasonably lower cost.
On the number of states in support of the idea of cattle colonies:
Sixteen states, at present. We wrote to all states and twenty responded out of which some said they didn’t have the land. Some said they were not interested and some didn’t write at all. We have never insisted that states should give land
On the way forward:
The way forward is the way I have marked out. We had a seminar in July and 700 people attended. We examined the situation- climate change and the impact.
Because once the rains stop in neighboring West African states and the North of Nigeria, the cattle begin to move towards the Benue valley where there are water and very good foliage for them to eat. In the process of marching along 300 cows, they walk into someone’s farm and eat up the crops. There have also been cases of rape and death. If we don’t deal with it now, it’s not going to end.
President Buhari’s view on the ranching- colony issue:
I saw him and gave him a roadmap of what I want and he says he will provide the resources needed to move with speed because this issue is going to cause complete commotion in the country. The killings are too many. Our problem is even further complicated by the fact that some of these cows aren’t even from Nigeria. In spite of the 19 million here, we have cows marching in from Chad, Niger Republic, and Burkina Faso, in search of water. There is even a myth about the water and the grass of the Benue valley. The herdsmen believe that if you can move your cows there in the dry season, they have greater fertility, better feed and it’s not entirely unscientific. So, the cows come from Taraba, Adamawa to Agatu where the water empties into the River Niger in Lokoja. The place is very lush and the herdsmen don’t even understand what is meant by states and boundaries.
On if herdsmen will be willing to pay for services in order to have their cows catered for:
They’ve always paid before. So, we have no doubt that they will be willing.
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