by Adekunle Shotubo
There is already deep mutual distrust between landowner farmers and herders. This is not helped by the frequency of “clashes” and the resulting multiple fatalities on the side of farming communities, which have gone on through successive administrations without a noticeable response from law enforcement. Also, there is no way to ensure the herdsmen and their cattle do not stray from the prescribed areas.
The only thing that’ll work is a prescription that keeps these two sets of people apart in the struggle for pasture and preservation of farm crop yields; or have them form a mutually beneficial agreement guided by law.
Ranching is that solution and it must be private sector driven. Livestock owner negotiates for land and buys/leases it from “willing” owner. Government must not use executive fiat in facilitating this deal as is currently stated as one of the powers to be vested in the “National Grazing Commission” in section 20-22 of the bill. This land must also be provided perimeter fencing as much as possible.
Let’s not forget that the herdsman you see is not even the one being subsidized or protected by this new proposed bill. It’s the owners of the cows and the eventual buyers of the beef. These herdsmen are hirelings who can also be used as ranch hands on ranches and this way they can settle down in a location and have a life, an education and become more useful to themselves without the exposure of traipsing the country on foot herding a rich livestock owner’s cattle.
The owners of the cattle need to follow the example of the farmers in South Africa, Argentina, USA and other livestock farming countries. Businesses evolve with the times. This is no different.
Meat will become more expensive initially as the livestock owners pass on the cost of ranching and providing feed, etc., to the meat buyers. This is also ok. It is standard business practice. The consumer will adjust.
This is April 2016. A lot has happened between the herders and farmers/landowners. Many communities in the south and middle belt are opposed to this bill, regardless of what their NASS members say. A simple test of this is to have the FG or the NASS members engage the people in town hall meetings around this issue to get the pulse of the people. It is unfortunate that this has not even been communicated talk less of getting feedback. If the intent of this bill is to forestall future clashes between these two groups, then this bill would not do that. In my mind, it would do the opposite.
And if your angle is about “people’s ancestral practice and age long culture”, then my response to you is that this is not a progressive mindset. Can the constitution accommodate everyone’s ancestral, cultural and economic practices? Especially as some other will feel they are bearing the brunt for it through the targeted land “acquisitions”? Remember we are still facing backlash and sabotage from communities in the Niger delta over land and mineral resources? This will open another vista and create even more tensions and sabotage opportunities.
Unfortunately, one of the main causes of this migration is desertification. This has also seen billions of Naira sunk in by government through the years with scant evidence of progress. There is decades old technology out there to reverse desertification, carry out remediation on lands that were previously fertile and also new age technology like hydroponics that grows pasture without soil. New feed types should also be adopted. Pasture grass is not the only feed available to cattle. There is so much more in modern livestock farming.
We should look at this on the medium to long term while we allow the cattle owners to approach “willing” landed communities to procure short-medium term land leases for pasture land that will be transparent and perfected through legal means with clearly delineated hard boundaries and all the stakeholders carried along. We do not need a powerful bureaucracy wielding the Land Use Act to do this. All we need is for the rights of each party to be guaranteed under the law and ALL cases of infractions addressed to a logical end.
This is my opinion. It is how I read the situation and the dangers the bill portends for integration and mutual co-existence.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.