The Federal Government’s plan to Establish Cattle Colonies will be “very difficult now because arable land is getting smaller’’, Dr. Ahmad Mohammed, former Executive Director, National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, has said.
Mohammed told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Jos that establishing such colonies would have been done “a long time ago’’.
Agriculture minister Audu Ogbe recently announced government’s plan to establish cattle colonies in all states as part of measures to check the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
Ogbe, who said that 10,000 hectares of land would be required for a colony that would accommodate about 40 ranches, disclosed that 16 states had indicated interest in the scheme.
Mohammed, while reviewing the policy, agreed on the need to settle the cows in one place to minimise the negative effects of moving around, but said that the measure was rather late.
“There is indeed a need to settle the cattle and their herders in one place because the effects of wandering through thick forests are massive on the cows, but Nigeria has neglected the livestock sector for long.
“More attention is paid to crops; government does not seem to worry about livestock because the herdsmen do not pay tax. We often tend to forget the milk and meat we get from the cows.
“Practically every state has grazing reserves and cattle routes which have been gazetted. Unfortunately, they have either been turned to farms or settlements. This is at the root of the incessant clashes between herdsmen and rural communities.
“Most of the grazing reserves have been sold to large scale farmers. Efforts should be made to retrieve some of them.
“When I was at NVRI, we visited some cattle routes and grazing reserves at Wase in Plateau, and Kachia in Kaduna State, and found that many had been abandoned. The Federal Government should visit these sites and revive them,’’ he said.
The veterinary doctor urged government to enlighten herdsmen on the need to settle down in ranches, if the colonies proved a difficult option.
“The herdsmen also want a better life and will be willing to accept policies that will give them such comfort.
“Government should counsel them to focus on the quality of their cows and not just the quantity, because if the cows are relaxed and in good health, their value, in terms of meat and milk, will be higher.’’
He urged all tiers of government to give more attention to the welfare of cows, and regretted that even basic vaccines were hardly procured for the cattle.
“`The only time some governments procure vaccines for cows is when elections are near and votes are being sought. No one remembers the herdsmen thereafter,’’ he said.