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Conference to end farmers/herdsmen conflict

On Wednesday last week the federal government inaugurated the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) on the National Conference for Livestock Development. The conference is designed to…

On Wednesday last week the federal government inaugurated the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) on the National Conference for Livestock Development.

The conference is designed to provide a lasting solution to the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in different parts of the country.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) Chief Audu Ogbe, who inaugurated the committee in Abuja, said government would work to ensure that cattle roaming across the country comes to an end.

The minister said, “The need to keep our cattle in secured colonies will afford us the opportunity to curtail the incessant herdsmen/farmers’ clashes as well as embark on systematic and improved cattle-breeding”.

He also said the resolve to transform grazing reserves into ranches was part of the recommendations of a three-day stakeholders’ policy dialogue held in Kaduna in April this year.

Ogbeh said the conference is being organized to avail a larger group that will include minsters of agriculture from the sub-region with an opportunity to examine earlier recommendations of the policy dialogue since Nigeria’s neighbours are confronted with the same challenge.

The conference would enable participants to share experiences and thus agree on how best to handle cattle grazing and related issues.

Pastoralism has been in Nigeria for hundreds of years. The nearly 30 million heads of cattle owned by herdsmen is a huge national economic asset.

However, severe pressure on the land arising from high population growth rate increasingly makes pastoralism unsustainable.

Most grazing reserves and cattle routes of yesteryears have come under cultivation, leading to frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

The need to establish cattle ranches has become a matter of necessity rather than a choice.

In spite of reports from panels set up to investigate clashes in the past, conflict between farmers and herdsmen widened in geographical spread and also escalated in intensity of violence.

Armed bandits from neighbouring countries soon joined the fray and added another dimension to the conflict.

The incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen have led to the loss of many lives, destruction of farmlands and breakdown of inter-communal peace in rural communities.

Together these have impacted negatively on the economic life of the people as well as on the country’s economic growth.

 

The proposed conference must be all-inclusive. It should involve all stakeholders, all tiers of government and all sectors of economy including banks.

The herdsmen/farmers crisis has become a national problem and therefore requires a national solution.

This is why the federal government must assume its central and leading role in finding a lasting solution to this intractable conflict.

This all-embracing approach should include the active participation of community, traditional, religious and political leaders from parts of the country where the crisis is more pronounced.

 

Before the proposed conference holds, the federal government and the national assembly must act quickly and intervene in the anti-grazing laws being passed by some states including Ekiti, Benue and Taraba.

Such states should be advised to maintain status-quo until government receives the report of the proposed conference.

This is to guarantee peaceful co-existence among the heterogeneous communities that live in Nigeria.

Beyond the recommendations of this proposed regional conference is the need for a technical committee to produce a National Blueprint for Livestock Development in Nigeria.

This blueprint shall outline the short, medium and long term measures to bring an end to pastoralism in Nigeria.

This blueprint should define targets and how they will be met and by who.

It should equally give details of how cattle ranches will be established and sustained; production of cattle feed; access to credit facilities etc.

While we encourage the LOC of this conference to ensure that a consensus and workable way forward is fashioned out by stakeholders, we urge government to make this to be the last in the series of conferences on this matter by implementing all the recommendations that would be listed in its report.

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