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Historic train that moved 500 cows from Gusau to Lagos

The national farm to market rail scheme commenced in Gusau, Zamfara State, last week as part of the government’s move to diversify the economy from…

The national farm to market rail scheme commenced in Gusau, Zamfara State, last week as part of the government’s move to diversify the economy from dependence on oil to agriculture.
The old way of moving cattle in trucks which takes weeks from the northern part of the country to south is no longer sustainable considering the many problems it entailed, including bad roads, heavy tolls and other losses.
It could also serve as means to bring to an end the clashes between farmers and cattle herders if used to move the animals along the route for both sales and grazing at various points.
The railway scheme will help prevent frequent clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen, according to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, at the launch of the programme.
Emefiele who spoke through the Director Development Finance, Mudashir Olaitan, said there would be no losses from both the farmers and cattle rearers as the project would prevent such occurrences and promised to support the project to any level.
Herders have been faced with the challenge of transporting their livestock to the markets thereby leading the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture (NIRSAL) into launching the scheme two weeks ago.
The cattle rearers see benefits from the rail transportation of their cattle to the market. They see it as cost effective and safe. It is also seen as a means for job creation within the state and neighbouring states.
Daily Trust learnt from the chairman, Zamfara State Cattle Rearers Association, Malam Garba Gusau, that the movement of the cattle from Zamfara to Lagos with the use of trucks cost over N200,000 and that lots of risks were involved but that with the rail transportation that has just commenced, the traders pay N120,000.
Though they enjoyed much patronage from the private individuals and organisations, the association appealed to the government to patronise them and help the members with soft loans to boost their business.
The transportation of their animal via trucks, Malam Garba explained, also brought losses to the dealers because whenever there was an accident, many of the cows get killed and another truck had to be hired to convey the remaining cows. He said with the rail transport system, the cattle have more space and safe movement was better assured.
The scheme as announced by NIRSAL is to enable low cost and efficient transport link between agricultural producers and consumers across the country.
At about 6:15pm on Thursday, the first set of 500 cattle left Zamfara State for Oko-Oba, Lagos. The cows were loaded into 15 wagons of the Connect Rail train transport services.
Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari through the deputy governor, Alhaji Mohammed Liman, who appreciated the convenience that the scheme will bring for the cattle rearers and farmers, also explained that pressure will be reduced on the roads.
NIRSAL estimates that the worth of the North East – Lagos cattle trade market alone is N324 billion per annum and it does not include the North – South East cattle trade or the trade in small ruminants (sheep and goats). Overall, NIRSAL estimates the total live animal trade between Northern and Southern Nigeria at about N850-N950 billion per annum.
One of the challenges faced in Nigeria is sustainability of projects and policies. Most stakeholders who applauded the rail transport project called for sustainability and continuity, noting that it would ease the business of cattle rearers.
While calling for continuity, the Managing Director, Connect Rail Services, Edeme Kelikume, who is the first technical partner on the Farm to Market scheme called for a collective effort to ensure that the project remained and is improved upon.
The NIRSAL MD, Mr. Abdulhameed Aliyu, explained that most stakeholders refused to venture into agriculture despite the many pleas for diversification from oil because of the transportation challenge. Transporting livestock and farm produce by road is usually expensive and risky. The products get spoilt on the way in some cases and animals get killed.
According to him, the increased efficiency that the rail system of transportation and the improved transport logistics bring to the multi-billion naira cattle business/trade between the north and the south guarantees for livestock breeders’ higher profit margins, greater incentives to increase productivity and greater pride in their trade. This will not only have a direct and profound effect on the quality of life of cattle breeders but it will give them greater incentive to produce more.
The minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, through the Director, North-West, Agriculture Transformation Agenda of the ministry said the project has shown that the rail system has the capacity to increase and boost the agricultural sector. He however maintained that more progress will be attained with the support and cooperation of private stakeholders.
NIRSAL announced efforts to operationalize other elements of the Farm to Market scheme such as the movement of perishable agric produce like tomato, dairy products and vegetables in refrigerated containers.
What Nigerians should also expect is, "NIRSAL’s effort for the commercial development of the livestock value chain which will include the creation of business models and specific financing products for the ranching and trading components of the value chain. This will mainstream all the actors into regular and sustainable relationships with structured finance and structured markets. This will include the transportation of carcass and cut beef in refrigerated containers," Aliyu said.
The scheme is projected to reduce the cost of transporting cattle from the north to the south by over 20 percent, minimize injury and death of cattle while in transit and also preserve 100% of their value so that livestock breeders can get good price for their produce at the markets.
It is also expected that the scheme will be extended to other farms and markets of the various regions of the country.
The train left Gusau and arrived Oko-Oba, Lagos Daily Trust learnt far ahead of its scheduled arrival time.
The NIRSAL boss described this as a pleasant surprise and a good omen for the innovative project of moving cattle from the north to the south by rail.
“We are indeed happy to hear that the wagons have arrived ahead of schedule. We are very delighted that the historic train has arrived earlier than projected. It is a good omen and a further source of encouragement as we strive towards improving and deepening our Farm to Market Scheme.”

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