We are in times of socio-economic, political, and technological changes. The old order of primitive practices is crumbling fast and new and vibrant ideas are being imagined, created, developed, and implemented by emerging technologically-driven economies. There is indeed a clarion call for a complete turnaround in all facets of our activities in tandem with the ‘change’ revolution.
For instance, the global economy is taking a new turn with evolving technological advancement in digital currencies. Just recently, China has become the first major economy to pilot a digital currency – digital Yuan; El-Salvador has become the first country in the world to formally adopt Bitcoin as legal tender. And, come to think of it, the 2009 crypto-currency of Satoshi Nakamoto ,which ushered in a new age of blockchain technology and decentralized currencies, seems to be giving way to digital currencies!
In essence, coming back home, and thinking in line with technological changes globally, ranching, as a modern approach to cattle rearing will provide answers to the present quagmire and debacle between herdsmen and crop farmers presently besetting our society. This modern practice, as done in civilized economies of Europe, the United States of America, Australia, etc., provides a confined environment (ranch) with suitable amenities and state-of-the-art equipment where cattle are raised for meat and dairy. Sub-Saharan Africa is yet to embrace ranching but still practice the extensive or traditional system of cattle rearing – nomadic and primitive.
Apart from the issue of ensuring peaceful co-existence between farmers and herders, ranching ensures proper monitoring of herds; reduces morbidity ,provides safety against cattle rustling and maintain a quality life for the herders (access to social amenities and infrastructures – potable water, electricity, hospitals, schools, etc.).
The world is on a fast lane and countries are leveraging on the advantages offered by modern cattle rearing practices to enhance and consolidate their developmental strides. Digital ranch management systems, for instance, provides easy user interface – delivers operational oversight and remote monitoring to reduce labour, mitigate risk, optimize efficiencies and sustain peace of mind. The remote monitoring and tracking pushes alerts and communicates directly with the ranch owner via mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and computers.
Perhaps, it was against the background of a modern approach to cattle rearing (ranching) that the Presidency had announced the already suspended controversial RUGA (Rural Grazing Area) arrangement, aimed at, bringing a drastic reduction in, or maybe complete extermination of, conflicts between herders and farmers. That approach was commendable, but how that could have been reconciled with the general notion that there was a hidden agenda to Islamize the whole country and hand over lands already acquired and owned by the indigenous settlers to the Fulani, begs for an answer.
There is this fear in the minds of people about the Fulani forceful occupation of lands that hitherto did not belong to them. That the Presidency seems to be taking the open grazing issue so personal is not clear to the ordinary Nigerian. Cattle production contributes to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) just as some cash crops. Cash crops such as cocoa, oil palm, cassava, yam, rice, etc., are equally in high demand and thrive well where they have competitive advantage of production. It will be foolhardy for an oil palm farmer to think of going to northern Nigeria to start cultivating oil palm trees or a cocoa farmer to do the same as the soil and weather conditions may not favour their cultivation of these crops in the north. If the southern territory of Nigeria does not favour or welcome cattle production, why is the Presidency tending towards enforcing it on them?
Nigeria, with a population of 13.9 million cattle, has the largest concentration of over 90% cattle in the north, which is essentially clear that is where they have a competitive advantage of production. Extending cattle rearing to the south through open grazing is simply inviting chaos and anarchy.
In the light of this, in my considered opinion, in order to maintain and sustain the needed peace in the country, government should, as a matter of urgency, work out a feasibility plan on financial empowerment to assist herders build ranches in the north with adequate facilities and provision made for fluctuations in weather conditions. Also, essential, will be a good irrigation system to ensure supply of fodder throughout the year.
Shying away from joining the trending practice of ranching as carried out in civilized climes like United Kingdom, Unites States of America, Singapore, Netherlands, etc., is like postponing the evil day. Let us call a spade a spade and not an instrument of animal husbandry. Let us start something reasonable now!