armers and herders clashes have become a frequent occurrence in Nigeria, and the rate appears to be increasing in recent times. The word “forgiveness” appears to be absent from both parties’ dictionaries, resulting in a seemingly never-ending cycle of assaults and counter-attacks. This spurred the recently held historic gathering of southern governors in Asaba and subsequently, Lagos. It emphasizes the seriousness of the problem and everyone’s desperate desire to find a long-term solution. The Governors decided to prohibit open grazing in their states, echoing a previous pronouncement by the Northern Governors that open grazing had outlived its purpose.
That indicates a tacit agreement. Grazing Reserves, however, seem to be the preferred option by the Federal Government. Regardless of whether it is Ranching or Grazing Reserves, the key issue is that all parties have decided that open grazing in Nigeria is coming to an end. Individuals or groups can now choose between the two techniques in the country, and it is now a matter of preference. A state might even determine that ranching and grazing reserves can coexist in the same area.
There is, without a doubt, a ray of sunshine at the end of the tunnel. If this issue is eventually settled in the coming months, President Buhari would go down in history as the President who finally resolved the herder-farmer conflicts, much like former President Olusegun Obasanjo who gave Nigerians telephones.
This article is to recommend the various legislative instruments and regulatory requirements that should be implemented in order to strike this historic accord and tackle our common problem.
Most countries attempt to raise cattle in places where it is most cost-effective. The Prairies in the American Midwest and the Pampas of Argentina are two such regions that I recall vividly from my college geography classes. In America, cattle are bred in two ways: in an enclosed ranch where the cows are not allowed to move around and are fed special animal feeds made primarily of maize and soya beans, and in an open ranch where the cows are allowed to move around. The produce from the former is rich (big fat produce and their meat are a handful) but, that of the latter is healthier (they tend to shed some fat since they move around a lot).
In a recent NatGeo Wild TV series, I witnessed a ranch in Kentucky where 50,000 cows were housed in an enclosed area of around 6 acres or so, resulting in breeding at high density. Ranches in Texas are made up of wide grasslands that stretch for five kilometers due to land availability and low population density. Cowboys, on horses, herd cows into open pastures where they graze on natural grass, with no arable cultivation permitted. Argentina, Australia, and the Scottish highlands of the United Kingdom all employ this strategy.
Nigeria, in my opinion, should use both cattle-raising systems. Enclosed ranches with animal feeds should be used where land is rare, and open grazing with natural raw grass can be used where land is abundant. This flexibility will allow a compromise to be reached while also accommodating all different points of view and preferences. There is always a way where there is a will.
Let us now consider the many legal and regulatory difficulties that must be addressed in order for the above-mentioned compromise options to be implemented successfully.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria has stated that the 36 State Houses of Assembly must implement legislation to support the policy of phasing out open grazing in their respective areas. They should then define the acceptable cattle rearing method, which might be ranches, open grazing, or a combination of both. Below are some of my recommendations for specific issues that these laws, among others, must address.
Definition of terminology: In order to minimize ambiguities, the Act must define all major terminologies. For example, in order to avoid confusion, the terms ranch and open grazing must be clearly defined. A ranch is a closed cattle breeding operation in which the animals are fed specially produced animal feeds, or natural green grass or hay (dry grass), rather than moving around to find food and water for themselves. A ranch might be one acre in size or three or four acres in size. The Act must stipulate the maximum size of a ranch.
A grazing reserve is a cattle-breeding industrial site where the animals are free to roam and forage for food and water from natural flora without human intervention. A grazing reserve might be anywhere from one to twenty-five square kilometers in size (that is, 5 kilometers by 5 kilometers). The government frequently establishes reserves with multiple occupants.
Other provisions of the legislation must include the following: the law’s effective date, individuals in charge of executing it, proper courts for trying offenders, what constitutes an offense, and the penalty for the offense. Who has the authority to grant land for ranches (the Governor or the LGA Chairman), as well as the length of the lease and the possibility of renewal. Cattle farmers’ rights and privileges, as well as offenses that could result in their land being revoked. A secure fence for ranches, a way of demarcating and protecting grazing areas, and the payment of token land rent (amount set by regulation). Minimum distance between a ranch and the next human settlement, government inspection rights of ranches and reserves, and so on. Ranches or grazing reserves shall be registered, monitored, and regulated by a Ministry of Agriculture department or an independent parastatal. Additional issues that may be handled by the law will be known to those in the legal profession.
The initial step in the process is to enact legislation; however, legislation should be accompanied by supporting regulations. Regulations serve two purposes: they prevent misinterpretation and misuse of parent legislation passed by parliament. Second, they contain and disseminate more flexible conditions and regulations that may need to be updated frequently. Most villages and rural landowners are hesitant to lease their land to non-natives today due to historical antecedents, legacy difficulties, and unfavorable precedent. Their worry is that the area will be settled, and the settlers will claim possession of the land after two or three generations or install a monarch – Baale, Eze, or Sarki, as the case may be.
They may even push for their own local government district in some situations. Such incidents have sparked major communal tensions and become a sore spot for the National Boundary Commission. To alleviate these concerns, I propose provisions in the subsidiary rule and safeguards that will prevent such developments and provide confidence to landowners and communities that their land will not be forfeited or turned into an illegal satellite community. Hence, the following requirements should be included in the rule:
- On a ranch or grazing reserve, no residential structures should be built. All ranch or reserve staff should live in the local villages or cities and travel to the ranches when reporting for duty. Because of adverse weather, gatehouses and security posts can be built to provide cover for security personnel. Any construction that breaches these criteria will be demolished by the government regulatory body for ranching, and repeated violations will result in the cancellation of the ranch’s land permit or expulsion from the grazing reserve.
- In addition to the roof supporting pillars, structures created as cattle sheds or milking spaces can only have permanent walls that are no more than one meter in height. The regulatory authorities will have to approve such structures. Stores or livestock sheds made of temporary architectural materials such as tents, canopy, or prefab may be permitted with consent and on the condition that they are not used for human habitation.
- All ranches must have a perimeter fence sturdy enough to keep cattle from breaking through and wandering into residential areas or nearby fields. In addition, all grazing reserves should be surrounded by an unpaved road and planted with appropriate vegetation to prevent cattle from straying outside the grazing reserve. A trench or an earth moat can also be used to mark the boundary. All highways crossing the grazing reserve’s perimeter must have staffed security gates to prevent cows from fleeing or livestock rustlers from entering.
- A 50-meter buffer zone should be established between a ranch and the nearest residential neighborhood or agriculture. The grazing reserves will be buffered by the perimeter road. It is not permitted to use the road as a public thoroughfare.
- Before a land revocation order can be issued, the cattle rancher or grazing reserve tenant must be notified of any regulatory violations and given a chance to correct them. A revocation notice will be issued if he does not make modifications after two reminders in a three-month period. This is to protect the investor from arbitrary revocation orders based on political bias or other arbitrary grounds.
- All cattle-breeding property leases must be accompanied by a standard contract that protects both the landowner and the cow farmer. Both leasehold and free-hold facilities used for cattle raising should be subject to the above restrictions.
- Above all, the ranch should be managed and maintained by the locals. And, more than half of the staff of the ranch should comprise the locals so as to avoid compromise from settlers with ulterior motives to gang up to carry out their deeds.
The Financial and economic side of cattle rearing
Now that we have a better understanding of the prerequisites for smooth land acquisition for cattle farming, we can move on to another crucial success factor: Funding. Every legislation or regulation that must be followed comes with a price tag. As a result, while enacting laws or drafting regulations, individuals who make laws or draft regulations must factor in the cost of compliance. Cattle farming is a multibillion-dollar business on a global scale. According to Statista.com, the world’s cow population is estimated to be 1.5 billion, with around 12 million in Nigeria. Pigs number 3 billion and fowl number 6 billion globally.
India has the most cows in the world, with 305 million, followed by Brazil, China, the United States, and Argentina. Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, and Uruguay are the only five countries in the world where cattle outnumber people. Animal feed accounts for almost a quarter of all grain produced in the United States. Animal farms also take up almost 30% of all agricultural land in the planet. 1 gallon of milk requires around 30 gallons of water. To produce 1 kilo of meat, a cow needs to consume at least 15 kilograms of grass. Cattle breeding necessitates a large amount of resources, such as land, food, and water.
To deliver water from the nearest water source to a cattle ranch or grazing reserve, a borehole with a backup generator or a water tanker will be required. For a grazing reserve of 10 square kilometers, a water pipeline might be the best option. To reduce production costs, cattle farming should be done near lakes, dams, or medium-sized rivers. Cattle ranchers will either have to buy food for their animals or establish grass-producing farms as a secondary source of sustenance for their cattle. Farmers grow a protein-rich grass called Alfa Alfa along the banks of the Nile River in Sudan, which has a substantial amount of desert and deliver it to cow ranches around the country.
Consequently, the move from open grazing to ranching or grazing reserves will require a large initial capital investment and a small rise in operating costs. These constraints have three important ramifications:
- Cattle farmers will need to acquire funds in order to put the new plan into action.
- To comply with the restriction on open grazing, they will need time to gather cash, buy land, and build the necessary infrastructure. It is possible that a time span of 6 to 18 months will be necessary. However, if the Central Bank and state governments obtain special intervention funds (single-digit loans) to speed up the process, the time frame can be reduced to 3 to 6 months. Land has been promised by Kano state to cattle producers who seek to invest in the state. Other states can offer incentives to entice people to participate in cattle ranching, which will increase the state’s economy by creating jobs and providing other direct economic benefits. Those who have huge herds of cattle can sell a portion of their herd to help pay for the infrastructure they need. As the various Houses of Assembly begin to draft legislation to stop open grazing in Nigeria, the foregoing issues must be taken into account.
- Changes in the price of cattle or meat will be unavoidable at the end of the changeover. Cow or meat prices are expected to rise in the near future; thus, meat buyers should expect to pay more for their meat. Because of rising input costs, an average cow that costs N150,000 today could cost N180,000 or more in the future. On the other hand, if ranching is well-managed and cattle industry efficiency improves, prices will decrease below current levels in the long run. Nigeria could start exporting meat to other countries in the not-too-distant future. Every year, Brazil sells $12 billion worth of beef to Russia. In a few years, Nigeria will be able to accomplish the same thing.
In the final analysis, the financial benefits of terminating open grazing in Nigeria substantially outweigh the additional costs of establishing ranches and grazing reserves. If completely executed, the proposal will expand agricultural growing by a factor of five since more farmers will be free to return to the farm without fear of being attacked by an AK47. Furthermore, by July 2022, food prices will be half or possibly a quarter of what they are now. Apart from the lives of herders and farmers who will be spared by the elimination of confrontations between them, the rustling of cattle will be much reduced, if not eliminated entirely. Increased meat and milk production, as well as improved income and wealth, will assist cow farmers.