The issue of Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) proposed by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to address the herders/farmers crisis in the country has been on the front burner. While some states rejected the initiative, others have embraced it and begun implementation.
In his article titled, ‘The virtues of open grazing in Nigeria’, Dr Junaidu Maina, a former director at the Federal Livestock Department, described as needless, the controversy around open grazing.
“Self-styled experts are attempting to stampede governments to ban open grazing by advancing fictitious arguments such as no land for roaming cattle, data on land use shows otherwise or that ranching is the global best practice for keeping cattle, while in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranches exist only in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa and falsely claiming that ranches have replaced pastoralism in Kenya and Ethiopia, while the Maasai and the Oromos respectively, still practice pastoralism in these countries,” he said.
According to him, “Examination of data on land use will illustrate the logic of open grazing. It is true that population has increased over the years, also more land has been put into farming and infrastructure, but analysis of data shows that for 20 million cattle and 200 million Nigerians, there is more than enough land.”
While many observers are of the opinion that cattle rearing should be regulated as obtained in developed societies, it is evident that leaders in Nigeria have reduced the conversation to political manoeuvring.
The whole idea of how the country should manage the cattle resource has also sharply divided the North and South along sectional, tribal and religious lines with negative effect on the safety and prosperity of the citizens.
Situation in states
As the federal government came up with the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP), aimed at creating a vibrant livestock sector for the country, the Kaduna State Government initiated a project aimed at equipping and empowering local livestock breeders and promoting a market-driven sustainable dairy chain.
In 2018, the state government signed a memorandum of understanding with Arla Global Products, a milk processing company and makers of Dano milk to empower local livestock breeders and promote a market-driven sustainable dairy development project.
The project, which is referred to as the Milky Way Partnership or Milk Value Chain Foundation, comprises four groups led by Arla and three other partners, including CARE in Denmark, the Confederation of Traditional Herders Organisation in Africa (CORET) and Danish Agricultural and Food Council (CEGES).
The project manager of the Milk Value Chain Foundation, Dr Ishaq Bello, said the project was with a view to increasing milk supply from the producers, as well as their income, process and supply of quality dairy products, expand the market, as well as increase dialogue and collaboration within the value chain.
Daily Trust reports that the project is active at Amana Madachi in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, where herders had been provided with a steady access to water and a milking parlour to ensure that their cows are hygienically milked and preserved.
Benue rejects RUGA
The Benue State Government has said its rejection of moves by the federal government to establish (rural grazing areas) RUGA settlement for herders in any part of the state stands.
It, however, accepted the implementation of the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP).
The Governor Samuel Ortom-led administration has continued to condemn federal government’s approach to the initiative, insisting that it is a gross violation of the state’s anti-open grazing law.
The state government said the Federal Ministry of Agriculture’s approach was not only as a gross violation of the ranching law, but also as an insult to the sensibilities of the entire people of the state.
In the same vein, the Benue State House of Assembly rejected plans by the federal government to establish RUGA in some parts of the state.
Also, The three main socio-cultural organisations in the state – Mdzough U Tiv, the Ochetoha K’ Idoma and Omi Ny’ Igede – also rejected the move, claiming that the federal government wants to deprive the indigenes of their lands, which are their main sources of livelihood.
Sokoto to provide 1,000 hectares for grazing reserves
Sokoto State is set to provide 1,000 hectares of land as grazing reserves for herdsmen and herds owners, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has said.
“Talking about the relationship between South-East and northern Nigeria and this issue of herdsmen that has been coming up recently, I believe the federal government is coming up with a measured response of ensuring that we have grazing reserves, particularly with emphasis in northern Nigeria and states where they originate from, so that they can remain within their neighbourhood, families, and cater for their cattle in a better way, much more organised way and economically viable system,” the governor said.
He noted that such initiative would produce better meat and milk for the people of Sokoto and industries in Aba, leather for making shoes and other leather works.
Katsina assures participation
In Katsina State, the Special Adviser to Governor Masari on Livestock and Grazing Reserves, Dr Usman Lawal Bagiwa, expressed their readiness to key into the RUGA settlement programme but still awaiting the federal committee’s move from the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
He said, “Though the state was fully prepared for the progrmme, there was the need for people to understand the complexities of the RUGA system, which he said had many approaches.
“First and foremost, before you settle the Fulani, you have to establish a pasture they will use as their grazing area, as well as small farmlands for cultivation of their crops, without which you cannot ask them to stay in one place.”
He also noted that other support services, such as veterinary clinics, human clinics, schools, and even a small market area needed to be provided.
“There must also be reliable stock routes, along which you also need other things like water points, such as small earth dams, boreholes for human consumption, as well as some resting places for the pastoralists,” he said.
Dr Bagiwa also expressed the need for the provision of adequate security to ensure that there is no cattle rustling, clashes between farmers and herders, as well as kidnapping.
Nasarawa keys into Ruga initiative
The Nasarawa State Government has said it is in support of the federal government’s initiative to establish RUGA settlement in the state.
The government said the move would solve the perennial Fulani herders and farmers clashes across the 13 local government areas and 18 development councils of the state.
The Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Dogo Shamah, made the disclosure in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust in Lafia, the state capital.
He said the state government was deciding where the scheme would be located in some local governments in the state.
He added that the government would soon unveil the local government areas that would be earmarked for the scheme.
>Southern states reject RUGA
There are indications that most states in southern Nigeria are not comfortable with the implementation of the RUGA policy introduced by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to address the herders-farmers crisis in the country.
The governors of the 17 southern states recently announced the ban of open grazing in the region.
Bayelsa cedes Palm Road as grazing zone
The Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri, had in March signed into law a bill prohibiting open grazing of livestock, making it a criminal offence for anybody to carry out open grazing in the state.
The state government also ceded Bayelsa Palm Road in Yenagoa, the state capital for grazing and ranching.
The bill, tagged: “Livestock Breeding, Rearing and Marketing Regulations Law 2021,” was earlier passed into law by the state House of Assembly.
Diri, who gave executive assent to the bill, said that the essence of the law was to ensure a harmonious living between cattle dealers and other inhabitants of the state and to forestall the violent clashes being experienced in other parts of the country
He said, “Bayelsa State welcomes all and sundry to eke out a living legitimately. The people of Bayelsa want to have a mutual and harmonious relationship with non-natives and natives. The essence of the law is to avert and forestall any clash between herdsmen, farmers, natives and non-natives as experienced in some states.”
The law also stipulates that any herdsman found with arms, whether licensed or not should be arrested. It also established a livestock management committee to regulate livestock activities in the state.
No RUGA settlement in Abia, Anambra
The Commissioner for Information in Abia State, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, has said there is no RUGA settlement anywhere in the state.
Kalu disclosed this in a chat with Daily Trust at the International Conference Centre, Umuahia during the flag-off of the 2021 farming season in the state.
“We do not have any RUGA settlement in Abia State and we do not intend to have. What we have are cattle markets, such as the ones at Lokpanta and Waterside in Aba,’’ Kalu said.
He added that the state did not even have enough land for agriculture and other uses, not to talk of ceding any part of the state for cattle colony or RUGA settlement.
Kalu explained that cattle rearing was a private business and should strictly be seen in that light.
He maintained that if cattle herders found Abia grasses good for their cattle, the farmers could grow them and sell in exchange for money or cows.
The Anambra State Government also said it had no plan to establish RUGA settlement in the state.
In Imo, the position of government is not known, as top officials have remained mute on their position.
A senior government official disclosed that the state had not issued any statement on the RUGA policy.
Efforts to get the commissioner for information to speak on the issue were unsuccessful as calls to his known telephone were unanswered as at the time of filing this report.
Ekiti promotes livestock farming but won’t cede land to non-indigenes
The Ekiti State Government has said the state is only interested in promoting livestock farming, having banned opening grazing of cattle in the state.
The Commissioner for Information and Value Orientation, Akin Omole, expressed government’s support for livestock farming but would not accommodate a community made up of people who are not indigenes of the state.
“We don’t want to go into the politics of RUGA, which in public definition and meaning is ceding ancestral land to those who are not indigenes of Ekiti. We will not be a part of it. What we are promoting is livestock farming, having banned open grazing of cattle in Ekiti,’’ he said.
Niger begins implementation
The Niger State Government has commenced implementation of the RUGA settlement programme.
The Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, who disclosed this to Daily Trust, said the state had begun the implementation at the Bobi Grazing Reserve and other reserves in the state.
“For Niger State, it is the same concept that we are implementing at Bobi Grazing Reserve and some other reserves around the state. A lot of reserves have been gazetted while some are not.
“The RUGA concept is more of implementing ranching, but within a semblance of settlement.
“It is expected that there would be water pasture by creating a small settlement where the Fulani would stay and carry out their activities without moving about with their cows,” he said.
He also disclosed that investors who specialise in livestock production had been brought into the reserve.