Following opposition to its initial plan to create grazing reserves for cattle herders, the Kaduna State government has decided to go for the establishment of ranches, which appears to be more popular and profitable. John Shiklam, in Kaduna, writes
The decision by the Kaduna State government to establish cattle ranches instead of grazing reserves seems to have calmed down apprehensions hitherto expressed by people in the southern part of the state, who were resolutely opposed to the idea of reserves. The southern Kaduna people, under the umbrella of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), were among groups that expressed resentment to the creation of grazing reserves.
However, the Kaduna State government has now chosen to go for ranches instead of grazing reserves. The issue of grazing reserves also generated a lot of controversy across the country when the federal government tended to push the idea as a solution to the bloody clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.
Kaduna State Commissioner for Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Manzo Daniel Maigari, told THISDAY by telephone that the state government had since abandoned the idea of grazing reserve because it is no longer sustainable. He said, “In Kaduna State we are not really looking at grazing reserve because that is no more sustainable. We are looking at upgrading the grazing reserves to ranches, where investors can come and establish ranches.”
Maigari noted that nomadic pastoralism was no longer sustainable, stressing that the times have changed and there is need to move with the times by adopting new ways of doing things. “If the times have changed, we have to adopt and move ahead with the time.”
He explained that even when the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the federal government “want to do grazing reserve, the whole idea is to settle the Fulani in one place so that there will be no conflicts between them and farmers.”
The commissioner said no government would be happy to see conflicts among its citizens, pointing out that the whole idea behind the grazing reserve is to find solution to the problems between herdsmen and farmers.
“You should expect that a government should have the courage to stop these conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. If you settle herdsmen in ranches they don’t have to go to people’s farms and spoil the farms. So it is the solution that government is looking for,” he said.
Maigari said virtually every state in northern Nigeria had grazing reserves, and Kaduna State had 17 grazing reserves with a total area of 172,000 hectares. To him, the state government has enough to land to do whatever it wants to do and will not forcefully take land belonging to any community.
“Whatever we want to do, we will just pick land from there. Whatever needs to be done will be done in those existing grazing reserves, nobody is going to lose any land.”
One of the biggest reserves in Kaduna State is the Ladugga reserve located in Kachia Local Government Area, founded in 1944.
Maigari said, “We have two functional reserves in southern Kaduna – Kagarko and Kachia. There are Fulani who settled there. We have more than 50,000 settled Fulani there. We have sufficient land and we have Fulani settled in four of them. The remaining are there, even though there is no substantial number of Fulani there, we will not take anybody’s land.”
He, however, warned, “If anybody wakes up and wants to stop government from using land that is statutory government land, you know what that means. This is land has been gazetted by law.”
Already, the state government has set up machinery for establishment of the ranches. Just recently, Maigari launched the distribution of Tinapiar grass in the Laduga grazing reserve. The Napier grass seedling, according to him, “is the most promising and high yielding grass fodder which is also very nutritious.
It has shown, as demonstrated, an increase in milk production from one litre to 3.5 litres, that is even using the old system.”
He explained that the government was looking at a system whereby all lactating cows would not go out to graze but would be kept in one place to conserve their energies and channel them to milk production. According to him, if cows are kept in one place, “they will end up producing up to five to six litres of milk per day.”
The state government says the essence of the Napier seedling is to empower key stakeholders and players in the rural economy, as the rural economy accounts for 80 per cent of Gross Domestic Product of Kaduna State.
Agriculture is generally seen as the key driver of the Kaduna State economy, with smallholders as dominant participants in the sector. Maigari said the Laduga grazing reserve was the key engine room of the economy of Kaduna State and it cannot be ignored, stressing that the state government is committed towards empowering the Laduga community.
He disclosed that the state will soon start fuel livestock development centres and turn them into models, adding, “Once we expose them to animal husbandry we’ll encourage investors to come and work with them. We started with the overall view of improving feed. We heard about the Napier grass, which improved livestock in Kenya, we went and brought it and today we have officially launched it in Laduga where it will be extended to other states.”
National president of SOKAPU, Mr. Solomon Musa, said there was opposition to the idea of grazing reserves because of the havoc the Fulani herdsmen had caused. He said the southern Kaduna people were not opposed to agricultural development, noting that agriculture development should be a product of the yearnings of the people. According to Musa, who is also a lawyer, the people were not carried along in the proposal for grazing reserves for herdsmen.
He said, “Our position is simple in southern Kaduna. We have what they called Laduga grazing reserve in Kachia local government. If for any reason there would be grazing reserve, the minimum standard that we expect is that the communities should be carried along. Let the communities be involved. We are not in a military dictatorship, we are in a democracy, there is the need for the people to be carried along.
“We are not entirely saying no to agricultural development, but agriculture development should be a product of the yearnings of the people. We are very much ok with the pronouncements by the state and federal governments that they will not take or compel any community to donate its land for grazing reserves.”
Level Playing Field
Musa said the southern Kaduna people also rear animals like pigs and expressed the hope that they will be given land to start breeding them.
“Our people rear pigs, we are interested in that. The question is, if a southern Kaduna man requires land in Giwa or Zaria local government area to rear pigs, will the government create reserve for him?”
Besides, he said the best ginger in the world was being produced in southern Kaduna and “we want to see factories for ginger, we want loan facilities to encourage the production of ginger, honey and other agricultural products.”
The SOKAPU president wondered why government should be promoting the private business of herdsmen above others. “These are private ventures. When you go to other places, you don’t see cattle all over the place. Pastoralism is a private business, why will the government be interested in promoting it?”
Many believe the establishment of ranches and settling of the herdsmen in defined places will reduce the conflict between the cattle tenders and crop farmers. The opposition by most communities to the idea of grazing reserves was informed by the massive attacks and destruction of lives and property by the herdsmen.
The people in the southern part of Kaduna State have been victims of Fulani attacks. Communities have been raided, resulting in the killing of people and destruction of property by armed Fulani herdsmen.
SOKAPU said in a recent statement that between 2011 and 2015, there were over 200 documented attacks on different communities in the area by Fulani herdsmen, with over 4,000 people killed. According to the statement, in most of the affected communities, women and children were brutally murdered in a most barbaric manner. While in some cases they were hacked to death, in others they were burnt alive and or blown up with explosives, the group stated.
“They killed or dismembered some and threw them into wells! And the same people suspected of carrying out these genocide that has nothing to do with grass for cows, are the ones being given the government’s approval to sit on annexed land within communities that are completely agrarian,” SOKAPU protested. “We expected the government to have carried out wide consultations and sampled opinions of the people of southern Kaduna. But from our senator, members of the House of Representatives, Assembly members, SOKAPU, our royal fathers, down to tribal unions, none was consulted on the issue of grazing reserves.“
The group added, “Our people survive on tilling our lands, and the herdsmen on their herds. How will it feel to take herds and give to farmers, if the farmers were the ones maiming the herdsmen?
“If the siting of the grazing reserves is mutually tied to investment potentials and other developmental incentives to our people, we are constrained to oppose it if the cost also includes human lives. This is because of the mutual suspicion that currently exists between our people and the herdsmen.”
The protest might have informed the decision of the state government to turn to ranching.