By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday, said the Economic State of West African States, ECOWAS treaty on Transhumance Protocol allows for herders to move across borders in search of pasture.
Ogbeh made the assertion at the ‘Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes’, where he said people should not see a Malian, Burkinabe or Nigerien pastoralist grazing his cows, sheep or goats in Nigeria or a Nigerian pastoralist grazing in other ECOWAS countries as a strange movement into the country.
He said: “The Nigerian constitution has given every citizen the fundamental human right to freedom of movement in search of legitimate businesses; transhumance pastoralism is seen along these lines.
For pastoralists from neighbouring West African countries, access to grazing rights in other countries in the ECOWAS zone including Nigeria, are guaranteed by the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol of 1998 and the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Gods and Persons in West Africa.
“The ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol allows for herders to move across borders in search of pasture upon fulfilling the conditions laid down in the protocol. So it is not strange to see a Malian, Burkinabe or Nigerien pastoralist grazing his cows, sheep or goats in Nigeria or a Nigerian pastoralist grazing in Benin, Togo or Ghana and by extension, transhumance pastoralists from other neighbouring countries.
“To mitigate the conflicts between these groups and promote commercial livestock production, grazing reserves and stock routes development and utilisation have been stepped up in recent years. The grazing reserves are to settle transhumant pastoralists and reduce or eliminate crop farmer-pastoralist conflicts.”
The Minister also maintained that the government will ensure that the old tradition of cattle rearing was replaced with modern system of breeding.
“Nigeria is taking a bold step by clearly breaking away from traditional livestock rearing practices and embracing modern methods involving private sector in animal production, processing and marketing where diverse interests of pastoralists, investors, development partners and small holder producers along the livestock value chains are incorporated.”
He disclosed that a renowned animal scientist, Dr. Alan Savory, based in Zimbabwe, has been invited to address the Forum on ‘Holistic Land Management and Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing’ to mitigate against farmers’-pastoralists conflicts and restoration of degraded land.
According to Ogbeh, there has been the need to organise and mobilise the diverse pastoral communities to adopt improved techniques of livestock production, and will require cultivation of high yielding pastures in the agro-ecological zones of Nigeria and create enabling environments for desiring investors to participate in the Nigerian livestock industry to make Nigeria self-sufficient in livestock production and a net exporter to other West African countries in the nearest future.
“More cultivars need to be commercially available. New cultivars are urgently needed to be introduced, tested and tried to increase pasture diversification.
“The demand for productive and high quality forage is high. The National Animal Production, NAPRI, has worked on and released some grass and legume pastures, most of which were introduced from tropical part of Australia. Commercial but limited qualities of some of the varieties like Brachiaria decumbens, digitaria smutsii, chloris gayana, stylosanthes guanensis and centrosema pascorum are being protected in commercial pasture farms.
“I am sure with the cream of experts we have around, the outcome of this stakeholders’ forum will go a long way at solving the problems associated with pastoral nomadism in the country”, he stated.