By Aare Afe Babalola
“Government proposal for cattle colony is unconstitutional, discriminatory and offensive. How can a private business become the burden of a central government? Cattle farming is a private business, the responsibility for which should be borne by the owners. Government should encourage herders to acquire lands and moderate their practice in conformity with global best practice”.
Last week I discussed the incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers and why the proposed cattle ranches would not work if it will involve the compulsory acquisition of private land. I stated how the law does not permit the land of a private citizen to be acquired and handed over to another private citizen for his own business purposes. I concluded with a promise to analyse how other countries have been able to either curb or prevent similar clashes over the issue of grazing.
It is however important to note that the clashes brought about by open grazing is not limited to Nigeria. Similar clashes have occurred in other African Countries. In examining the development across West Africa, the Cable, an online publication wrote as follows:
Eighteen killed in Niger
In November 2016, eighteen people were killed in various clashes between herdsmen and farmers.
The clash, which broke out near the village of Bangui along the country’s southern border with Nigeria, also left 20 others injured, the country’s officials had said.
What happened? Livestock belonging to the herders were said to have invaded the field of one of the farmers, damaging crops.
“The nomadic herders fought with a farmer, whom they wounded. He was taken to the medical centre and everything started from there,” Oumarou Mohamane, Bangui’s mayor, had told Reuters.
In a reprisal attack, a group of farmers then attacked the camp, burning down houses numbering about 15.
Villages in the Kwahu east district of the eastern region of Ghana were thrown into mourning after clashes between herdsmen and some of their farmers left a reported number of 15 persons dead, including five Fulanis.
Hundreds were also left stranded and displaced after fleeing their communities in the incident which occurred in November.
The clashes, which were between residents of Dwibease and Hweehwe, and the herders, followed the death of an unidentified boy at Dwerebeafe.
Solomon Aboagye, an indigene, was quoted by Ghana Web, an online platform, to have said: “In retaliation, three of the Fulanis were also killed at Aboyan.
“Two of the natives went to the farm and did not return. I asked some people to search for them and unfortunately, they found them dead.”
It was also reported that the deaths occurred at night in the farms and the bodies spotted daytime.
Bloodshed in Ivory Coast
Seventeen persons were confirmed dead and 39 others injured after a clash broke out between herdsmen and farmers in Bouna, north-east of Ivory Coast, in 2016.
Among those injured in the clash, which spanned two days, were five of the security personnel deployed to quell the crisis.
The attack was said to be just one out of many other violent clashes between the two parties “but none has been of this magnitude”.
“On the night of March 23 to 24, the situation was particularly aggravated and it was at this time that 17 people died,” Vincent Toh Bi, one of the residents, had told AfricaNews.
Indeed some contend that clashes between herdsmen or cattle rearers and farmers are as old as mankind itself as indicated by the biblical verse in the book of Exodus Chapter 22 verse 5 which enjoins anyone who allows his animal to stray and graze in the field of another to pay compensation to the other. What is however clear is that while mankind, inclusive of many African countries have developed policies aimed at reducing the conflict, Nigeria is yet to come up with any identifiable means of bring about peaceful co-existence between farmers and herdsmen.
A way to go would be to put in place policies for the development of large scale farming. The US has led the world in large-scale farming, pioneering the use of intensive livestock rearing in hog farms, cattle sheds and sheep pens. There are now more than 50,000 facilities in the US classified as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), with another quarter of a million industrial-scale facilities below that threshold. Around the world, developing countries in particular were quick to catch up. Intensive farming of livestock offers many advantages over traditional open ranges, not least economies of cost and scale, more efficient healthcare for the herds and flocks, and ultimately cheaper food. According to the UN, globally CAFOs account for 72% of poultry, 42% of egg, and 55% of pork production. Instead of the present itinerant method of grazing, attempts could be made to increase the production of animal feed thereby making access to land, for the purpose of grazing, less of a factor in cattle rearing. However rather than directly foot the bill for development of such large scale farming, all that government should do is put in place policies which will make loans available to farmers. The Punch newspaper editorial was quite detailed in pointing, “as the Federal Government did with the Anchor Borrowers Programme for rice, it should facilitate such loans for cattle farmers. Such loans would be used to buy land in their states of choice.
In Brazil, which is the second largest beef exporter in the world, the government aides the cattle trade no doubt and Nigeria can imbibe such a practice as against what the current government is saying. In this country, Brazil, government has grown to become a major player in the meat business and the country’s foreign trade secretariat states that from an income of $1.9m in 1994, beef export income of the country risen to $1.9bn in 2004, providing 360, 00 direct jobs as recorded shows. What the country does by way of aiding the business is facilitating low-interest loans to farmers.
In Spain, livestock farming is intensive, with animals living on farms and consuming fodder and this practice became further entrenched following the country’s admission into the European Union, it had to change some of its agricultural practices. The country received significant economic assistance from the EU to modernise the sector, increase productivity and improve the quality of its products.
In Argentina, the practice is not any different. Livestock framing as a form of agriculture is aimed with increased productivity and modernity at the base of its practice. The role of government differ slightly from country to country but it is poignant to note government’s intervention is limited to the essence of making available assistance in terms of roving loans at low interest rate and regulated policies and not by undertaking financial burdens as been suggested in Nigeria.
Deliberate government’s policies
In Botswana, the country’s beef and cattle farming has grown exponentially from a few hundred thousand cattle in 1950 to close to three million today. The growth is traceable to deliberate government’s policies which averted this kind of crisis currently rocking the middle belt region with occasional flares in other parts of the country with mindless deaths and destructions in its wake.
In conclusion, the dangers inherent in the government’s proposal are numerous to say the least. It is brazenly discriminatory and offensive to commonsense and good judgement. How can a purely private business become the burden of a central government? Cattle farming are private owned businesses, the responsibility for which should be bourne by the owners and not the other way round. Examples suggested in the above listed countries of how their governments have handled potentially intractable issues can be imbibed here. Borrowing from all that, government in Nigeria should encourage herders to acquire lands and modernise their practice in conformity with global best practices.