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Resolving the pastoralists dilemma

By Gambo Dori

THE  rains will soon be over in the Sahel Savannah and pastoralists will be moving in droves down to the south for greener pastures as they have done for generations. Inevitably the clash will occur here and there with the sedentary farming communities.

These clashes have been the norm over the years as anybody who has spent time as a functionary in the political office of any of the Governors’ office in the northern states will tell you. The clashes, many of them deadly, always came to fore as part of the perennial security challenges that governments always sought for accommodation, leaving the permanent solutions to some future dates.

In time, over the last few years, these clashes have assumed lives of their own mutating into ethnic and religious  issues of contention. Probably the incidences of the clashes multiplied in number by those herders who remained in those areas where difference of culture and religion makes them stand out clearly.

In these times of elections campaigns, the controversies caused by the clashes will be nudging towards the centre stages in some states of the federation. It is inevitable because various matters surrounding the clashes are yet to be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction.

On one hand, the security issues, particularly the sheer banditry aspect now central to the concerns of the farmers, are yet to be satisfactorily resolved. On the  other,  all the talks about giving a superior alternative mode of practice to the pastoralists seem to be only fitfully implemented. On the ground and in most of the communities the divide between the farmers and the herders keeps widening.

All these add up, in these election times, to allowing a strong, solid platform to candidates with demagogic agenda, given to rabble-rousing and ultimately arousing deadly conflicts.

However, a piece of good news that was out last week was about the initiative being championed by Denmark and Kaduna state government, which when it succeeds, would hopefully go a long way in curbing the endemic clashes between herders and sedentary farmers. In a farewell audience with President Buhari, the outgoing Ambassador of Denmark, Torben Gettermann explained that the plan was to have 1000 families of herdsmen with 12000 heads of cattle in a location where they will have veterinary attention, schools for their children and generally live as a small community.

A Danish company Arla will then buy the milk off the cattle farmers. The Danish government will bring investors through its Agricultural Counsellor in the country while the Kaduna state government will provide initial infrastructure and funding.

Not to be outdone by their European neighbours, the Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, Robert Petri along with the Global CEO of FrieslandCampina, the owners of WAMCO paid a courtesy call, immediately after, to the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo. Readers acquainted with the dairy industry will know that the Netherlands is also a major player in the supply of dairy products in the country. Besides the large scale importation of dairy products into the country, WAMCO is also into milk collection and processing production in Oyo state.

The initiatives by both Denmark and Netherlands, though laudable, are really nothing new. The need to group herdsmen into some form of cooperatives, settle them and provide infrastructure for milk collection and processing has been in the works with us for years. The National Livestock Project Division (NLPD), an arm of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture attempted a pilot project in conjunction with the World Bank in Kaduna State in the 1990s with impressive results. Unfortunately, the pilot could not graduate into a full project and was discontinued due to lack of funds.

It is the impressive work of the NLPD that the Danish and the Netherlands companies are now building upon. Of course, these are welcomed grand gestures but the fears of many stake holders in the industry is that these initiatives only scratch the surface. Sorting out the problems of the dairy industry will take far more than these gestures to cleanse up the Augean stables in the herdsmen imbroglio and also properly launch the industry in the path to meet our national needs.

The Vice-President has alluded to some of what needs to be done for these initiatives to have any lasting effects. The Vice-President encouraged WAMCO to do more about backward integration by raising local content of its raw material from a mere 10% to 70% in the next six years. He said, ‘My view is that if we go at the current rate it will be extremely difficult for the local producers to move up’.

Apparently there will be no quick fixes. We have to admit that Nigeria has such large number of livestock with so little comparative economic output. Our livestock are said to be slow to multiply and have very low milk yield.

Nigerian cows are said to produce an average of 1 litre of milk compared to Kenya’s and South Africa’s 10 to 18 litres per cow per day. To worsen matters our cattle population have a higher rate of diseases incidences. In a report by PwC, I found that our milk production estimated at 0.6m tonnes is abysmally low compared to Africa’s 0.9 and Asia’s 6.6 tonnes respectively.

We have a large population and with a milk consumption of 1.7m tonnes our production only meets about 34% of demand, leaving importation to make up the difference. And the cost of meeting up to this deficit in the last few years is a whopping $480.3 spent on the importation of milk annually.

These are indeed grim statistics. But there is a silver lining yet, if one considers that our per capita consumption is also low at 10litres/person relative to 28/litres per person in Africa and 40/litres per person globally. Obviously this suggests there is scope to increase milk consumption substantially as it would be supported by a large and growing population. Considering the vastness of our livestock population, we have the capacity to meet the national milk consumption and also export.

Indigenous stakeholders in the dairy industry welcome the initiatives by the foreign firms as well as the exhortations by high government officials. They believe that the security situation has even raised the stakes to a higher level now requiring much more interventions. I shall be engaging with a few of the stakeholders in the next few days to touch their pulse on how to move the industry forward. Keep a date with this page.

Oops! In my last week’s piece, titled, Governance in Times of Resurgence, the second sentence in paragraph four should have read: On one side, the governors, particularly those in the north-east and north-west seem to be bent on adopting the indirect primary election. I thank Abdulkadir Ahmed for this correction.


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