COVID-19: Herders in Plateau express mixed feelings about ranching
COVID-19: Herders in Plateau express mixed feelings about ranching

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Before COVID-19 took over the media space, one of the much talked about topics among Nigerians was the issue of ranching, ruga and cattle colony for herders.

The Frenzy the topic generated was dizzying, naturally, the tempo has died down and everything is back to normal but with the advent of the COVID-19 disease and its attendant lockdown, Vanguard sought to know the impact these have on herders who are moving from one place to the other to tend their animals.

As movement is restricted in many places and sales in markets controlled many businesses have recorded loses and are seeking new ways of doing things to improve their lot in the post COVID-19 era hence opinion of herders were sought on improved ways of going about their business.

While some herders feel having organized ranches would have made the feeding of cows and sales of cow meat easier, others say the disease does not have any impact that would force them to embrace the ranching option as proposed by the Plateau State government.

Speaking, the Plateau State Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Abdullahi Ardo noted that the COVID-19 disease has had adverse effects on cow rearing and sincerity of purpose in the rancho idea would have added value in times like this.

According to him, “COVID-19 is affecting our business because food items are allowed to be transported but cattle markets are closed. For instance, Kara market in Bukuru (Jos South LGA) where we have our market, the ones in Mangu, Bokkos, Yelwa (Shendam LGA) etc where we have our markets on daily basis have been closed. Nothing is happening there. This is bad for livestock farmers.

“We don’t have problem with grazing, animals are still moving about and thank God, we don’t have any case of a pastoralist having the disease. Ranching should be there but that is not a market where cows can be sold. Even with a ranch, you will still take the cows to market to sell, now that they graze in the open, if a herder has need to sell, butchers do visit the herders to buy.

“I know if it was in a ranch, this would be more controlled because you have many pastoralists within the same camp where butchers can be invited to come and buy. With the disease, you can’t invite people to keep coming to your personal ranch at anytime they want because that is where you have more diseases transmission in your farm since the biosafety of your farm would be compromised.”

He added that “Standard ranching has isolation centers for cows that are for sale, animals are of quality breed but ours is not like that, people buy and sell whenever they are in need. Our people have accepted the ranching option long ago but where do we ranch the cows? You know what government is saying like in Benue? They say come we will put you in a place, lease the land to you or I will build the ranch then you come in and pay, that is the aspect the herders are not getting it.

“The reality is that, pastoralists are 100% in need of ranching because it will help them to have access to water and feeds, that is the believe but you know how government is. Government will say they will do this but they will not do it, people are skeptical of government promises because of consistent inconsistency in policy.”

The Chairman of MACBAN in Bassa local government area of the State, Umar Dakare stated, “We in this area, there is no sickness but we are obeying the lockdown directives by government. Our cows have this kind of disease too, when it starts, you have to quarantine the affected cow(s) so that the whole herd is not affected. The sickness dislocates the waist of the cow and the cow will be dripping saliva and if left unchecked, it can affect other cows staying 10 meters to the sick cow.

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“The COVID-19 disease is not affecting grazing at all because we are grazing in the bush, no one is in the bush and the disease is not in our community. If government want us to embrace ranching, government will have to teach us this modern way of farming. If we are taught and we understand, government would empower us to start the business because if you keep our kind of cows in one place, they will die. If we don’t have the grass and space for cows, we will loose them, government should think about it, whatever they bring, we will not reject it until we try and see how it works.”

However, the leader of another herder group, Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria, GAFDAN, in Bokkos local government area of the State, Ya’u Yusuf differed from the MACBAN on the need for ranching saying such is not acceptable with or without COVID-19 because according to him, it is politics.

He said, “As leaders of Fulanis, we are drawing the attention of our people to this disease, that they should obey guidelines given so that we all stay safe. It is only one person that will contract it and spread it to others in the community that is why we are asking everyone to be careful so that one person does not become a problem to everybody.

“If you come to our office, you will see the precautionary measures we are taking to keep everyone safe. We have soap, water, hand sanitizer etc. We encourage frequent hand washing. The lockdown is not affecting grazing only sales, we advised the children to graze in the outskirt of the communities not where people are living.

“Ranching is not acceptable because it is just politics, Fulani should be allowed to move to wherever they can get grass to rear cows. You find it difficult to feed one cow at a place, talk more of 30 to 50 cows. If you are to go and get grass, how do you get enough to feed a whole herd of let’s say 30, 50, 100 cows? Putting us in one place is unacceptable because government wants to bring problem between herders and farmers and we don’t want that.”

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.