Business

Grazing reserves in Nigeria: Problems, prospects and policy implication

Operators in Nigeria’s agricultural space are divided over N2bn allocated by the Federal Government for the development of grazing reserves in Nigeria, as contained in the 2020 appropriation bill currently before the National Assembly.

The Federal Government had 415 grazing reserves across the country.

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The government, however, stated that it would reactivate and convert about 177 out of the 415 grazing reserves to ranches.

But in the 2020 appropriation bill, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development indicated that it would use N2.013bn for the development of national grazing reserves, an issue that received both condemnation and commendation from operators.

Commenting on the matter, the Coordinator, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Mr Emmanuel Ijewere, told our correspondent that cattle rearers who would benefit more from the reserves were businessmen and that the government should desist from getting involved in the business.

He argued that other providers of protein and meat had not benefited from similar interventions from the Federal Government, and insisted that there was no need for the FMARD to budget N2bn for national grazing reserves.

Ijewere said, “I am a businessman in the agricultural space and when you talk about national grazing reserves, I believe that cattle rearing is a business. Although this matter has been over-politicised, I feel uncomfortable that this issue is still being brought up in the budget.

“It is a federal budget; state governments are the owners of the land and the governors are the ones who can allocate the land. Now, to have national grazing reserves, we must understand that cattle are not the only source of meat or protein that we have in Nigeria.

“We have chicken, rabbits; and there is also fish. But how much have they (government) invested in them? Cattle rearing is a business; the government should stop raising the tempo in this matter. I believe that being a business, when the states want to invest in it, let them go ahead.”

Ijewere called for the establishment of ranches, adding that technology had made it seamless to operate such ranches.

The Lagos State Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Femi Oke, stated that to avoid friction in the process, the Federal Government must carry every farmer along.

He said, “I want to believe that since it is a national policy, there is no way they will do it without involving the farmers in the respective states. And if it is so, I think it is for the benefit of every Nigerian. The governors too should be carried along. They can’t do it in isolation.

“The reserves can’t be purely for herders and their cattle. The opportunities in such reserves are many. Adequate infrastructure will be deployed and I am sure it will be of benefit to every farmer, no matter the name they call it.”

Also commenting on the development, the President, Nigerian Cassava Growers Association, Mr Segun Adewumi, said cassava farmers were the worst hit, in terms of the destruction of farmlands by herdsmen and their cattle.

He, however, noted that it was a good idea to create grazing reserves to curb the frequent movement of cattle especially during the dry season.

Adewumi said, “If they develop the reserves adequately, it will reduce the moving around of herdsmen. And mind you, as cassava farmers, we are seriously affected by the movement of herders and this is because during the dry season, it is mainly cassava that maintains green leaves, as most other leaves would have dried up.”

“So, cassava is seriously affected when herdsmen move across farmlands during the dry season. Therefore, if they can create reserves that can limit herdsmen to some certain portions of our country, I think it will be a good idea.”

When contacted to further explain what the FMARD planned to achieve with the N2bn for national grazing reserves development, the spokesperson for the ministry, Theodore Ogaziechi, declined to comment, saying the appropriation bill had not been passed.

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