Inauguration of Nigeria’s first Model Ranching Hub in Nasarawa has made the state a knowledge hub where herders and farmers will learn modern ways of rearing cattle and growing crops, reports Igbawase Ukumba
The Awe Model Ranching Hub in Nasarawa State, which was inaugurated recently by President Muhammadu Buhari under the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) was designed to be a knowledge hub where pastoralists will have to learn modern ways of cattle rearing.
Perhaps, it was against this background that President Buhari, when inaugurating the 22,000 hectres Awe Model Ranching Hub in the state, hoped that other states would emulate the good work done by the Nasarawa State governor, Abdullahi Sule, so that the programme could be fully implemented across the country to bring to end the incessant clashes between herders and farmers.
The president, who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Nanono at the inauguration of the Awe Model Ranching Hub, was optimistic that the ranching hub would at the same time introduce to the herders and crop farmers the modern ways of rearing cattles and growing crops with all the attendant benefits of Improved feeding, Improved animal/human health, genetic improvement in crops, livestock integration, value addition and better socio- economic standing for all participants.
Buhari said: “I am particularly happy at the way and manner the executive governor of Nasarawa State has received this initiative from the federal government. We have been talking and working tirelessly with him and I assure you his cooperation accelerated the launching of this Programme today.
“I am delighted to welcome all dignitaries and stakeholders on the launching of the first model ranching hub under the NLTP. This has been a long time in the making but we are happy that it is finally here and it makes such a memorable day that signifies the beginning of great things to happen in our country starting from Awe in Nasarawa State.
“The issue bedevilling our livestock sector are well known to the public, having been a hot topic of news for long time. Apart from the poor productivity resulting from several factors include poor land management, climate change, outdated animals husbandry practices and a general lack of organisation in the sector, the sector’s problem has been involved to be heavily in tandem with the breach of peace and security due to incessant violence herder/farmer crisis as well as some nefarious activities including banditry, kidnapping which people often linked erroneously, or otherwise, to herdsmen movement.”
The president therefore said the security breach angle has pervaded the country for a while thereby necessitating holistic resolution that would cater not only for the improvement of productivity in the livestock subsector, “but also to justice, peace, security, recovery from violent clashes, human capital development, gender and youth engagement and other sundry issues.”
Buhari maintained that the NLTP has been adjudged worldwide to be a well conceived project which seeks to transform the country’s livestock sector from nomadic dependent sector to an organised ranching one.
To this end, President Buhari continued that 22 states have registered with the NLTP secretariat, whereas seven of these states have earmarked 19 grazing reserve for the implementation of the programme with a total land size of approximately 400,000 hectres.
When flagging off the 22,000 hectres Awe Model Ranching Hub, Governor Sule explained that Nasarawa State decided to key into the NLTP and put all efforts into its Programme because on his assumption of office as governor of Nasarawa State, he was faced with so many challenges and one of those biggest challenges was security.
He insisted that security challenges was one of those goals that he took the programme as serious as he could.
Sule continued: “We have taken it so serious that I started visiting Benue State because of the law of the anti-grazing they have. But today by the grace of God, by the time this project is completed, they (Benue) can have all the anti-grazing law they have, we will not have problem on this border.
“The second aspect is about the economic development that we see. What we mean is to keep your cattle in one place and be able to have all the benefits that are there. So I am happy that the Netherlands government has keyed into this. The next aspect is actually the utilisation of all these abandoned areas called grazing reserves that have become fields for security challenges. Today by the time we are able to develop these areas, we are now utilising our grazing reserves because in nearly every state, there is a grazing reserve.
“So it is not true that some certain states will say that they don’t have land. Yes this land belongs to the state, but the reality is that the security of the people is more important than the ownership of any land. And that is why we are taking it very serious and we have gone to where we are.”
Governor Sule however appealed to the federal government not to stop the launching of the Programme in Nasarawa State, but ensure that the Programme is also launched in the three states that have already been identified and indeed all the 22 states that have keyed in.
The governor prayed that other states would begin to see the benefits of the NLTP and key in so that Nigeria will have proper security.
In a goodwill message at the Awe Model Ranching Hub inauguration, the Dutch Ambassador in Nigeria, Harry Van Dijk, said the NLTP was a fallout of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between President Muhammadu Buhari and a consortium in Netherlands to develop ranching in Nigeria.
The ambassador disclosed that the Netherlands is the second exporter of agricultural produce in the world despite the fact that it is a very small country with about 70 million people living in it with a land mass even less than Nasarawa State.
The Dutch ambassador explained that Netherlands got to the position of the second exporter of agricultural produce because flit was in their culture, also adding that the Dutch are connected to agriculture. The ambassador also said Netherlands is a very small country, “which means if you are small, you have to be very efficient. So all land is used in a very efficient way.”
He said further that Netherlands had developed a system of a triangle between research, education and extension so that when there are new things developed in that research, it directly handed off with the farmers and also in the education system that gave a very good effect as one of the things responsible for the country’s good in export.
Dijk said: “I am a representative of a consortium which will support NLTP. We have eight Dutch well-known companies and we work together with the local team here in Nasarawa. We are going to build a pilot farm here in Nasarawa and the goal of this farm is the transfer of knowledge. We want to show that it is possible to keep cows in one place even in the dry season without that they are dying or they are in a bad shape.
“Secondly, we are also going to organise the train the trainer Programme. And this training, we are also going to train farmers in this area. I hope this project will be a game changer in the agricultural industry of Nigeria.”
For the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on Agriculture, Dr. Andrew Kwasari, Nigeria has too many issues to deal with. One of which is productivity; the country’s output from agriculture.
He added that one of the areas in agriculture that has the lowest output was livestock hence the federal and state governments came together, and pioneered by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC), “put together a plan that was meant to last for ten years. He said the essence of the plan was to gradually develop the livestock subsector, stating further that to do so, a few things were necessary.”
He said: “We have been clamouring all over the country today on the need to either build ranches or stop nomadic system of production and all of that. For me that is not the big issue. The big issue is wether or not Nigeria wishes to ranch is a different question. Ranching has always been in Nigeria. But how do we transform the livestock systematically from within?
“And to do that, key things are missing. One is the lack of knowledge; therefore even if you give the pastoralists today the entire budget of this country, they will not ranch because they do not know how to ranch. So I am happy that NLTP around the six pillars were carefully crafted such that we will start with the most important pillar.”
“How do we build a training hub that will demostrate ranching practically to the pastoralists and take the pastoralists in batches at household level and train? Once they acquire the know-how, the missing link is land and this area where we are sitted today; Awe Gazetted Grazing Reserve is abundant land to settle pastoralists willingly with the technical support. I want to thank Mr President and the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State for making sure that this happened as designed.”
He noted that the Awe Model Ranching Hub is sitting on a 22,000 hectres of land, 360 households living in the place.
Acccording to him, “the total population of Awe today is a little over 3,000. The pastoralists have over 15,000 livestock in general. What they need is how to go about this business. The pastoralists that willingly settle and adopt the new style get ownership of piece of land on this government property so that they can ranch and keep their families.”