By Emmanuel Ado
“Every problem has a solution.You just have to be creative enough to find it” – Travis Kalanick
Considering the magnitude of the crisis generated by the Herders/Farmers clashes, a national consensus on the way forward shouldn’t have been a difficult issue.An urgent, concerted effort(s) towards tackling the crisis,shouldn’t ordinarily have been a problem, considering that over 19,000 people have been killed so far in the clashes. But like everything Nigeria, where the politics of any issue, is often more important,than a workable solution. Every solution towards fundamentally addressing the serious security challenges posed by the clashes, are vehemently shot down by extremists, due to “perceived advantages” the solutions will likely give the pastoralists. While the posturing continues, to the collective embarrassment of every Nigerian, the problem that first reared its head at the inception of the 4th Republic, has not only lingered, but is hastening the acrimonious break up of the country.
Nigeria, undoubtedly is facing serious security challenges- banditry,kidnapping- but there is absolutely no doubt that the Herders/Farmers clashes has contributed enormously to the other problems,due to its ethnic-religious dimensions,the reason why reaching a decision on issue and swiftly implementing same,cannot and should not be postponed.
The intense conflict has been worsened by economic and environmental factors, especially the adverse effect of the climate change and soil degradation, which has made southward movement more than an option for the herders in search of water and pasture for their animals. The real tragedy is that many Nigerians continue to live in a dumbfounding denial of these environmental challenges confronting mankind today, due to the perception that it’s a northern problem, just as many had initially regarded Boko Haram as a localized problem of Borno State, until it escalated into the monster that its today. The environmental challenges are national; the deserts of the North,the floods in the Middle Belt and Riverine States and the erosion problem in the South -East, problems that though not created by man,but have been worsened by his actions. Nigeria can only make progress when the man in Delta State, can make the correlation between desertification and the movement of Fulani herdsmen South ward and that desertification is not and can never be a northern problem.
It is estimated that each year Nigeria loses about 7 billion United States dollars to desert encroachment, and more than 12 million hectares of land transformed into new man – made deserts in the Northern States of Nigeria- a progressive deterioration of fertile land and loss of its productive capacity, which renders it unsuitable for human and animal habitation,the consequence being that the problem would linger for a long time to come, and with it, an increased threat to our fragile unity, increase in food import,which presently runs into billions of dollars,if it is not addressed. For a country that is dependent on just one commodity for foreign income, these factors are enough to trigger alarm and action.
More serious countries will side by side with adopting policies that will sendentarize the herders, address the creeping desertification, that has drastically caused displacements and demographics, the major factor responsible for the movement, by planting trees, checking indiscriminate logging, and establish ranches like the Kaduna State Government is doing,but most certainly not Nigeria which constantly continues to push its luck to breaking point. El – Rufai, has shown not only a clear understanding of the gravity of the situation, the compelling urgency that the issue deserves, but has equally fashioned out clear cut policy initiatives, to stop further encroachment of the desert, and a pragmatic solution to the herders/farmers crisis by establishing the 100 million dollars Damau Household Milk Farm, Damau, Kubau Local Government Area.
In Dec 2019, the Kaduna State Executive Council approved the development of the Damau Household Milk Farm in Kubau Local Government. The Milk farm located in the Damau Forest Reserve is a bold plan to centralize the activities of nomadic herdsmen,thus addressing the farmers/herders clashes, by curbing farmer-herdsmen clashes,a constant trigger for communal clashes.
The Damau Household Milk Farm, a joint venture project between Kaduna State Government, the Danish dairy giants, Arla, and Miyyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, is a win- win due its several advantages, it holds the promise of jobs creation, thus promoting economic development, swift resolution of the security problems by concretely demonstrating ranching as a viable alternative to the itinerant method of rearing of cattle and sheep and hopefully expand the national capacity to produce high quality milk, the creation of extension a profitable value chain in the business of cattle rearing and reduction in import of milk. The support of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), through its Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme is informed by the pragmatic desire to conserve scarce foreign exchange and to tackle unemployment.
The ranch would consist of five districts,of ten cluster districts, with 20 farmers per cluster, a total of 200 HouseHold per district, 14 Cows per farmer, which will translate into 280 Cows per Cluster, 2800 Cows Per district, and 14,000 Cows in the entire Farm,built on a total land size of 9Ha. There will be a common pasture and grazing area of about 1000Ha,the main reason why the herdsmen embark on Israelite journey in search of grass for their animals. Like a modern farm settlement, there will be 5 Vetenary Clinics, 5 Skills Acquisition Centres, 5 Primary Schools, Market Stalls,with the Ruwan Sanyi Dam providing power.
The products from the ranch has a ready market,as Arla Food will not only provide commercial services,it will also purchase, collect and process and get the local milk to the market. It’s envisaged that in the near future, yoghurt, water, livestock, cheese and meat production will be added to the business.
Giving the seriousness attached to addressing the challenges, the government is already working on the establishment of a second grazing reserve at Ladugga Forest Reserve in Kachia Local Government.
It behaves on the federal government to find a way of marketing the livestock transformational plan, a bit of give and take to achieve the overall lofty objectives of the livestock transformational programme. Settling the herders in a ranch is for the ultimate benefit of all and thus worth every effort. Like the Damau Farm,anyone interested should be empowered to access,to drive home the point that its from culture to business and it’s not an initiative for only pastoralists or people of a particular ethnicity and religion.
El-Rufai’s initiative is a model that can be replicated in other parts of the country,the only snag is the lack of the political will to address this problem,like many others that confront the country.