By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Nigerians have been advised to take agriculture as profitable business that has the potential of revamping the country’s economy.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, gave this advice when he held a meeting with a delegation from the Plateau State government led by the Governor, Mr Bako Lalong, in his office last week.
According to the Minister, agriculture remains the biggest and fastest way of enriching the rural populace and stabilizing the polity.
“We have no choice than to help grow agriculture in all states of the federation, create wealth and jobs and make people happier to bring life to the rural areas where there has been so much hardship and difficulty in accessing livelihoods,” Mr Ogbeh said.
On the incessant clash between farmers and herdsmen, the Minister explained that the introduction of cattle colonies in the country was borne out of the need to provide an enabling environment for agriculture to thrive in the country since the states own the land; adding that to governments ‘it is cheaper to do this for herdsmen and others who want to rear cattle than for individuals to go and invest many, because we know that many farmers have difficulties raising bank loans’.
Mr Ogbeh, while throwing light on the concept of colony, stated that, “Colonies and ranches are the same thing in many ways except that a colony is bigger that a ranch.
“A colony is a biological expression for any species of animals whether by nature or by human design that are found in a large community sharing the same terrain, such as bee colonies in certain areas.
“In Colony, 20, 30 ranchers can share the same colony, a ranch is usually owned by an individual or company with few numbers of cows, in a cattle colony you could find 100, 200, 300 cows owned by different individuals.”
He added that, “The reason for designing colony was that we want to prepare on a large scale a place where many owners of cattle can co-exist there, they feed well because we can make their feeds from agro waste, get good water to drink as cows drink a lot of water, we can give them green fodder; we grow it on a large scale harvest and feed the cow; give them veterinary services and protect the cows against rustlers”.
The Minister commended the Plateau State government for its interests in developing agriculture and promised to extend further supports to the 16 state governments that had expressed interest in developing ranches like Kogi, Nasarawa, Osun, Kebbi, Plateau states, among others.
Mr Ogbeh said once the colony begins, the Federal Government would embark on a large scale artificial insemination to improve the breed of cattle so that the yield of milk can increase, he observed that while a cow in Nigeria delivers about a litre of milk per day, in East Africa, a cow gives 15 litres of milk and in Europe they do averagely 50 litres of milk per day, saying that Nigeria is still a long way from achieving the target which other countries have achieved.
He sought for supports from states in area of extension officers who will be recruited within the locality so that they can be in contact with rural farmers, they will be taught on what to do as well as train the farmers on planting operations which will go side by side with the programme on cattle colonies.
The Minister said the whole aim of the policy was to end herdsmen/farmers’ conflict, saying the idea is neither a hostile nor wicked plan by the ministry to seize anybody’s land.
The Minister also announced that the Federal Government would soon hold a stakeholders’ forum with the herdsmen and other stakeholders on the implementation of the new policy and express his willingness to visit some of the agricultural sites in Plateau State.
Earlier in his address, Governor of Plateau State, Mr Bako Lalong, said he was in the Ministry to identify with the agricultural revolution of the Federal Government in area of livestock production as well as seek for more assistance for his State.
He said Plateau State was one of the states that keyed into the ranch policy when it was introduced by the Federal Government and expressed the readiness of the state to also embrace the cattle colony policy that is being introduced by the Federal Government.
“If you need to live in peace you need to find ways of sustaining peace. This policy has a lot of interest for us,” he stated.
He expressed appreciation to the Minister for the supports the state enjoyed so far from the Ministry and promised that Plateau state will continue to partner with the Federal Government in its agricultural policies to provide gainful employment for its teeming populations.
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