Agric Minister, Audu Ogbeh, Clears Air On “Cattle Colony”
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Audu Ogbeh has said the cattle colonies being suggested by his ministry remains the only solution in sight to ending the reoccurring herdsmen and farmers clashes.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja Ogbeh condemned in the strongest terms the unfortunate killing of innocent villagers in parts of Benue State recently, but maintained that Nigerians have largely misunderstood the concept of “cattle colonies” thereby misinterpreting it with sensational reportage in the media as extending Fulani colonialism.
He explained that the cattle colonies being talked about does not transfer land ownership to herdsmen and is not a new concept since the British had in 1942 proposed same even before Nigeria became an independent nation which is why the Obudu Cattle Ranch was established; a gesture that made founding fathers like Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello to set up ranches in Akunu and Mokwa and most recently Governor Mimiko in Anuga.
“In biology, you have animal colonies, you have bees, snake colonies and in some places crocodiles. Once there is a large concentration of any species of animals whether artificial or natural you call them colonies” He said.
Chief Ogbeh added that a colony is much larger and more viable, cheaper and safer because the colonies will have several ranches in them where the government is ready to provide water and feed at subsidized rates for the herds with the view to increasing their yields.
“We have chosen to embark on cattle colonies because we want to supply water to cows, because the grass they eat is not just any kind of grass. Cows are very selective about the grasses they eat, even if they are not, the quality of grass they eat determines the quality of beef and milk you get”
He said to succeed in this project, seeds of grasses have been gotten from Argentina, Brasil and the US and domesticated on a large scale, stressing however that the government is not forcing any State to donate lands for this project but those who understand the concept are donating lands for the takeoff.
He emphasized that the cattle colonies have nothing to do with Fulanis recolonising any land but just a hub where cattles are kept and protected which in the long run will end the menace of herds destroying crops which usually leads to conflicts.
Enumerating the benefits of the cattle colonies Ogbeh said “One third of the cows moving in the bush have Bovine TB and they can transmit same to human beings.
In Holland one cow in the summer consumes one hundred litres of water per day so when a cow is heading from Maiduguri to Lagos on foot and doesn’t have access to ten litres of water in a week, that’s torture and explains why we have the lowest yield of milk in West Africa” He added.
He said in some parts of West Africa, a cow produces a litre while in East Africa they do 15 litres while in Europe it ranges from 25 to 40 per cow.
Chief Ogbeh called on Nigerians to embrace this concept and support it because it is the only solution to the current quagmire.
He berated those advocating for ranching saying it is more expensive and will cause further troubles because the government will not be able to contain it porous nature, especially when they are scattered all over the State.