The Federal Government is set to begin implementing a special grass cultivation programme across the country as a means of mitigating the recurring clashes between farmers and nomadic cattle herdsmen.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this to the media when he received the Surveyor General of the Federation, Mr. Ebisintei Awudu at his office.
Ogbe said the resolve of government would improve agribusiness in the livestock sector by expanding it to include commercial production of grass in the southern part of the country to feed cattle.
He added that it would bring to an end the roaming of cattle rearers and perennial conflicts between the pastoralists and crop farmers in different parts of the nation.
Ogbe revealed that some grasses that produce 28 per cent crude protein, which had been taken from Africa to Brazil for research 16 years ago, would be brought back for use under this programme.
“By the end of April this year, the first grass supply may have arrived or could be on the way to the country.
“We are taking a radical step and we are beginning now. We are going to grow grass on a very large scale across the country,” he said.
The minister said that the continued existence of cattle grazing and stock routes would continue to breed conflicts and deaths.
To stop the trend, the minister said that cattle roaming had to end, “We just have to grow grass. The largest cattle ranch in the world is in Saudi Arabia with 153,000 cows, and the country sells milk to other gulf states. But they buy grass from Sudan and U.S and are planning to buy more from Ethiopia.”
He noted that the north was not yet a desert, saying “It is only arid.”
Besides, he said the north had many dams that could be used for irrigation and cultivation of grass, in addition to what would be done in the south.
“If certain countries sell grass to Saudi Arabia, there is no reason we cannot grow grass in Nigeria in the South and sell to the north of this country.”
Ogbe noted that the old grazing reserve system was no longer feasible as states were having issues with it. He said if the grass programme were to be implemented, Nigeria should have no roaming of cattle in another five years.
Lending his support, the Surveyor-General of the Federation, Awudu, said that his office had mapped the entire country and its satellite image at 2.5 metre resolution.
He added that his office was ready to assist the Ministry of Agriculture in survey and mapping of soils, placement of canals and other infrastructure, and site selections for animal husbandry.
On his part, a director in the office of the Surveyor-General, Barde Jatan, who was part of the team visiting the minister, said there was a need for collaboration between the ministry and the office.
“The office had collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on geospatial imagery, which will play a key role in the site selection for animal husbandry,” Jatan sad.