Cattle Colonies: 6 things to know about Buhari's plan to solve herdsmen crisis

6 things to know about Buhari's plan to solve herdsmen crisis

Since the brutal killings of over 100 people in Benue and Taraba in attacks orchestrated by suspected herdsmen in the opening week of 2018, there's been a lot of focus on how to resolve the recurring crisis.

The major trigger for the crisis has been attributed to the nomadic lifestyle of the herders who carelessly graze on lands in farming communities, leading to armed conflicts that have been happening for years.
To combat the problem, Ekiti State (2016) and Benue (2017) signed anti-open grazing laws, while Taraba is set to commence implementation on the same on January 24, 2018.
However, with the tension that the prohibition laws have caused, especially in Benue and Taraba, the Federal Government is proposing a different solution: cattle colonies.
While the anti-open grazing laws prefer the establishment of ranches as an alternative to trespassing on private lands, the Federal Government believes colonies are a better solution.
With public opinion of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration's plan less than encouraging, here are six things you should know about the plan:

1. Cattle colonies are a lot bigger than ranches

According to an explanation made by Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, cattle colonies are a combination of several ranches.
He said, "Colonies and ranches are the same things in many ways except that a colony is bigger than a ranch.
"In a colony, 20 to 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.
"Ranching is more of individual venture for those who want to invest, but cattle colony is bigger in scope and size."
Due to the maintenance that ranches would demand, rural subsistent low earning herders would find it hard to survive without colonies.

2. FG will fund the cattle colonies

As Ogbeh has clarified on more than one occasion, the establishment and administration of the cattle colonies will be funded by the Federal Government.
"The federal government will fund the project. The programme is not going to be cheap. Mr President has personally informed me that if we seek help from him he will give it to us over and above the budget we have," he said.

3. Cattle breeders will pay to use colonies

Ogbeh also stressed several times that, contrary to popular belief, the colonies will serve as a business for the Federal Government as cattle breeders who wish to benefit from them will pay some fees.
In the colonies, water, grass and security would be provided to cattle herders who would, in return, pay for rent and other services provided by the government.

4. States are going to voluntarily provide land for the colonies

Ogbeh has also noted the fact that setting up colonies will be a partnership with state governments who have to voluntary give up land to the Federal Government for the scheme.
He said, "It is going to be done in partnerships with state governments that would like to volunteer land for it. Nobody is going to seize land from any community for the project."
The minister revealed that the offer of five hectares of land is expected from each state willing to work with the Federal Government.

5. 16 states have already signed up for the programme

Ogbeh also revealed that 16 states have already volunteered land for the colonies.
While he didn't reveal which states he was referring to, Plateau State governor, Simon Lalonghas revealed that his state will participate in the project if it brings an end to recurring clashes between herdsmen and farmers. Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, has also publicly expressed the state's interest in participating.
On the other hand, notable objectors to the plan include Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom; Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku; and Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose.

6. Cattle colonies work in favour of everyone

Despite the widespread rejection of the plan to establish cattle colonies, the Federal Government insists that it will provide a more permanent solution to unending clashes between roaming herdsmen and local communities.
Ogbeh said, "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
"We have to deal with an urgent problem, cattle rearing and the conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, and actually bring it to a halt.
"Nigerians are getting extremely uncomfortable with these killings and we may make political statements and issue palliatives and ask the police and army to go after killers.
"Let us do our own duty by eliminating the conflict by creating cattle colonies."
To simply put it, the idea is aimed at addressing the needs of cattle herders by providing resources to care for their cattle while avoiding unnecessary conflicts over economic resources between them and farmers.