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Cattle Industry in Nigeria: Herdsmen-Natives Conflicts and the Way Forward by Ndidi Uche Samuel

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Cattle industry in Nigeria is certainly in a very bad state. Due to the nomadic nature of the industry in Nigeria, rather than generate income for the herders and the state, it has brought sorrow, tears and blood (apologies to Fela Anikulapo Kuti). Sadly, because it is dominated mainly by the Fulani, much of the clash between herders and the natives has been between these Fulani herdsmen and people of other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Because they (the Fulani herdsmen) carry arms (which is illegal by the way), much of the casualties have been the natives who are being killed in their hundreds and in some cases in their thousands.
However, there have been casualties on the part of the herders too: humans and cattle alike. These violent clashes have sown a deep seed of discord, distrust and perhaps mutual hate between the Fulani herdsmen and other ethnic nationalities. Unfortunately, it has largely added to ethno religious tension and fanned the embers of ethnic division in the nation.
Due to the manner in which the present government of Muhammadu Buhari has handled the herdsmen-natives conflict throughout the nation, there is currently a growing fear that these herders are emboldened by the president and aided tacitly and covertly by the security agencies which are all under the tight grip of the president.
This present state of affairs if not nipped now could lead to bloodletting of unprecedented proportion. I fear we are almost there. But with the right political will, focus and determination from all stakeholders (from the president to the governors and indeed the herders), we can nip this canker-worm in the bud.
The cattle industry worldwide generates income in three major areas: Dairy (butter, yoghurt and other cream products, cheese, whole milk powder, skimmed milk powder, casein, albumin and other protein products), leather and meat. Unfortunately Nigeria has failed to maximize her potentials in all three.
Brazil, a nation in the tropics like Nigeria, has the second largest herd in the world, only surpassed by India. It is currently the largest exporter of cattle meat in the world.
According to FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, one in five pounds of commercialized cattle meat is from Brazil. The exported volume achieved 264,822 tons in 2012, and generated USD 1.220,316 million in exports (The economist, Aug, 2010). In the social aspect, the cattle beef industry generates about 360 000 direct jobs as well as thousands of jobs among inputs suppliers, moving almost USD 2 billion in domestic inputs. Brazil ranks as the fifth largest cow milk producer country, after the USA, India, China and Russia. The gross value of milk production in 2009 was US$10,019 million, ranking fifth among national agricultural products (FAOSTAT, 2011).
Hear, from the Economist (Aug, 2010), what Brazil did to increase beef production, “Embrapa, short for Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, or the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, went to Africa and brought back a grass called brachiaria. Patient crossbreeding created a variety, called braquiarinha in Brazil, which produced 20-25 tonnes of grass feed per hectare, many times what the native cerrado (Brazil’s savannah) grass produces and three times the yield in Africa… Thirty years ago it took Brazil four years to raise a bull for slaughter. Now the average time is 18-20 months.”
As at June 2015, cattle industry in New Zealand (a nation with a total land area of 268,000 km² (103,500 sq mi) and a population of about 4.59 million (UN estimate, March 2017)) processed 24.7 billion litres of milk with just over 6.5 million cows being milked generating $11.2 billion in dairy export while they have just over 3.5 million beef cattle generating $2.5 billion in beef export. Nigeria, a nation with a total land area of 923,768 km² (356,669 sq mi) and a population of about 190 million (UN estimate, March 2017), has an estimated number of 19 million cows. Compared to Nigeria, New Zealand human to cow (10 million cattle herd) ratio is 0.459:1 while that of Nigeria is 1:0.1. This suggests that while New Zealand has approximately 2 cows per head, Nigeria has 0.1 cows per head!
Interestingly, the New Zealand dairy farming use 18,000 km² (6949.84 sq mi) (6.7%) of the land area, yet 80% of the New Zealand beef is exported. New Zealand with an equivalent of 0.06% of the total world population controls 8% of the world’s exported beef! Nigeria with an equivalent of 2.55% of the total world population controls less than 0.001% of the world’s exported beef. Don’t take my word for it, google it. What about the farm land used in Nigeria for dairy farming? All, and yet, none. Succinctly put, everywhere you go (apologies to MTN).
However, 6.7% of Nigeria land area is 61 892 km² (23896 sq mi) which is less than the land area of Borno state (70,898 km²; 27,373 sq mi). What about the percentage of beef export? Unknown, if any. If in doubt, google it.
What could be the major cause for this gulf in the quality and quantity of cattle breeding, beef and milk production as well as export?
Pastoral farming. Pastoral farming is a non-nomadic form of pastoralism in which the livestock farmer has some form of ownership of the land used, giving the farmer more economic incentive to improve the land. Pastoral farming is common in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the Western United States and Canada, among other places.
All these nations rank top in cattle industry. Pastoral farmers are sedentary and do not change locations in search for fresh resources. Rather, pastoral farmers adjust their pastures to fit the needs of their animals. Improvements include drainage (in wet regions), stock tanks (in dry regions), irrigation and sowing clover. The state governments in the North of Nigeria could pick grant subsidies to assist farmers with regards to improving the industry for the growth of the states as well as the nation.
With the implementation of pastoral farming, we would have solved in totality the herdsmen-natives conflicts in its entirety. Let us all (from North to South) say no to nomadic cattle-rearing and yes to pastoral farming. With the right political will, focus and determination we can. Yes, we can.
Mr Ndidi, a public commentator, can be reached at: boukwuenu.sun@gmail.com

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