The federal government has unveiled a plan that will cost N179 billion over a 10-year period to improve livestock production in the country and put an end to herders/farmers crisis.

This was disclosed in the federal government's National Livestock Transformation Plan (2018-2027) which was presented by the technical adviser to the National Economic Council (NEC), Andrew Kwasari, at a briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

Kwasari noted that the plan is targeted at putting a definitive end to recurrent clashes between cattle herders and farmers which is the product of the struggle for common resources such as water, land and pasture.

The plan outlined that these conflicts, coupled with the low productivity of local breeds and limited value addition, are the two overriding factors responsible for terrible output in the livestock sector.

According to Kwasari's presentation, the agricultural industry is characterised by low productivity and output, resultng in huge gaps between demand and supply.

The report estimated that Nigeria loses about N5.04 trillion annually to conflicts between herders and farmers which typically also involves huge loss of lives as well as the destruction of schools, homes, religious houses, primary health centres and community infratructure.

Kwasari noted that the 10-year-plan is a mediation plan stemming from meetings and recommendations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the National Economic Council headed by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in response to the incessant clashes between herders and farmers.

The plan is built on six key pillars which cater to economic investment, conflict resolution, law and order, humanitarian relief, information education and strategic communication, and cross-cutting issues.

For its pilot phase, Adamawa, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara will receive interventions in the form of ranches.

In the ranch design plan, there are six pillars that are essential to the success and viability of the ranches: land allocation, ranch size models, feed, priority breed improvement, access to finance and market, and humanitarian efforts.

The proposed ranch size models, according to the plan, is a cluster of 30, 60, 150 and 300 cows ranch models in a location within the donated gazetted reserves, as well as a minimum of 1000 cows breeder ranch in 7 of the 10 pilot states.

A ranch design plan has been proposed in models of various sizes clustered in 94 locations in the 10 pilot states.

The government's proposed ranching solution will supposedly improve genetic material of indigenous cattle for milk and meat production; improve reproductive performance of indigenous cattle; provide critical market access infrastructure; and create better linkages between smallholder livestock producers and investors for agricultural technology adoption and support for value addition. It is also hoped that it will foster sustained peace and harmony between farmers and herders.

In the legal structure proposed for the plan, cattle herders are expected to be registered and recognised as cooperatives for the purpose of the ranching scheme. These cooperatives will then be able to get rental agreements for land from state governments and also benefit from ranch resources on several terms including loans, grants, and subsidies.

The funding of the plan from the federal government and state governments is expected to last for the first three years in the pilot phase for a total of N70 billion while private sector interests and investment between the third and tenth year is expected to be in excess of N100 billion.

Herders/farmers conflict

Herders and farmers have clashed for years over the battle for resources as roaming herdsmen tend to graze their cattle on farmlands, leading to tension and sometimes violence that leads to deaths of people on both sides.

Ever since herdsmen were blamed for the death of 73 people in attacks launched in Guma and Logo local government areas of Benue State in the opening days of January 2018, hundreds of people have been killed in similar attacks with Taraba and Benue bearing most of the brunt.

The federal government has largely blamed the recent escalation of the conflict on the anti-open grazing laws of both states and the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, recently called for a suspension of the implementation of the laws to reduce tension.

At Tuesday's presentation, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said the government will now switch to ranching as the most viable option to put an end to the clashes.