A hard look at the Enugu ranching proposal

In today’s fast-paced world, the significance of maintaining security and harmony within our communities cannot be overstated. The proposal by Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu state to establish ranching and abattoirs in select local government areas, deserves careful consideration. From the government perspective, this initiative aims to mitigate the alleged terrorist activities of cattle herders in the state, thereby fostering a safe environment for all citizens. 

But this explanation did not sit well with a portion of the populace. In fact, it is still generating heated reactions among the people of the state. While many laud the governor for his foresight, others condemn it as an invitation to anarchy from the Fulani cattle breeders who had been wrecking havoc across the state and the country at large.

Some of the reactions are borne out of emotions, and it’s understandable considering the endemic strife and untold hostilities that defined cattle herders vs farmers parasitic relationship over the last two decades.

But come to think of it, barely five hours down south beyond the neighborhood of Ebonyi state from Enugu lies the famous Obudu Cattle Ranch established since 1949 and sustained till date. So, why is Mbah’s policy proposal on similar project eliciting mixed reactions? The answer is the same as above. People are apprehensive of what the future holds for them if the implementation of such ‘lofty” idea goes south, especially when one remembers Nimbo massacre of March 2016.

But we must agree with the old Latin phrase that “abuse don’t stop use.” The fact that these Fulani marauders tend to abuse the hospitality of native population, should not suggest that establishing ranching as a way of keeping them in check must be quashed. Not every governor wants to allow nomads unguarded space to continue their gory escapades. They have to be dammed. And Mbah is envisioning it through ranching that mimics the Obudu project.

Despite the differing opinions surrounding this proposal, it is crucial to have an informed discussions and robust debate around it. First, let’s start by way of definition of terms.

What exactly is ranching in livestock management?

Cattle ranching is the practice of raising and managing cattle for meat and dairy production. International best practices for cattle ranching encompass various principles aimed at promoting sustainability, animal welfare, and environmental stewardship. 

Some key principles of cattle ranching are: Land and habitat management in which cattle ranchers adopt sustainable land management practices that prioritise soil health, carbon sequestration, and protection of natural habitats. This includes rotational grazing, reforestation efforts, water conservation, and minimising deforestation for pasture expansion.

Cattle ranching also prioritises the welfare of the animals. This involves providing access to clean water, sufficient feed, shelter, and appropriate veterinary care.

It also provides effective pasture management which is critical for sustainable cattle ranching. Rotational grazing methods that allow the land to fallow and regenerate are encouraged. This helps prevent overgrazing, soil erosion, and degradation while maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

This plan by government will also enhance livestock traceability and quality assurance management in dairy and meat production which are major benefits of cattle ranching. The ability to track the origin and movement of animals, as well as ensuring hygiene and food safety standards throughout the production chain, helps build consumer trust and facilitates market access.

Feelers from government House indicates they are scaling up a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that will ensure sustenance in line with international best practices. It will map out a scheme for ranchers, farm managers, and animal caretakers, covering topics such as animal husbandry, land management, disease control, and sustainable practices, etc.

So, in overall analysis, by proposing the establishment of a state-controlled ranching and abattoirs, Mbah acknowledges the urgent need to protect the lives and property of Ndi Enugu, as he promised during electioneering. This proposal would restrict the nomadic movement of cattle herders and effectively curtail their penchant for wanton destruction of crops. By harnessing the power of ranching, the governor offers a proactive solution that can help prevent conflicts, mitigate damages, and enhance overall security surveillance within the state.

Everyone knows that Enugu is a gateway state to the North, with sporadic border encroachment especially at the Isi-Uzo and Uzo Uwani LGAs axis. 

One of the crucial aspects of the proposed policy is the regulation and control of meat production. It would provide a well-organised process for the production and distribution of meat, ensuring high hygiene standards and quality assurance. Thus, reducing the current rampart incidents of zoonotic human diseases. In the words of one of the founding fathers of America — Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By centralising the meat production process, the government can implement stringent regulations, ensuring that only healthy and safe meat reaches the market. Consequently, this not only guarantees the well-being of consumers but also protects local farmers from unregulated competition.

Moreso, the clashes between herders and farmers have been a significant cause of tension and unrest within communities across the state, leading to avoidable loss of lives and property. Through the establishment of ranching and abattoirs, Governor Mbah seeks to address this contentious issue. By confining cattle to designated areas, the risk of accidental trespass and subsequent conflicts with farmers will be mitigated. “Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free” so said Dalai Lama

This measure seeks to foster mutual understanding, promote peaceful coexistence, and lay the foundation for a more harmonious society.

If implemented in its ideal sense, Governor Mbah’s proposal is a wise step towards ensuring the security and prosperity of Enugu state. By implementing this policy, the government empowers itself to control the activities of nomads and cattle herders, while simultaneously protecting the lives and property of its citizens. Moreover, if well executed according to plans, the ranch would be a vital source of revenue for the state, as not only will the breeders and rearers pay tax tariff for the services they enjoy, but it would be a tourism attraction as well. 

So, as we embrace this prudent policy, we can move forward together, creating a more secure, prosperous, and harmonious Enugu state.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” Perhaps there is need to give Governor Mbah the benefit of doubt, and accord the proposal a chance, as a proactive measure to ensure the safeguarding of lives, the effective regulation of meat production, and the fostering of harmony between herders and farmers.

May daylight spare us!

✍️ Jude Eze