The intractable herder-farmer conflict got us scratching our heads for solutions and of course, they came in thick and fast on the strength of the threat the issue poses to the country.
Finally, an overarching livestock reform initiative under the banner of National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) was unveiled and hardly had Nigerians put a handle to it than a curveball was thrown with the promotion of the Rural Grazing Settlement (RUGA) which ran into a storm of controversy before it made its way into oblivion.
Regrettably, it had to take the prevailing crisis to begin the disentangling of the country from the long-held and decidedly restrictive practice in effectively managing the great resources in cattle breeding just when many others have transformed it for economic prosperity. Suffice it to say that there is so much capital to be made from a planned livestock subsector.
At any rate, the national consensus which reposes on breaking with tradition in relation to our outmoded practice of animal husbandry gave currency to the idea of ranching which, without much saying provides a veritable path to modernising and making cattle breeding a profitable venture. It’s a job creation tool and source of reliable livestock database. And, a source of healthy meat, superior carcass weight and milk yield. The entire value chain of cattle breeding provides a phenomenal economic opportunity.
What a great potential to turn into an advantage with the country’s cattle population of about 20 million, in becoming a global livestock player especially with the requisite knowhow in improving on the cattle breeds, supply of quality feeds and capacity in dealing with different issues on animal well-being which is achievable through value added cattle breeding.
The population growth of the country is at a stratospheric pace so also the consumption of beef, milk and allied products. So, meeting the protein needs of such population requires planning and investment.
According to the global beef Market report, the market is expected to reach 383.3 billion dollars by 2027 which really calls for seriousness in tapping into. Already, in Africa, Botswana is among some of the countries leading the charge in having a slice of the lucrative market with its 2.1 million cattle population. The processing of beef accounts for about 80 percent of its agricultural production. Namibia through great effort has made history as the first African country to break into the big American Market whose size was estimated at 83.5 billion dollars in 2020.
According to the NLTP document, the Nigeria imports over 95 percent of finished and raw milk as a result spending 481 million dollars annually. It means huge foreign exchange losses which a domestic production can help mitigate.
I have always been a vociferous cheerleader of the ranching idea reinforced by a stint in cattle breeding. It must be pointed that the investment isn’t for the faint hearted depending on the system in practice. Be that as it may, it comes with great returns with planning and commitment and skilled manpower.
We already have not a few existing private investors requiring support. Ranches are preponderantly driven by private players the world over, contributing remarkably to wealth creation and economic development. And, the longevity of so many are tied to clear and deliberate succession plan in moving the management baton from one generation to another.
So, a private driven initiative with government providing the support system through a panoply of policies, incentives and interventions in making funds available at a friendly cost to investors is the way go. This explains the tepid applause to the Federal government plan in putting funds directly into the bowl of the states toward the ranching initiative. Already about 22 states are awaiting their share according to reports. Can they real manage the fund squarely?
History remain uncharitable to government in its application and judicious management of funds and projects. After all, the ranching idea is not entirely novel- we inherited ranches but we never appreciated their import and therefore, allowed them to simply die off.
At any rate, the idea of model/pilot ranches is not out place and really will not detract from the consequential role of the private sector. People need to see and understand the mechanism and feasibility of the idea to engender a bandwagon effect which means a close and strict monitoring of the project is consequential.
Following through on the attempt at unlocking the opportunities inherent in the livestock subsector will require commitment to drive past our toxic national politics which always hamstrung our development endeavours especially in allowing them run their course.
Ungbo writes via