By Obike Ukoh, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
At the heat of the controversy over suspended Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) project, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, was unambiguous in his assertion that states where Fulani people are not indigenes will not be required to implement the programme.
The governor who spoke at a programme in Sokoto, said that the RUGA settlement initiative was for states that could cater for the Fulanis, and was targeted at making herdsmanship a socio-economic investment not a socio-cultural issue.
“So states where indigenes are not Fulanis, cannot be asked to implement RUGA, it is for states that can cater for the Fulanis and wish to improve their herdsmanship.
“That is why we are developing RUGA in Kano State, so that Fulani people can be in one place and enjoy all the social services like other people of the state.
“The type of herdsmanship the Fulanis are doing now will be improved, so that they can produce more cows, more milk and ensure more economic prosperity for themselves,” Ganduje said.
The governor said that there was need to ban the seasonal migration of Fulani herdsmen from the north to the central and southern parts of Nigeria.
“No better way to improve their lives if you don’t prevent their migration from the north to the central and southern parts of Nigeria.
“Fulani migration should be banned, otherwise they will continue to suffer and the security challenges in the country will continue to exist,” he added.
Ganduje translated his ideas and position to reality as he recently inaugurated the Kano State Rural Grazing Area (RUGA), said to be the first cattle herders’ settlement in the country, where the nomads are to be accommodated for expansive grazing of their flock.
The governor also inaugurated the first phase of 25 housing units out of the projected 200, situated on 4,413 hectares at Dansoshiya Forest in Kiru Local Government Area.
The governor who commented on the persistent clashes between herders and farmers, especially in the north, said the uncontrolled influx of foreign herders into the country ought to be checked.
“They come to this country with guns and other weapons, fuelling the clashes between herders and farmers.
“As they come with such weapons, they take crimes and criminalities to the country. That movement is what brings to us all sorts of clashes between herders and other communities, apart from with farmers.”
The governor said the 25 housing units for RUGA settlement were the first batch of 200 earmarked for construction.
He invited herders across the country to Kano RUGA settlement, promising that “other units of the housing will continue as we receive more Fulani from other places.
“It is absolutely necessary to improve and modernise breeding system for Fulani cattle.
“As it is clear that a gallon of milk is more expensive than one gallon of petrol, it is therefore necessary for us to utilise this great opportunity,” he said.
Ganduje said his government engaged in the project for fundamental reasons: “First and foremost is to avoid clashes between farmers and herders, secondly to avoid movement of herders which is the source of conflict and to avoid cattle rustling.”
He said criminal activities would be curtailed with the RUGA settlement, and promised to build a school and a hospital in the settlement, so that its inhabitants can have access to health care and education.
With a functional RUGA settlement now in place, the Kano State Government has announced plans to set up 200 milk collection centres to encourage dairy production in the state
Ameen Yasar, the Communication Specialist in Kano State Agro Pastoral Development Project, stated this in a statement he issued in Kano.
The statement quoted the Project Coordinator, Ibrahim Muhammad, as saying that the state government would soon unveil the multilateral scheme that would revolutionise dairy production.
Muhammad who spoke when he received members of the Milk Vendors Cooperative Society, said the centres would turn around milk production and make the state the hub of dairy production in the country.
He said that the project would be implemented in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank and Lives and Livelihood Fund.
The coordinator said that the collection centres would be constructed and equipped under the project.
He said routine cattle insemination, fodder production and sustained cattle vaccination would be conducted to enhance animal healthcare for improved productivity.
Muhammad added that the project would also focus on providing financial and technical support to milk cooperative societies in the state.
“The centres are designed to provide cost-effective and energy efficient cold chain for collection of raw milk without compromising quality to guard against rejection and losses.
“When the milk quality is guaranteed, it will boost income generation for the pastoralists, vendors and up takers.
“As the project unfolds, we are going to support the association with facilities and capacity building training on good hygiene practices and preservation technologies.
“Youths and women members of the association will be empowered with mini milk processing units,” he said.
Sustained and implementation of RUGA projects similar to that of Kano State across states of high Fulani population would greatly boost individual and national economy.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) importation of milk gulps about US$1.2 billion-US$1.5 billion annually.
The bank also attributes low cattle breeds to long distances covered for grazing, inadequate supply of feed and water, alongside poor rearing practices by dairy farmers.
This the bank said resulted in lower milk yields, making local milk manufacturers shun sourcing of raw milk locally and ultimately reducing the commercial viability of local cattle rearing.
But the CBN has put a policy in place to discourage importation of dairy products and promote backward integration.
In a recent circular signed by Dr Ozoemena Nnnaji, the Director, Trade and Exchange, the CBN restricted the number of companies involved in the importation of milk, its derivatives and dairy products to six. The circular was in addition to earlier one released in July 2019.
It banned commercial banks and other authorised dealers from accepting Form M for the importation of milk and other dairy products.
The CBN noted that the decision was as a result of its efforts at stimulating local production of milk.
The companies allowed to import dairy products, showed willingness and had keyed into the apex bank’s backward integration programme to enhance their capacity and improve local production.
States with large Fulani population should emulate Kano State, because of the potential of the dairy sector. The CBN data speaks volumes, states should key into the programme.