INTERVENTIONS THAT CAN SOLVE THE FARMER/HERDER CRISIS

CATTLE TRACKING –

If we put GPS devices on cattle we could track their movement around the country.

This way, we can tell which cow was where and when.

This has the following benefits.

(1) If cows trespass into a farm, we can pinpoint the exact cow.

(2) It can separate genuine cases of trespass from cases of wanton criminality, where people attack communities masquerading as Fulani herders.

The downside of this policy would be the cost (GPS tracking devices can cost up to $10k, I hear), and sustainability (the batteries on the devices need to be replaced periodically).

REGISTRATION OF NOMADIC HERDSMEN –

We can make nomadic cattle rearing a licensed occupation (no fees required, just VOLUNTARY registration).

To encourage registration, we can provide incentives such as feeding allowances on the trail, free education for nomadic children, etc.

Registered nomads will be required to log in their movements.

This has the following benefits:

(1) To separate true herders from criminal elements,

(2) Support the prevention of conflicts between herders and farmers, and

(3) Support the solving of crime around the migration of cattle.

The downside of this policy would be:

(1) The registration of people has a bad reputation, and we will need to overcome resistance to the idea, and

(2) GSM coverage is not total and so registered herdsmen may have trouble logging in their movements.

COMMUNITY POLICING –

Every community in the cattle lane should have a standing farmer/herdsmen mediation committee, within the framework of local government in that area.

The job of this committee will be to:

(1) document the entry, movement and exit of cattle and cattle herders through the community,

(2) monitor the usual routes for this movement to document and map potential flashpoints,

(3) act as the first line response (in terms of mediation) whenever cattle stray into anybody’s farm or property.

Courts and Police Units at the local government level should also have assets dedicated to conflicts around cattle migration.

The benefits of this policy would be:

(1) better mediation of conflicts, to prevent escalation into violence,

(2) ability to differentiate between genuine cases of conflicts over resources and pure criminality.

The downside of this policy would be the historic weakness of local government systems in Nigeria, presently undermined by State Governors who only see local governments in terms of winning elections and consolidating personal political power at the grassroots.

CATTLE CARS –

As we are in the railway building phase, we can design and build a rail system for moving cattle across the country, so they don’t necessarily have to be walked from North to South.

This can be augmented with cattle trucks – special trucks configured for moving cattle, maybe even cattle boats that take advantage of our inland waterways, and (who knows?)

We can even consider cost-effective options for airlifting cattle from one location to another (big man can pay premium to eat meat of cow that travels 1st class).

But, of course, this policy places heavy reliance on invention and the application of technical knowledge to social policy.

It also requires the development of certain types of infrastructure.

These are the downsides since, historically speaking, the Nigerian government is not strong in these areas.

SOUTHERN RANCHING BY LOCALS –

We can provide incentives for ranching in the South, to reduce the distance between product and consumer.

This initiative does not have to come from the Federal Government.

States and Geopolitical regions can seek to make themselves beef sufficient, by supporting the local production of beef consumed within the State or Region.

Incentives for this can include the provision of land, tax breaks, the creation of supporting infrastructure, the simplification of government regulation, the building of local capacity, etc.

The downside of this policy is, again, government’s historic inability to competently administer policy, particularly around midwifing new economic sectors.

If one is not careful, policies like this become conduits for corruption, transferring valuable economic assets to cronies instead of genuine business men and women.

DIETARY CHANGES –

Demand generates supply. If the value chain behind the production of beef is irredeemably problematic, consumers can be encouraged to switch to other meat sources, such as goat or chicken or pig or rabbit or bush meat (please, what exactly is bush meat?).

This would lessen the pressure on cattle production.

The downside of this policy would be

(1) overcoming the deep rooted love of beef in this country, and

(2) finding new work for the many nomadic herdsmen that may be displaced by this shift….

Well, as you can see, I don’t have any perfect solutions. I doubt if anyone out there does. But that is not a strange thing. You see?

This is an imperfect world, full of imperfect people, who are in turn full of imperfect solutions.

And yet some of us have found a way to stay here on earth and guide a shuttle to a pin-point location on the moon without incidence, while others cannot get a cow to walk from Kano to Port Harcourt without incidence. You see?

It is not the difficulty of the challenge that matters. It is the mindset of the people standing in front of it.

I tell you, this same world we live in – full of poverty and violence – is also full of solutions.

Written by Dike Chukwumerije

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