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Taraba Is For Ranching Rather Than Grazing Reserves- Dr. Kassa

Recently, thousands of cattle on the Mambilla Plateau were alleged to have been killed by a strange disease. The area which is estimated to harbour over three million cattle was at the verge of a major economic disaster. What was the cause of this predicament and what role did the government play in checking it? Tara Voices spoke with the State Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr Ishaya David Kassa on the matter and other critical issues on agriculture too. Excerpts:

  • There were reports of a strange disease that is killing cattle on the Mambilla Plateau, can you confirm that to us?
  • Well, we got a report that there were animals that were suddenly dying. So what we did was to raise a team of experts to the Mambilla Plateau to do their investigation and report to the ministry. Some of the laboratory checks were still being awaited. The preliminary report shows that the major problem is starvation. You know Mambilla is a place where animals do not roam anyhow. They are restricted to a particular area where they graze all through the year and the problem is that once the animals graze and it gets to the dry season and the grass is no longer growing, they face starvation. At this point, by the time the dry season is approaching, the feed is supposed to be supplemented but this actually is not being done and so they risk starvation. Another issue that was aggravating the starvation was an infestation, based on the preliminary report.

 

  • But why is this year’s case different, because it has not been like this in the previous years?
  • If you look at our environment, it is because of the climate change. You find out that the adverse environmental effect is impacting on us seriously. Areas that are supposed to grow grass no longer grow grass and especially like I said earlier on the Mambilla plateau where they operate ranches, without supplementing it; it is not possible any longer because of the growing population of the animals. The land is static but the population of animals is growing. So virtually you will face this kind of problem.

 

  • From what we are hearing, about 50,000 cattle were dead, what is your take?
  • The total number of cattle on the Mambilla Plateau should be over three million. The ones that died based on the report; we couldn’t ascertain these, number, but you will find out that most had one two or three that died in each herd and those that were growing the animals on supplement feed, they have not recorded any death. If you are supplementing your food, your animals will not die.

 

  • You talked about the pasture, that brings me to the question of pasture development. What are you doing about it considering that in the past, the government has been very active in pasture development but that has ceased?
  • Well actually, the livestock sector as far as Taraba state is concerned was the first to receive the attention of government. I remember even before we came to office, he had set up a committee to look at the livestock sector and how that sector can be reformed and that committee was made up of people from the Taraba State University. But along the line, something went wrong but we are still on it.

 

  • Recently we learnt that there was a federal delegation that visited the State over the issue of grazing reserve.
  • I wasn’t on ground but my permanent secretary drew my attention. As a matter of fact, we as a State, we are in support of ranches instead of grazing reserve. The reason is obvious- because herdsmen and farmers do clash. We try to minimise contact with animals to farmlands and the only way you can do that is by encouraging ranching. Ranching is a situation whereby a livestock owner owns a land and keep his animals on it to feed and the normal traditional pastoral method increases more risk of herdsmen and farmers’ clash. We want to encourage both livestock production and crop production. We won’t say we have done away with our grazing reserve. We have some lands that were grazing reserves. They are still been used but for a long time solution, we encourage ranching. Like in the Mambilla Plateau, that’s the model they are operating and you hardly hear of farmers/herdsmen clash. The only aspect where the government needs to come in is through the development of facilities such as water,  supplementary feeds. That needs to be created and subsidised to farmers so that at the end of the year where the pasture is no longer good, they have to supplement.

 

  • You were at the National Council on Agriculture in Port Harcourt recently, what is the outcome of the meeting?
  • The National Council on Agriculture meeting is a yearly event that brings all stakeholders as far as agriculture is concerned together to deliberate on issues that impact on agriculture. To be frank, one of the major policies of this government is this grazing reserve because it is creating a lot of problems. The council tried to see how we can come out with a policy that would minimise clashes between farmers and herdsmen because if you look at it, you will find out that the trend has increased.

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