By Ejike Ikezuagu.
The apex Igbo youth group, Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) in communique released to Ogene Ndigbo Newspaper last Thursday has demanded the governors in the South East to give grants to Igbo farmers for rearing of cows and other livestock.
The Special Assistance on Media to National President Ohanaeze Youth Council, Chukwuemeka Chimerue who made this known to the press said, in view of the raging war these past few years on the settling of cattle herders from outside the South East and South South region, the Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, ably led by Comrade Igboayaka O Igboayaka have seen reasons to urge governors of the Igbo extraction to mobilise funds and empower indigenous farmers in the region to embark on a large scale rearing of cattle and other livestock, using the ranching method for adequate production of milk and meat to meet the agricultural needs of our people.
He said, in order to break the ethnic monopoly of the livestock business since it has grown to become a problem for all, our governors must step in swiftly to grant loans to our local farmers who engage in cattle ranching. According to him, he said, we must break this monopoly, not only to sanitise and upgrade the livestock business and make it more rewarding, but also to put an end to imperialist, wanton killings and territorial claims. OYC believes that this system will definitely improve the quality and safety of the beef and dairy products suitable for export and our local consumption.
On that note, the group is urging the Igbo governors to establish modern ranches to be operated by indigenes of their respective states and any other Nigerian who decides to key into it by meeting the requirements for enlistment. It will also go a long way in eradicating the dangers of nomadic cattle rearing if the governors would work together to reinvent the defunct Eastern Region’s ranches that were destroyed during the Biafra-Nigeria war.
Ehi/Efi Igbo, (Igbo Cow).
The group regretted and said, it is sad that after the war, the entire South appeared to have given up agriculture as a business to the North. Chukwuemeka Chimeruo said, when we were children, we learnt of the Obudu Cattle Ranch and other ranches from where local varieties of livestock such as cows, goats and sheep were reared. These varieties which were indigenous to the evergreen vegetational zones were much more nutritious and highly prized than their lean and long-legged Sahelian counterparts. In fact, the Northern livestock were generally looked down on as inferior to the Southern breeds.
“When we were children, we learnt of the Obudu Cattle Ranch and other ranches from where local varieties of livestock such as cows, goats and sheep were reared”, Chukwuemeka Chimeruo.
He gave an instance and said, when you hear an Igbo chief hailed “Ogbu Efi” (or one who killed a cow or cows), the cow does not refer to the Sahelian long-legged cows which today trample all over our farms and gorge on our crops. It refers to the shorter but heavier forest oxen which you do not find on the roadside butcher’s table. It is a delicacy for specialised ceremonies reserved for titled chiefs and those around them. Before the war, people kept these local-variety livestock as subsistent business behind their backyards. It is time we go back to this practice.
Beyond the subsistence level, state governments in Igbo land can establish ranches and parcel out portions for youth who are interested in livestock farming to embrace them. These youths should be trained to run these ranches as profitable businesses modelled on best practices around the world. Improved varieties of these livestock should be able to supply meat and dairy products that will make preferred alternatives to the nomadic Fulani cattle.
The group said, if this is generously carried out, it would encourage more of our people to go into cattle ranching business. It would also create employment for our youths. Cooperatives should be formed by those in the business and those interested in it. If standard ranches are being built for our local farmers to rear their cattle and other livestock, then it would be easier to impose and ban open-grazing in our lands which has severally contributed to conflicts, deadly confrontations, killings and destruction of farmlands and valuable properties by Fulani nomadic herders who engage in open grazing of cattle.
According to the group, they said, a good example of such initiative has been witnessed in Anambra state where the state government through the Ministry of Agriculture empowered Eagle Farms and Cattle Ranch to transform not only agriculture but the economy of the state. A visit to the farm and cattle ranch located at Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area of the state indicated that cattle are raised within a confined perimeter and do not need to wander about in search of pastures.
“When you hear an Igbo chief hailed “Ogbu Efi” (or one who killed a cow or cows), the cow does not refer to the Sahelian long-legged cows which today trample all over our farms and gorge on our crops. It refers to the shorter but heavier forest oxen which you do not find on the roadside butcher’s table”, Chukwuemeka Chimeruo.
Chief Oparaeke of Eagle Farms, Umuchu testified to the support from Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA) under the mandate of the State government to breed local cattle (Efi Igbo). If we can scale this up and replicate it throughout Igboland, then the much talked about farmers/herdsmen clashes will cease. This also shows clearly that modern method of cattle rearing via ranching is the way forward rather the current system of open-grazing.
Therefore, the group said, our governors must help our indigenous farmers by investing in cattle rearing and drive innovation in the agricultural sector as the high demand for beef in our states guarantees good returns on the investment. If this is done and the laws against open-grazing are firmly enforced in Igbo land, there will be no more room for armed pastoral militias and their sponsors seeking to steal other people’s ancestral lands under any guise be it cattle colony or Ruga settlement, the group concluded.
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Host: Ejike Ikezuagu.