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Yay or Nay: Open grazing nationwide in Nigeria

It is no longer news that there was a heated debate on passing a bill for an act to "Establish the National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission for the Regulation, Management, Preservation and Control of Ranches" throughout Nigeria; and for connected purposes 2024 (SB. 466). Senator Titus Tartenger Zam (Benue North West) introduced the supposedly "controversial" bill aimed at establishing a national framework for regulating cattle ranching practices. This has been followed with mixed reactions.

After a passionate debate on the yay and nay sides, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill proposing a ban on open grazing nationwide. The bill advocates for replacing open grazing with ranches established in the home states of pastoralists. This legislation will now undergo a second reading after being referred to the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Judiciary, and Legal Matters for review within a four-week timeframe. You can read more about it here.

Like most issues in Nigeria, the challenge here is implementation. From establishing the National Animal Husbandry and Ranches Commission to the structure of leadership and how workers will be employed will play an important role in the success of this bill which has already been met with stiff opposition. No doubt, this is supposed to be a good initiative considering all the news from different parts of Nigeria on different fatal farmer-herder clashes and the associated conflicts and casualties including the impact on food supply in Nigeria.

Hence, cattle routes in Nigeria in the 21st century should not even be a thing to debate because many technologically advanced livestock countries of the world have moved past the use of cattle routes. Namely, India, the Netherlands, China, and the United States have embraced advanced livestock management supported by government-backed commissions in organizing the entire process. So, the question is why can't Nigeria have that? If well implemented, the business side of it will open up, not just to more Nigerians but to potential international investors and different collaborations from other related business interests due to the success of such a commission.

Nonetheless, Nigeria is a very complicated society. This seems easier said than done because by the time the process begins issues like tribalism, religion, quota system and other "very Nigerian" complications could become major stumbling blocks. What needs to happen now is to get more Nigerians on board - ordinary, everyday Nigerians - there should be an open forum where opinions are shared, a transparent platform for suggestions from different parts of Nigeria this should include the herders, the farmers, community - instead of operating in a bubble from start to early stages of implementation.

So Yes, the ban on unregulated open grazing is long over due.

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