It is no news that a strong growing sustainable economy is the goal of every nation. To set Nigeria’s economy on a path of rebirth and recovery, there is a need for a diversification of the economy for growth in all sectors. Building a sustainable economy is now more important than ever.
The contribution of the agricultural sector cannot be overemphasised. Enhancing agricultural productivity contributes to industrial growth by providing cheap labour, capital investment, foreign exchange and the market for manufactured consumer goods. Investment in livestock may raise agricultural production and rural incomes to yield a return on the capital investment in various ways like livestock diversification, extending the land areas utilised, either by grazing previously unused areas or by using animal draught to extend the area under cultivation, thereby making beneficiaries of land reform expand crop production.
While cattle rearing in many African countries contribute 20-30% of the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AG GDP), in countries such as Botswana, Mauritania and Namibia, this may reach 80% (Oluwafemi, et al, 2001). Cattle today are the basis of the multi-billion dollar agricultural industry worldwide. The international trade in beef for the year 2000 was over $30 billion and represented only 23% of the world beef production. The production of milk, which is also made into cheese, butter, yoghurt, and other dairy products, is comparable in economic size to beef production and provides an important part of the food supply for many of the world’s people. Cattle hides used for leather to make shoes, couches and clothing are another widespread product. Cattle are also being used as draft animals in many developing countries.
As reported by Uzonwanne in ‘’Economic Diversification in Nigeria in the Face of Dwindling Oil Revenue’’, the positive relationship between economic growth in Nigeria and diversification of other sectors, when there was proper management of human resources, huge investment and concentration on agriculture recorded a vibrant and healthy economy in Nigeria.
It is estimated that Nigeria has a population of about 13.9 million cattle, and the larger proportion of these animals’ population is however concentrated in the northern region of the country, specifically about 90 per cent of the country’s cattle population (Adebowale, 2012). The concentration of Nigeria’s livestock based in the northern region is most likely to have been influenced by the ecological condition of the region, which is characterised by low rainfall duration, lighter sandy soils and a longer dry season. This is predicated by the fact that drier tropics or semi-arid regions are more favourable to the ruminants. Although no breed of cattle is peculiar to the southern humid region of Nigeria, the available cattle in the region are due to the settlement of the Hausa/Fulani pastoralists, who constitute the main cattle rearers in the region.
Economically, these animals serve as a source of income-earning to major ruminants’ dealers, sellers of live animals and butchers/meat sellers; generates employment and creates markets for a larger number of people who explore the animals’ product and by-products for economic gains. Meat constitutes the foremost animal product that is highly explored by Nigerian households, particularly for direct consumption and as such, the ruminants, especially cattle, constitute the major and cheapest source of meat consumption for most households in Nigeria. About 1million cattle are annually slaughtered for meat, this suggests heavy dependence on cattle for meat consumption by households in the country. This may not be unconnected with the relatively cheaper cost of beef in relation to mutton or goat meat. However, The movement of herdsmen and subsequent clashes with farmers and host communities in recent times has heightened insecurity in Nigeria, particularly in the North Central region and by extension in other parts of the country. The driving force of the clashes is the competition for available resources, especially grazing land. It seems that the government has abandoned the grazing reserve system created by the Northern region government in 1965. The government created over 417 grazing reserves in the north. Under the grazing reserve system, the government provided space, water and vaccinations for the livestock while the herdsmen paid taxes to the government in return. Subsequently, the grazing reserve system was abandoned due to the neglect of the agricultural sector as the mainstay of the country’s economy (Egbuta, 2018).
Consequently, grazing reserves that were under a neglected agricultural sector could not be sustained and received little or no attention from succeeding administrations. As a fall-back, herdsmen began to resort back to their traditional and seasonal grazing routes which had been interrupted or interfered with by industrialisation, urbanisation, demographic and other natural factors. This then led to clashes and conflict with farmers and host communities. These conflicts have been on the increase in recent times and now constitute one of the major threats to Nigeria’s national security.
To curb the problem, the government may need to deploy a Joint Task Force comprising of all security agencies to all the affected states as an immediate response to the conflict, government should also revisit the 1965 Northern Region Government’s Grazing Reserve System and remodel it to deal with contemporary threats. There is also a need to encourage community policing leveraging on the already existing vigilante system in most states. Community policing will help in intelligence gathering about the conflict while civil police would respond to such threats. The government should also consider engagement with the relevant stakeholders.