I was insulted for suggesting importation of grass – Ogbeh

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh says the Federal Government is working toward setting up grazing reserves across the country to curb incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Ogbeh, who spoke at the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja, said he was called all sorts of names for suggesting the importation of grass for the creation of reserves, which would solve the conflict and boost milk production in the country.

He said that for many years, Nigeria failed to realise that herdsmen were also farmers.

“When we were busy making plans and supporting cassava and maize farmers, we did not make any provision for herdsmen.

“Ironically, as far back as 200 years ago, Sultan Mohammed Bello of Sokoto expressed fears on what is happening now.

“He said that the roaming of Fulani herdsmen to look for grasses for their cattle was not a way that could be sustained.

“We had grazing reserves in this country before and the cows were then properly fed and taken care of.

“When I was appointed as the minister, I suggested grass planting by importing grass but I was called all sorts of names. But you can’t have grazing reserves without grass.

“Brazil took grass from Africa 25 years ago and now, they are exporting same grass to Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has the largest dairy farm in the world; they have about 135,000 cows in one farm. They have the most comfortable cows in an air-conditioned environment.

“These cows produce fantastic milk in large quantities, which we now import into our country.

“We need to put our cattle in place so that a cow can produce 25 to 40 litres of milk per day. This can be achieved through setting up grazing reserves,’’ he said.

The minister, nonetheless, underscored the need for the government to protect farmers, saying that the ministry had been collaborating with Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Minister of Interior, retired Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, to address this issue.

Ogbeh said that the ministry was also working with Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in efforts to promote peaceful coexistence between herdsmen and farmers.

He said that he had apologised to farmers facing difficulties with herdsmen in their farms, promising that the government would soon address the situation.

On nutrition, the minister urged the citizens to eat balanced diets in order to curb malnutrition as well as its attendant health and economic implications.

(NAN)

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