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Reps Seek Revival Of Abandoned Farm Settlements To Address Farmer-Herder Crisis

The House of Representatives is debating the National Agricultural Land Development Authority Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to revitalise and create new farm settlements.

The legislation is titled, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Agricultural Land Development Authority Act, Cap. N4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to manage and Develop Farm Settlements, Increasing Membership of the Governing Board, Expanding Functions, and for Related Matters.”

Babatunde Adejare, a lawmaker from Lagos State’s Agege Federal Constituency, who sponsored the bill that passed its second reading on Wednesday, recalled that the proposal passed its first reading on April 13, 2022.

History has it that the leadership of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of the defunct Western Region, between 1955 and 1960, designed a five-year development plan that made him and other top officials in the region visit Israel and understudy the Middle Eastern country’s agricultural programme, codenamed “Moshav.”

Twenty farm settlements and five agricultural institutes were established across the region in 1959, based on the report of the study.

Adejare said the bill was seeking to modernise the Awolowo template to reflect the current realities in the country. He stated that farm settlements would not only address the issue of farmer-herder clashes, which had resulted in the loss of many lives and unquantifiable property destruction, but they would also ensure food security and job creation.

Speaking to our correspondent in an interview, Adejare said, “To tell you how it is going to help in stopping farmer-herder clashes, if you have settlements like this one, we are saying let us start with each geo-political zone. Allow the Federal Government to begin establishing farm settlements in geopolitical zones manned and populated by indigenous people.

“The herders, too, can have farm settlements that will be just for them (livestock) alone. There are better ways of managing these cattle. Whether we like it as a people or not, we have to go to that better way, because this cannot continue the way it is. You cannot be taking cattle from Niger (Republic) and thinking that you will take them through the bushes and the cities to South Africa. They do it; they go as far as the Sahel. That cannot continue anymore. It cannot continue like that.

Settlements

“We are human beings, and we have brains to think. If you are doing something and there are other ways to do them and get better results but you still want to hold on to that primitive, archaic way of doing things, no, that is not why God gave us brains. God gave us brains to think and to progress in our lives. If we do it (settlements) properly, it should address the problem. Let them turn the settlements in their areas into ranches.”

The regime led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had intensified efforts to revive colonial-era grazing routes in many states across the country, which was widely condemned.

Amidst the growing tension across the country over herder-farmer clashes, the Federal Government introduced the controversial Rural Grazing Area Scheme in July 2019, which caused more controversy and forced its suspension.

Two years after RUGA’s suspension, the government introduced a replacement scheme called the Livestock Intervention Programme.

Adejare also decried the gap between academic researchers and farmers, urging the government, especially at the local level, to invest in agriculture.

He said, “A lot of farmers out there are practising what is called subsistence farming. They just farm what they will eat. No, farming has gone past that. We must find a way of mechanising farming, even at their level.

“Nothing is preventing the local government chairmen from taking part of their resources to buy bulldozers and tractors. Don’t give it to the farmers; clear the land and let them pay administrative charges. You will find out that our agricultural production will multiply by many folds.

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