The Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has said that the incessant clashes between farmers and cattle herdsmen in the country would be brought to an end in the next two years.
Speaking on Tuesday in Ilorin at the launching of the 2nd phase of Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE) programme at the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanism, (NCAM), the Minister said that the federal government would take a cue from Saudi Arabia by creating grazing areas in the country where the herdsmen would take care of their cattle.
“We will grow grass in the South to feed the cattle in the North, just as Saudi Arabia did,” he said.
Audu Ogbeh explained that if Saudi Arabia with the largest cattle ranch in the world can grow its grass for the cows in the United States of America, Nigeria should be able to do same. This solution is coming as a result of recent clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen in some southern parts of the country.
On Agriculture, he said:
“Our government would lobby banks to peg interest rate at five per cent instead of the current nine per cent, stating that nine per cent was too high as interest rate for farmers, adding that for people of Nigeria to feed well, agriculture must grow.
“So interest rate has to come down, if this is done, banks will have more loans to give and more farmers will be taking the loan because of the low rate,” Mr. Ogbeh said.
The Minister said a road map for the Ministry, as well as a soil map of the country would be developed to facilitate this, explaining that the soil map would enable farmers know the type of fertilizer suitable for their farms and its application for optimal yield. He further revealed that the Ministry was targeting three million metric tons of cocoa and planned to plant more castor trees, rice, sugar and wheat.
Commending the National Center for Agricultural Mechanism (NCAM), for its efforts in the mechanization of agriculture, the Minister said that no country can practice large scale agriculture without mechanization and therefore promised that the Federal Government would assist the center to improve on the tractors it developed lamenting that Nigeria has less than 300 tractors while the whole of Europe and USA are completely mechanized.
“We cannot develop agriculture by distributing cutlasses and hoes to the farmers, only one per cent of farms are produced by mechanized farming,” he said.
Mr. Ogbeh said that from available statistics, there are 800 million hectares of farm land in the world with 400 million of this from Africa. He said Nigeria has 79 per cent of farmland which translated to 92 sq km of land, adding that Nigeria is wealthy, as land is wealth everywhere.