THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar during his now famous debate with Kadaria Ahmed’s The Candidates introduced a new terminology when he was asked what he was going to do to solve the infamous farmer/herders conflicts.

He said he was going to encourage feedlots. What is a feedlots? Feedlot is a confined yard area with watering and feeding facilities, where cattle are fed for the purpose of beef or dairy production. Cattle raised in feedlots are highly nutritious and are fit for export. According to Atiku, feedlots will be established across the country.

He said, farmers/herdsmen crisis is an old problem, dating back to the days of the prophets. America faced the same problem, eventually, the solution is the establishment bof feeding lots all over the country. “I believe that the best solution to the farmers/herders clashes is to try and enlighten our herdsmen on the use of feeding lots. These feeding lots can conveniently be established all over the country.” He said. Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, farmers/herdersmen violence has killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands more.

Desertification and soil degradation breakdown in traditional conflict resolution mechanisms of land and water disputes and proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas.

Insecurity and violence have led many people to create self-defence forces and ethnic and tribal militias, which have engaged in further violence. The majority of farmers/herdersmen clashes have occurred between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian peasants, exacerbating ethnoreligious hostilities.

According to the Global Terrorism Index, Fulani militants were the fourth deadliest terrorist group in 2014, using machine guns and attacks on villages to assault and intimidate farmers.

After killing around 80 people in total from 2010 to 2013, they killed 1,229 in 2014. Most deaths occurred in the Nigerian Middle Belt, in particular in the states of Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, which recorded 847 deaths.

Zamfara state, recorded 229 deaths. In addition to terrorist attacks, Fulani militants were also involved in non-state armed conflicts with groups from Eggon, Jukun and Tiv farming communities. These conflicts resulted in over 800 deaths by 2015. The year 2016 saw further incidents in Agatu, Benue and Nimbo, Enugu State.

In April 2018, Fulani gunmen killed 19 people during an attack on the church, afterwards they burnt dozens of nearby homes. In June 2018, over 200 people have died and 50 houses were burnt in clashes between farmers and Fulani cattle herders in Plateau State. In October 2018, Fulani herdsmen killed at least 19 people in Bassa. By 2018, over 2000 people were killed in those conflicts. On 16 December 2018, Militants believed to be Fulani herdsmen attacked a village in Jema’a, killing 15 people and injuring at least 24 others, the attack occurred at a wedding ceremony.

In recent times, the issue of violent clashes and instability between farmers and nomadic  herdsmen  across  the  regions  in  Nigeria  has  become  a  major  focus  to  the Nigerian   Government,   International   and   National   or   indigenous   development organizations.  This  to  a  large  extent,  if  not  nipped  in  the  bud,  may  affect  the achievement  of  Sustainable  Development  Goal  2  which  aims  at  ending  hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

The clashes, instead of abating have been on the increase exponentially to the dismay of helpless Nigerians. However, in spite of the spate of violent clashes between nomadic  herdsmen  and  farmers  in  Nigeria,  adequate social  research  attention  has  not been   given   to   the   demographic   implications of  these   clashes   considering   the tremendous population increase.

However, some experts in the livestock farming industry believe the adoption of feedlots for housing cattle could bring about a lasting solution to the farmers/herdsmen clashes.

The use of open outdoor feedlots for housing large numbers of cattle is increasing in many parts of the world. In these systems cattle are kept in large outdoor pens on a soil surface.

One major welfare concern associated with this type of housing is keeping cattle clean and preventing muddy conditions. If the annual rainfall exceeds 20 in (51 cm).

It is more difficult to keep the surface dry. In dry parts of the world with low rainfall, it is much easier to keep cattle clean and dry. Another issue is heat stress, and there are warmer parts of the world where shade may be required.

The third issue is handling and vaccinating large numbers of cattle. In the U.S. this is an area where conditions have improved because management is now more aware about animal welfare. There are three major outcome based measurements that should be used to assess cattle welfare in open feedlots.

They are: scoring of hide cleanliness, panting scoring for heat stress and numerical scoring of cattle handling practices. In many countries outside of Europe beef cattle are housed for fattening in large outdoor pens on a soil surface. Outdoor feedlot housing is becoming more popular. It is important for people interested in animal welfare to learn more about these systems.

One of the major stakeholders in the livestock farming industry, Chief Emmanuel Ogunnaike, while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on the importance of feedlots as soultion to the farmers/herdsmen clashes said:”Feedlots and ranching are now the order of the day in cattle production in almost all developed nation of world.

“USA, Germany, UK, Israel and many others are into cattle ranching rather than grazing. Ranching and feedlots are more results-oriented and profitable in terms of milk yield, production and feed conversion of the animals”.

He further stated that:”Under Nigerian factor the motives and the underlining factor behind clashes of cattle herdsmen and farmers is what should be looked into. Whether there is going to be solutions to the problems of the herdsmen depends on the aims and objectives as per agenda in place or being nursed”. He concluded.

An animal scientist and the President, Pig Farmers Association of Nigeria, Professor Kingsley Adesehinwa, noted that:”As long as the land is acquired by the Federal Government and then maybe given to farmers at a cost then it is a welcome development.

“But in a situation whereby it is just given out and not acquired then definitely it is still going to come back to the same thing. When we are talking of feedlot as solution, For the best thing is for government to bring about whoever is interested in cattle rearing to own ranches.

“When they have ranches, which is perfect that is where there are different kind of grasses that can serve as feeds so that they can be grazed on by animals under restriction. But when the animals are not under restrictions, it is still going to amount to the same problem.”

A livestock expert and the Managing Director, Real People Concept, Mr Tunmisi Olagbaju, said feedlot can be a part of solution. “Feedlot can solve herdsmen and farmers clashes but it requires that feeding of the animals be made a priority because there must be feeds for the animals at all time.

“If the animals are not moving then the farmer must be able to provide feeds for his cattle at the feedlot. Like the project we are going to run in Oyo which we are having a field day on Tuesday, the Federal Government has funded the project whereby we are considering cassava peel and cassava leaves to feed cattle.

“The key thing at the feedlot is that feed must be provided at all time. And I also want to say here that it is important that for our cattle production encourage the conversion of agro bi-products to cattle feed will be of great help for this process because at the feedlot the animals need feeds to be supplied so that they can increase their weight and their cacass yield can improve and at the end the farmers will be happy and smile to the bank.”