The Nigerian Farmers Group and Cooperative Society, NFGCS, on Thursday, initiated the Hydroponic Livestock Fodder Programme, HLFP, to eliminate open grazing and persistent herders/farmers clashes in the country. This progrmame was made known by the National Coordinator, NFGCS, Mr. Retson Tedheke, while speaking on the positive impact the programme will make in the agricultural sector, national security and peace. He said the basic solution to tackle herders/farmers clashes is to have community integration and not to demonise parties involved in the conflict but to be part of the solution. According to him, open grazing was not sustainable, because more Nigerians are going into farming, there is exponential population growth in Nigeria, where people need a home and more lands will be opened, hence the Hydroponic Livestock Fodder Programme will go a long way to help in livestock development.
NFGCS has already started cultivating plants through the hydroponic system for the programme, which the farm has been into ranching with over 1, 000 cattle. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, but with less water under particular shed and temperature. He said: “First and foremost the most effective solution to tackle herders-farmers clash is in community integration. I have often said that you cannot create a solution to a problem when you demonise the parties involved in the solution. “The Hausa/Fulani man is never the problem of this country neither is the farmer. The question is not how do the cow feeds, but how to take the Fulani man out of this tradition of taking his cows for open grazing? “Open grazing will not work going forward why because more Nigerians are going into farming, and the birth increase is also there and the population is increasing. So you are going to have more people that need a home and more lands that will be opened. “So what do we do as a Ga’ate project? What we did as Ga’ate project is to bring the Fulanis, Hausas, Madas, and Eguns on a table, and we told them in this 3, 000 hectares we have you are going to be the custodians yourselves; you work in the farm, create grazing reserve in the farm, in respect of what we are doing for you protect the farm, and they did that but that was temporary because as long as they have cows they will always look for how they can take care of their cow. So what did we do?
We started the Cow Hydroponic Fodder Pogramme, and in the Hydroponic Fodder Programme we have a Fulani man who is learning how to grow grass every seven days without soil for their cows. “And we localized the concept of growing grass every seven days for the cows so the Fulani man is beginning to understand that he can build a hydroponic unit with wood and zinc, use the basket to plant the grass, and not just that he can also use a borehole that will not cost too much to water the hydroponic unit to feed about 200 cows in their ruga. “In understanding that what we have done is simple, making him part of the solution and not part of the problem, so today, and going forward we are setting up using a Fulani ruga as an example, a platform and show-glass for all the seven Fulani communities around the farm. “We are giving them a borehole costing us N1 million but we do that as a sacrifice for them to understand what needs to be done. We are also building a hydroponic unit for them. So a borehole, hydroponic unit and baskets, and they begin to plant.” According to him for every one kilogramme of maize planted in seven days you will harvest over 7kg of the seeds, stems and leaves forming high nutrient and fresh food for the cattle. He further stated that during the visit of Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, to NFGCS’s 3, 000 hectares farm estate realized that the programme, policies, and processes directed towards making the National Livestock Transformation Programme, NLTP, work, was seen practically based on what the government was designing were already implementing at its Ga’ate Farm Estate. “The problem associated with farmers and herders is where the herders have their support structure and the farmers have their land to cultivate. Once you are able to isolate the cows and you have a feeding system that takes care of the cows then you will never have a problem. “Meanwhile, I am a member of Miyetti Allah, I have 1, 000 cattle but even in Miyetti Allah, the narrative is not sustained open grazing, but structural processes that are capable of ensuring that cows are fed. That section of the Nigerian agro sector is viable for profitability, sustainability, and cultural integration. “Let us not forget in the 40s and 50s cows represented more than 70 per cent of revenue generated with regards to agriculture. So we should look at what animal husbandry can do, create an integrated system that would be part of the solution of the national crisis between farmers and herders.
On the sustainability of the programmed initiated he explained that “If you talk about sustainability, the Cow Fodder Feed Programme is very sustainable. Look at it in context. If you take 100kg of maize and then plant them using the hydroponic programme, the minimum you will get is 500kg of food for the cows. “If a 100kg of maize cost N16, 000 per bag, you process it to feed the cow and that the cow consumes N16, 000 of 100kg of feed that means you cannot feed 10, 000 cows a day, now you are converting that 100kg feed to 500kg of fresh food and what you are doing is you are practically reducing the cost of feeding more than 50 per cent with the hydroponic programme. “Secondly, whether its raining or there is the sun, or whether your soil is good or bad, you can plant all year round. So sustainability is not an issue and viability is not a problem. “The sustainability of the project itself is that the cows themselves must feed, the Fulanis must look for solutions in feeding the cows and there is no better solution to feed the cows than a solution that revolves around land-ownership, massive planting of grasses, maize and other crops available, and a feeding regime that ensures that every seven days you can harvest, and harvesting seven days I do not need land to plant, what I need is a basket that is wet to plant.”