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…Says no alternative to food security
By Magnus Eze
As the nation grapples with the perennial issue of herders-farmers’ clashes, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, has said government’s efforts at achieving national security, including the fight against insurgency in the North-East, would be meaningless without food security.
To this end, he is in the forefront of the quest of the Nigerian Army’s massive investment in the agriculture value chain through the Barracks Investment Initiative Programme (BIIP).
He disclosed that the Army was investing in livestock, fisheries, poultry and other aspects of agriculture, and, so far, the Army boasts of about 1,000 herds of cattle in its ranches in different formations across the country.
Buratai also disclosed that the Army recently acquired 436,000 hectares of land in Nasarawa State as pilot for its integrated farming project.
The Army chief made the disclosure when he showcased the Nigerian Army Farms and Ranches, Giri, Abuja, to the world, during the presentation of farm implements and items by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, last week.
“It is my desire to extend the frontiers of the Nigerian Army from physical security to include addressing the food security of the nation in line with Mr. President’s policy on agriculture. I believe agriculture would greatly reduce the high rate of unemployment among our teeming youths. It would also enhance the welfare and well-being of families of officers and soldiers all over the country,” thje COAS said.
He explained that the BIIP, which was his brainchild, was introduced to cultivate the culture of investment by officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army and their families in the agriculture value chain.
The programme, according to him, has produced positive results in the barracks communities, provided job opportunities to the youths in the barracks, wives of personnel as well as troops serving and retired.
Every barrack in the Nigerian Army, he said, specialises in one or more types of livestock breeding and farming, such as ranching, fisheries, poultry production for eggs and meat, green houses as well as plantations.
Speaking while conducting the minister and other guests round the ranch, Director, Nigerian Army Ranching, Major General C.G. Musa, explained that they convert rice stalks to livestock feed in the ranch.
He reiterated the readiness of the army to contribute its role in providing food for Nigerians, through the farms and ranches.
The agriculture minister was full of praise for the COAS and the Nigerian Army, assuring them of the continued support of his ministry.
Ogbeh, who emphasised that cattle ranching was the only way out of the clashes between herdsmen and farmers across the country, noted that Buratai and his men were showing the world that soldiers don’t only wage war but also promote permanent peace.
Aside from 25 tonnes of feed concentrate, feed-making machines and other items that Ogbeh presented to the Army, he also promised to support them with a 400-metre borehole for all-year water supply for the farm, plant trees to provide shade for the ranch as well as veterinary services.
To demonstrate his seriousness, the minister directed the relevant department in the ministry to establish scientific cattle multiplication process of artificial insemination in the ranch within two weeks.
“We can’t thank you enough. I have been telling people that this kind of initiative is the solution to these farmers-herdsmen’s clashes.
“We will stand by you; we will plant trees for you. When cows roam in the bush, they come in contact with different diseases. One of the reasons we don’t have enough meat and milk is because our cattle roam. This is something for us to be proud of as a country.
“We will bring you more machines for making feeds. We will send our team to you to commence artificial insemination to improve the breed of the cattle and milk production.
“To farmers, politicians, journalists, this is an example to follow,” he said.
The fresh milk connection
The Army boss disclosed that he was motivated into establishing ranches for the Nigerian Army by what he saw years back in Bangladesh, while on a course in that country’s National Defence College.
Buratai said: “I was in the National Defence College in Bangladesh, in their capital, Dhaka. I went there with my daughter who was about eight years old then. While in the accommodation, every week, the Bangladesh Army Ranch officials would come to knock at our doors to deliver 2-3 litres of milk to my daughter from the army ranch. I was actually taken aback, and I said, if the Bangladesh Army can do this, why can’t we do it?
“So, I was motivated not knowing that I would one day be appointed Chief of Army Staff. Behold, it was one of the first projects that I directed for its implementation. Actually, it started with the ranches before we went into other areas like poultry, fisheries, vegetable growing and the rest.”
He applauded Major General Adekunle Shodunke, whom he said started the ranching project in the Nigerian School of Military Engineering, Makurdi, Benue State, and gathered about 300 herds of cattle there within three months.
While assuring of the army’s readiness to support the Federal Government’s efforts to stabilise the herders-farmers’ clashes across the country; the COAS declared “We will ensure that once there is stability; once there’s peace, this development in agriculture will thrive for the development of our country.”