June3 , 2023

Regulatory Guidelines For Cattle Ranching and Grazing Reserves in Nigeria



Regulatory Guidelines For Cattle Ranching and Grazing Reserves in Nigeria

By Stephen Bello




Clashes between farmers and herders in Nigeria has become a recurring incidence and the rate seems to be in the increase in recent times. It appears the word FORGIVENESS is not in the dictionary of both parties hence the almost vicious cycle of attacks and counter- attacks. This prompted the historic meeting of southern governors in Asaba recently. It is a pointer to the gravity of the problem and the desperation by everybody to find a permanent and lasting solution to the problem. The governors took a decision to ban open grazing in their states, this is in tandem with an earlier Northern governors’ declaration that open grazing has outlived its usefulness.

That is an indication of a de facto consensus. However the federal government, according to the President’s aids, has preference for GRAZING RESERVES, even though we did not hear it from the horses’ mouth. Well, whether it is RANCHING or grazing reserve, the important thing is that both parties have now agreed that this is the beginning of the end for open grazing in Nigeria. The two methods can co-exist seamlessly in the country and it is now a matter of preference by individuals or groups. A state may even decide that both ranching and grazing reserve can co-exist side by side. As the Hausa saying goes ‘kowa da nasa, ai ba fada’.


Definitely, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If this matter is finally resolved in the next few months, Muhammadu Buhari will forever be remembered as the President in whose time the problem of herders-farmers clash was finally resolved; just as Olusegun Obasanjo is today being remembered as the president that gave Nigerians telephones.

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My main aim in this write up is to suggest the various legal instruments and regulatory provisions that should be put in place in order to actualise this historic consensus and agreement on how to resolve our common problem. I have been involved in regulation for several years and I know the importance of these things.

Most countries in the world try to rear cattle in areas where it is most efficient to do so. I remember my geography lessons in Kufena College, Zaria in the 60’s, two of such places are the Prairies in the American Midwest and the Pampas of Argentina. America employs two methods of cattle breeding; an enclosed ranch in which the cows don’t move around but are supplied with special animal feeds consisting mainly of maize and soya beans. In a recent documentary on DSTV I saw a ranch in the Kentucky State in which 50,000 cows were kept in an enclosed area of about 5 acres or so, real high density breeding. The method used in Texas is very different, because of availability of land and low population density, ranches there consist of open grasslands five kilometers in length. Cowboys on horses drive the cows in open fields where they feed on natural grass and no arable farming is allowed in such areas. This method is also used in Argentina, Australia and Scottish highlands in UK.

My suggestion is that Nigeria should adopt both methods of cattle farming. Where land is scarce, enclosed ranches supplied with animal feeds should be used and where there is surplus land, open grazing with natural raw grass can be used. This flexibility will enable a compromise to be achieved and also accommodate all shades of opinion and preferences. Where there is a will, there is always a way.

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Let us now look at the various legal and regulatory issues that should be addressed in order ensure successful implementation of the compromise solutions proposed above.

In his recent comment, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria advised that all 36 State Houses of Assembly in the 36 states must enact a law to back up the policy regarding the phasing out of open grazing in their respective states. Thereafter they should specify the approved method of cattle rearing that can be used either ranches or open grazing or both. Below are my suggestions on certain issues that must be addressed by these laws among others.

Definition of terminologies: The Act must fully define all major terminologies used in order to avoid ambiguities. For example the words ranch and open grazing must be well defined in order not to confuse the two. A ranch is an enclosed cattle breeding industry in which the animals don’t move around to source food and water for themselves, but are fed by human beings with specially prepared animal feeds, or natural green grass or hay(dry grass). The size of a ranch can vary from one acre of land to 3 or 4 acres. The maximum size of a ranch must be specified in the Act.

A grazing reserve is a cattle breeding industrial location in which the animals are allowed to move around and source food and water for themselves from natural vegetation without human assistance or human intervention. The size of a grazing reserve can vary from about one square kilometre, to about 25 square kilometres (ie 5Km by 5Km). Reserves normally have multiple tenants and are usually established by government.

Other provisions of the law must include the following:

Effective date of the law, those responsible for enforcing the law, appropriate courts for tryingoffenders, what constitutes an offence and penalty for the offence, who has authority to grant land for ranches (Governor or LGA Chairman), tenure duration, tenure renewal, rights privileges of cattle farmers, offences that may lead to land revocation, need to pay token land rent (amount in regulation), need for a secured fence for ranches, method of demarcating and protecting grazing reserves, minimum distance between a ranch and nearest human settlement, right of government to inspect ranches and reserves etc. A department in the Ministry of Agriculture or an independent parastatal that will register, monitor, regulate the ranches or grazing reserves. Professional lawyers will know additional issues that should be addressed by the law.

Enacting a law is the first step in the process, however, laws should be supported with subsidiary regulations. Regulations help to achieve two purposes; they help to avoid misinterpretation and misapplication of parent laws enacted by parliament. Secondly, they contain and disseminate lighter conditions and rules which may require frequent changes. Today because of historical antecedents, legacy issues and unpleasant precedence, most villagers and rural land owners are reluctant to lease their land to non-natives. Their fear is that the land may be turned into a settlement and after two or three generations the settlers may claim ownership of the land or appoint a king- bale, eze or sarki.

In some cases they may even agitate for their own local government area. Such cases have led to serious communal clashes and a thorn in the flesh of National Boundary Commission. To avoid such fears, I am recommending provisions in the subsidiary regulationand safeguards, that will pre-empt such developments and give the land-owner and communities assurance that they will not forfeit their land nor will the land be turned to an illegal satellite village. Hence the regulation should contain the following provisions:

1. No residential building should be erected on a ranch or grazing reserve. All employees of the ranch or reserve should live in the surrounding villages or cities and transport themselves to the ranches when reporting for duty. Gate houses and security post can however be built to provide shelter for the security personnel in case of inclement weather. Government regulatory agency for ranching will have the right to demolish any structure that violates this condition and repeated breach of this condition will constitute a ground for revocation of land permit for the ranch or expulsion from the grazing reserve.

2. Structures erected as cattle sheds or milking areas can only have permanent wall that are not more than 1 meter in height, that is in addition to the roof supporting pillars. Such structures will be subject to approval by the regulatory authority. Stores or cattle sheds made of temporary architectural material such as tents, canopy or prefab may be allowed subject to approval and on condition that they will not be turned into accommodation for human beings.

3. All ranches must have a fence along their perimeter strong enough to prevent cattle from breaking through and straying into residential areas or surrounding farmlands. Also all grazing reserves should be demarcated by an untarred road around its perimeter and planted with suitable vegetation that can stop cattle from straying outside the grazing reserve. An earth moat or a trench can also be used for the demarcation. All roads crossing the grazing reserve boundary must have manned security gates to check unauthorised exit by cows or unauthorised entry by cattle rustlers

4. A buffer zone of 50 meters round should separate a ranch from the nearest residential area or farmland. The perimeter road will act as buffer for grazing reserves.The road must not be used as a public highway.

5 Prior to a land revocation order, the cattle rancher or tenant in a grazing reserve must first be informed about any breach of regulatory conditions and given opportunity to remedy the breach. Failure to make changes after two reminders within a three-month interval, will lead to a revocation notice. This is to protect the investor against arbitrary revocation orders as a result of political bias or other frivolous reasons.

6 All land leases for cattle breeding must be supported by a standard contract that guarantees protection for the land owner and the cattle farmer alike. The above laws should apply to both lease-hold and free-hold premises use for cattle farming.


Now that conditions for smooth acquisition of land for cattle farming is understood, we can now turn our attention to another critical success factor, which is finance. There is always a cost associated with every law or regulation that requires compliance. Therefore, those who make laws or draft regulations must put the cost of compliance into consideration when enacting laws. From an economic point of view, cattle farming is a world-wide multi-billion dollar industry. There are approximately 1.5 Billion cattle in the world, out of which about 12 million are in Nigeria according to Statista.com. In comparison there are 3 billion pigs and 6 billion chickens world wide.

A cattle ranch or grazing reserve will require a borehole with stand-by generator or a water tanker to transport water from the nearest water source to the ranch or reserve. A water pipeline may be the best solution for a grazing reserve covering an area of say 10 square kilometres. The vicinity of lakes, dams or medium-size rivers are good locations for cattle farming in order to minimize cost of production. Cattle ranchers will have to buy food for their animals or set up subsidiary grass-producing farms to supply food to their cattle. In Sudan, a large portion of which is desert, farmers grow a protein-rich grass called Alfa Alfa along the banks of River Nile and transport it to cattle ranches in other parts of the country.

Consequently, transition from open grazing to ranching or grazing reserves will involve an initially high capital outlay and a moderate increase in running cost. Thereare three major implications of these requirements:

(1) Cattle farmers will need to raise finance to implement the new arrangement

(2) They will need some time to raise funds, acquire land and put necessary infrastructures in place in order to comply with the ban on open grazing. A time frame of 6 months to 18 months might be required. However the time frame can be shortened to 3 to 6 months if Central Bank and state governments raise special intervention funds (single digit loans) to accelerate the process. Kano state has promised land to cattle farmers wishing to invest in the state. Other states can provide incentives to attract those who want to invest in cattle ranching as that will boost the economy of the state through employment creation and other direct economic benefits. Those with large herds can sell part of their cattle stock to raise fund for the infrastructure they require. The above factors must be put into consideration as the various houses of assembly begin to put the necessary laws in place to end open grazing in Nigeria

3) At the end of the transition, changes to the price of cattle or meat will be inevitable. In the immediate term, the price of cow or meat will increase, so consumers of meat must be ready to pay more for the meat they consume. An average cow that costs 150,000 Naira today may rise to 180,000 or more because of the higher cost of inputs. On the other hand, if ranching is well managed and efficiency increases in the cattle industry, the long term effect is that prices will fall below present rates. Nigeria can in the near future begin to export meat to other countries. Infact, Brazil exports 12 Billion dollars worth of meat to Russia every year. Nigeria can achieve the same feat in a few years.

In conclusion, it is clear that the economic benefits of ending open grazing in Nigeria far outweigh the extra cost to be incurred in setting up ranches and grazing reserves. The plan, if fully implemented, will increase crop farming 5 fold as more farmers will be able to go back to the farm without the fear of AK47. Also food prizes will drop to half or even one quarter of current prices as at June, 2021. Apart from the lives of herders and farmers that will be saved since clashes between them will be eliminated. Cattle rustling will reduce drastically or even disappear altogether. Also cattle farmers will benefit from increase in meat and milk production and higher income and wealth. Each State Government and Aso Rock should pursue their preferred solution to the overall benefits of the nation.

Long live Nigeria

– Stephen Bello was Ag. EVC Nigerian Communications Commission..


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