Why US envoy Stuart Symington supports Ortom on ranching

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Monday got the support of United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stuart Symington, on his insistence that ranching, rather than open grazing is the best way to go for those involved in cattle rearing

The US ambassador, who visited Ortom at the Government House, Makurdi, to commiserate with the governor over the recent killings in Benue State by suspected herdsmen, said Nigeria could become one of the highest income earners from milk production if ranching is adopted by those involved in cattle business.

The ambassador told his hosts that he came from a family of farmers that used to graze cattle from Colorado in the U.S. to Texas every year until his family stopped moving cattle and learnt to take advantage of the land to rear their livestock.

“I come from a family of farmers and part of my family used to move cattle from one state called Colorado to another state called Texas every year and over time they changed until now the cow business that they do is very much one that takes advantage of the land and we have to move them on trucks.

“I had a great conversation the other day just outside the city of Jos with one of the great milk producers of the world, a company that produces milk. And I talked to the guy and he was mentioning to me that the milk that comes from the Fulani cattle could be incorporated into the milk produced here.

“Literally the future of the nation could be rich when the milk of those herders get fed to the sons and daughters of families and their vegetables get fed to the sons and daughters of the herders. I am happy that you are thinking in this direction Mr. Governor,” the US ambassador stated.

While appreciating the Ambassador for the visit, Ortom solicited reiterated his belief that ranching remains the major way of ending farmers/herdsmen clashes in the country.

“Let me on behalf of the government and people of Benue State welcome and appreciate your visit.

“We were glad when we learnt that you were coming to visit us because we look up to America for a lot of things. Today the presidential system of government that we practise, we borrowed it from America.

“I have been advocating ranching instead of the open grazing that we have in Nigeria today. And because of the shortage of land, the issue of open grazing has become a major security challenge, especially in my state.

“Frequently, there are clashes between farmers and herdsmen because the land is not there and my people are mostly farmers, so they find the herdsmen encroaching and trespassing on farmlands and thus destroying their crops and when they (the herders) are confronted, it turns into a fight, In the process, we have lost so much.

“I have been calling for the establishment of ranches just like it is done in America. Most of us look forward to a time when our governments at the federal and state levels will come together and find a lasting solution to this crisis, because it is not peculiar to Benue State alone.

“There are other states too that are affected. But to me, I see that ranching as it is done in America can solve the problem permanently because the land is not increasing but the population is increasing.

“When there were grazing routes in the 1950s, the total population of Nigeria was less than 40 million. Today, by the 2012 projections, we are over 170 million and by 2017, I am sure we will be hitting 200 million. So, it is a big challenge.

“While we want to support the herdsmen to graze and to rear cattle, it should not be at the detriment of the lives and property of our people,” he said.

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