By Emmanuel Ugwu
Umuahia — As Abia State ponders on the best way out of the menace of herdsmen, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has said that the establishment of ranches by Abia citizens would discourage open grazing and end the destruction of crops by cattle.
He stated this yesterday on live radio interview, saying that he would pay N1 million grant as incentive to encourage anyone who heeded his call to set up a ranch or engage in commercial animal husbandry.
Ikpeazu also urged the people to revive the culture of engaging in animal husbandry by rearing local species of cow, goats, grass cutters, and chicken to expand sources of meat protein instead of relying much on beef.
He noted that if ranches spring up in Abia, it would minimise the incidents of clashes between herdsmen and farmers as animals would no longer be roaming about in free range system.
Alluding to the anti-grazing bill now before the state House of Assembly, Ikpeazu pointed out that a law against open grazing would not on its own completely solve the problem of herdsmen/farmer conflicts because of problem of implementation just like other laws in the country.
The governor, who was speaking on various issues, including his government’s policy thrust on agriculture, said he would like the people of Abia to suppress their appetite for foreign rice and embrace locally produced rice.
He said he has already stopped eating foreign rice and would love to give locally produced rice to workers to celebrate Christmas, adding that there was no reason for Nigerians not to grow what the food they eat.
Explaining the governor’s position, later the Commissioner for Information, Mr. John Okiyi Kalu, told journalists that Ikpeazu was very passionate about enhancing food production in Abia and was indeed encouraging people to embrace farming irrespective of their profession.
He said the Abia chief executive was also interested in returning Abia to the era of oil palm production and has put in place good incentives to revive the oil palm plantations which were the live wire of the economy of the defunct Eastern Region.
Okiyi, who described palm oil as “oil of peace,” noted that aside from being a huge source of foreign exchange, it has never been a source of conflict or environmental degradation like crude oil.
He urged Abians to heed the call by the chief executive of the state to embrace farming, adding that the present administration in Abia was supporting agriculture in many ways and has keyed into various programmes of the federal government to enhance food production.