By Nnamdi Odumody
Recently, Nigeria has turned into a theatre of bloodshed, as the survival of cattle reared by Fulani herdsmen in the predominantly Northern region has led to loss of lives. This paralysis is partly a result of the shrinking Lake Chad, in the Chad Basin Sahel Region, leading to herders migrating down to the fertile plateau of the Middle Belt and the coastal Southern Region. Also, rapid urbanization has led to the loss of previous grazing reserves that were mapped out by colonial administration for cattle farmers.
All over the world, countries that are economically dependent on cattle to an extent like Botswana, Uruguay and Argentina have adopted advanced technologies to boost cattle rearing. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case here due to the fact that Fulani cattle farmers are not educated to utilize and adopt these methods which have transformed the sector around the world.
But while we in Nigeria are still dependent on cattle, as our primary source of protein, the future of cattle is bleak, as environmentalists and food technologists concerned about climate change have created a paradigm shift, because if cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter. Beef uses 33 percent of all water for farm animal production which is not sustainable in a region threatened by desertification that has led to loss of arable land. Twenty five percent of earth’s land area is pastureland while the demand for beef is projected to grow by 95 percent in 2050.
A company known as Memphis Meats develops technology to engineer real meat, without animals, by farming animal cells in a lab without the need to feed, breed and slaughter livestock. Its technology requires up to 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, land and water than conventionally produced meat.
Also in replacing cattle leather, Modern Meadow applies advances in tissue engineering to produce cultured leather that requires no animal slaughter and much lower inputs of land, water and chemicals than conventional methods. The process is called biofabrication. It uses living cells to grow collagen, the same natural protein found in animal skin, assemble it into a sheet of synthetic leather and finish the aesthetics with a tanning process.
With the two examples above, it is evident that the demand for cattle, globally, will shrink in coming years due to environmental concerns as people are becoming more conscious of practices which are harmful to the environment causing carbon emissions.
The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore group which is the umbrella body of all the Fulani herdsmen needs to study global developments which are aiding smart cattle rearing using advanced technologies like the Internet Of Things and Blockchain. They technologies help to notify farmers of changes in weather patterns which could affect their cattle from getting access to food and water as they move from one location to the other while tracking their cattle in real time, and responding to threats like cattle rustlers, etc. Government has a role to help these farmers to redesign their processes to ensure the endless killings stop in Nigeria.