Uche Sylva-Aladi is the chairman/CEO Divine Reward and Services Limited. He speaks to journalists on ways to arrest herders and farmers clashes in the country and says grass farming is the new way to make money.
The minister of agriculture has been severally been criticised for his suggestion for importation of grass, what is your view about this?
Those criticisms came out of ignorance, he was actually explaining to Nigerians the problems we are faced with and how to go about solving the problems and the opportunities available in the problem we had, but instead of people discovering the opportunities available, they went on critisising. Our Company, Divine Reward Services discovered this opportunity and tapped into it. In the past two years we have gone into cultivation, establishment of pasture, grazing and to solve the insecurity between the herdsmen and crop producers in Nigeria and to also make profit from the business.
So you see the growing of grasses as a solution to the conflicts?
Yes, because over 50% of what it takes to rear animal to maturity is provision of feed and more than 50% of what is required in cattle’s feed is grass and this grasses are available in Nigeria. The lands are fertile to grow this grasses, but the pastures land have not been created for the nomadic farmers to grow grass and restrict them to stay in a particular place to feed their animals, that is why they are moving from one place to another in search of grass, from season to season. If pasture land had been created in all the states of the federation, nomadic farmers’ movement wouldn’t have occurred. So our company has come up with an idea by taking Nigeria seeds that produce grasses and animal feed to produce better beef and better milk. You can see samples of different types of seeds here, of course there are some foreign seeds but 90% of the seeds are local and our cattle like this type of grasses and are doing well in producing good milk and good beef.
As a business man, how viable would you say growing grass is?
Growing grass is a very viable business because the demand for cattle will continue to grow. The minister just mentioned the number of cattle produced in other country, we are yet to meet the demand of Nigerians and our population will continue to grow, the demand for cattle will continue to increase and the need to produce for grasses will continue to grow and any man or woman trying to make this a business will never regret it. Because we will be able to solve more than 50% of the cost of productions of animals in Nigeria, which is feeding
Could you give an idea of the cost of investment and what is there to benefit from farming grass?
With about N250,000, you can grow hectares of grass land, and with that amount you can feed up to an hundred cattle to maturity in that land. This will take an average price of N100,000 per cattle, which will amount about N10 million. We are doing rotational pasture. You can divide the hectare into about 10 plots which means the cattle will feed on a plot for a week, so before it come to the last pasture, the first would have to grow, because our grass regenerates in two to three weeks. So before grassing round the 10 plots, the grasses must have regenerated, so you can keep up to 100 cattle in one hectare and they would feed well.
Looking at the kind of herdsmen we have in Nigeria, do you see the Fulani’s patronise your grasses?
What the herdsmen are interested in are grasses for their cattle all year round so if you can provide the grasses for them, they would have no choice than to dance to your tune.
Do you think they would like to pay for what you are producing, considering they have been getting grass for free?
With what we are seeing, the investment is slow, that is why we are calling on the state and federal governments to push this idea. And when the Fulanis start benefiting from it, they would be discouraged from moving from one place to another, avoiding the risk of being bitten by snakes, wide animals, farmers fighting them, so government needs to push it.
What makes this grass different from others?
These grasses have high nutrients that help the cattle in terms of increasing milk supply, some are for fattening and some increase the meat supply. We have dry grass, elephant grass , corn grass and a whole lot of varieties. We also have a technology that can help, called soil water trap. It can retain water up to two years. With another of our product like a floor bond called polymer as a conditioner for soil that helps to grow the grass faster. In combination with water trap, it gives you express yield. So even in dry season, you can be sure that the grasses can grow to feed the cows all year round. Before the grass can take up to 100 days, but with water trap it shortens it. Within 35 to 40 days you have a sizeable that can be taken by the cow. Even when you cut, you can still harvest up to five times in a year.
Do you embark on pasture establishment and management?
Yes, we embarked on pasture establishment and management for individual farms and states.
Should policies still lay emphasis on grass and pasture cultivation or we should all together forget it?
That is very important, because many of our farmers, livestock and crop farmers are ignorant about this opportunity, that was why the federal government was being criticised when the issue of importing seed for pasture planting came up. So more enlightenment is needed.
So what is your advice to the federal and state governments?
Governments must come together and outline the steps to be taken as we are developing interest in establishing this pasture, other people should be encouraged to go into pasture farming so that herdsmen and crops farmers crisis will be solved. We are already in collaboration with Kano, Kebbi and Jigawa. We are sure with this, the problem of herdsmen will be a thing of the past.