Selective and isolated farming methods have made farms attractive for cattle to graze upon in the South-East region.
The former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika,( retd.) adduced these reasons during the inaugural economic empowerment event by the Amaba Daughters Association in the Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State.
During the occasion, eight women and two men were empowered financially by the women to start businesses of their choice.
Addressing them, Ihejirika, who regretted that farming had been abandoned for several years for other trades, while most farmlands had turned into forests, noted that the cattle did not see the farmlands as farms but as forest, pointing out that only when farms were cultivated in large quantities or as cooperatives that the cattle would shun destruction.
“I believe that if in our communities (in the South-East), people come together, clear sizeable areas and make their farms in form of cooperatives and not isolated farms, it will be easier to relate with other interest groups like herdsmen and local governments. But if they farm in communities or as cooperatives, they should also be able to relate with herdsmen who have already organised themselves also in form of cooperatives,” he said.
The former army boss said government empowerment had been ineffective. He said it should come in forms of infrastructure, including access roads to the farmlands, clearing of the forests, adding, “Only when these things are done will people be encouraged to venture into farming, particularly in our area that is rain forest.”
Advising youths on farming, the former COAS pointed out, “Abia in particular and South-East in general have been a model for other areas (in farming). If we go back to the Michael Okpara era, it was in the South-East that he established farm settlements, which came with schools, cooperatives and arrangements that government even bought off products for export.
“So, the role of government is very important. The best government can give to the youths is to encourage them in farming. The stipend they can give the youths will come to nothing if there is no access road, cleared forest turned to farmlands, and they do not have, perhaps, the necessary education. Government at all levels should clear large areas of forest and turn them into farms and hand them over to those youths or entrepreneurs who have genuine interest in agriculture.”