FEA­TURES “They A rare will end up sell­ing the re­serves po­si­tion to elites like them­selves.

No graz­ing re­serve in Nige­ria has lived up to its prom­ise of a ful­filled life for the pas­toral­ists, says one scholar who thinks that the re­serves will be grabbed by Nige­ria’s elite

Daily Trust - - FEATURES - By Tadaferua Ujorha who was in Sokoto

Tukur Baba has the rich voice of an ac­tor, but this tall scholar who spe­cialises in the so­ci­ol­ogy of pas­toral so­ci­eties, isn’t act­ing when he con­tra­dicts the ar­gu­ments in favour of graz­ing re­serves, and his is a very rare po­si­tion when com­pared with pop­u­lar think­ing on the mat­ter. “The graz­ing re­serve con­cept has be­come very pop­u­lar. Peo­ple think the Fulbe will ben­e­fit from that, but I am very skep­ti­cal, for sev­eral rea­sons which are both his­tor­i­cal and prac­ti­cal,” he begins, “Let me start with the his­tor­i­cal. About 400 graz­ing re­serves have been iden­ti­fied in Nige­ria, but less than 10% or about 40 have been gazetted and made into law in the last 50 years. It’s not been very suc­cess­ful.”

Next, he com­ments on the chang­ing land­scape which is al­ready af­fect­ing the few re­serves which have been set up “There has been a huge pop­u­la­tion in­crease. It is get­ting in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to iso­late any area, and keep it as a re­serve. A fall out of this is that the graz­ing re­serves that have been set up are to­day a sorry sight. They have not been main­tained and have de­te­ri­o­rated so badly, and they have been en­croached upon by crop pro­duc­ers.”

High­light­ing the back­ground to this sit­u­a­tion, Baba ar­gues “The gov­ern­ment has not been able to pro­vide sup­port ser­vices, to im­prove on nat­u­ral pas­tures, or pro­vide vet­eri­nary ser­vices at the re­serves. To­day, these are al­most nonex­is­tent. The cat­tle dips and the dams have not been main­tained.” A lec­turer at the Us­man Dan Fo­dio Univer­sity, Sokoto, he states “if in fact to date, we have not been able to main­tain the few ones al­ready set up, a lot of them fed­eral gov­ern­ment owned, the prospects for the fu­ture are even bleak.”

Trained at ABU, East Anglia, and the Univer­sity of Mis­souri, Columbia, USA, from where he earned a PhD in so­ci­ol­ogy, he also takes a look at the mat­ter of sub­si­dies “We are liv­ing in an era of the with­drawal of sub­si­dies. Gov­ern­ment is try­ing to move away from the era of giv­ing sub­si­dies. A graz­ing re­serve is highly cap­i­tal in­ten­sive. You need dams, vet­eri­nary ser­vices, schools, and so many other things.”

Baba con­cludes “In the face of dwin­dling re­sources, is gov­ern­ment likely to sup­port such? My opin­ion is no. In­deed, there are many car­cases of road and build­ing projects all over our ur­ban ar­eas.”

He says “As I said it is a cap­i­tal in­ten­sive pro­ject. Who is go­ing to pay for it?” Turn­ing to other im­pli­ca­tions of set­ting up a re­serve, he rea­sons “The fact is that you would con­fine peo­ple, and un­der­mine the tra­di­tional ba­sis of pas­toral­ism in the process of do­ing so. That is to say, one of the ma­jor foun­da­tions of the sys­tem is mo­bil­ity. When con­di­tions are ad­verse and there is no con­ge­nial­ity, no grass, no water and there is the out­break of dis­eases, the no­mads move away. But if the no­mads are con­cen­trated in a few re­serves, where would the no­mads go,” he asks “My hon­est fear is that the re­serves will be­come a pol­icy of con­tain­ment. In other words it will be pos­si­ble to con­fine the pas­toral Fu­lani in an area such that you can eas­ily deal with them in terms of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­trol.”

The global record in terms of re­serves is not a very good one, he points out “No re­serve has worked any­where in the world. Ask the Amer­i­can In­di­ans as well as the Aus­trali­nan Abo­rig­ines. The re­serves that have been set up to pro­tect peo­ple in Amer­ica to­day, are noth­ing but en­claves of crim­i­nal­ity, gam­bling, pros­ti­tu­tion, al­co­holism, and de­spon­dency. Tell me of one re­serve in Nige­ria that has de­liv­ered the prom­ise of a pro­tected life for any­body. Yes, we have re­serves, but those re­serves are en­claves of crime, de­spon­dency, HIV/AIDS, al­co­holism, drug ad­dic­tion,gam­bling,and this is my fear for the time when the Fulbe will have their re­serves.”

His words “I vis­ited a num­ber of graz­ing re­serves in the course of my re­search, and I can tell you that not a sin­gle one lives up to its prom­ise, and this is be­cause of the ab­sence of in­fra­struc­ture. Go to Gi­dan Jaja, the Zam­fara graz­ing re­serve, the build­ings there have col­lapsed. There are no vet­eri­nary ser­vices, and the nearby farm­ing pop­u­la­tion has en­croached into the re­serve. The grasses have de­te­ri­o­rated. No bore­hole is work­ing and the earth dams have silted. No­body is main­tain­ing the orig­i­nal roads that were put there. Now, what makes any­body think that the gov­ern­ment would have the ca­pac­ity to al­lo­cate re­sources to the re­serve. Even if we leg­is­late the re­sources, there is the huge mon­ster of cor­rup­tion that we have not been able to tame.We have built a ca­pac­ity to cap­ture gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies by a few peo­ple, the elite.”

He posits “There is not a sin­gle re­serve in this coun­try that is run sat­is­fac­to­rily, and this is very true of re­serves in north­ern Nige­ria. So long as you have a prop­erty that ev­ery­body can ben­e­fit from,no­body talks of re­spon­si­bil­ity or who should be re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing it. Its go­ing to de­te­ri­o­rate. Do we have an idea of how many cat­tle we are plan­ning for? This is be­cause when these re­sources are made avail­able, they will at­tract pas­toral­ists, and the mere fact that you bring them will lead to de­te­ri­o­ra­tion, in the con­text of over graz­ing and over pop­u­la­tion.”

But one lin­ger­ing thought per­sists “My ma­jor fear about the graz­ing re­serve is one thing: sus­tain­abil­ity, and I have his­tor­i­cal and prac­ti­cal rea­sons to be very skep­ti­cal. What I would pre­fer to see is a sys­tem that gives the Fulbe pas­toral­ists own­er­ship and re­spon­si­bil­ity, and one which gives them le­gal sta­tus.I have a strong feel­ing that the re­serves will be cap­tured by the elite. The re­serve is not a so­lu­tion be­cause it will be a con­tain­ment pol­icy. You con­tain the pas­toral Fu­lani so that you can go and wipe them out, ei­ther through law en­force­ment or cat­tle theft, and they are left on their own.” Lament­ing the na­tion’s poor main­te­nance culture, he rea­sons “Our his­tory in any other form of in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment, is noth­ing to write home about. How many roads have we built and main­tained even for the seden­tary pop­u­la­tion? How many schools have we main­tained? Our uni­ver­si­ties to­day will not sur­vive with­out TetFund. I can go on and on.”

On peo­ple who are up­set that they will lose their lands to the re­serves when the for­mer are set up, he sug­gests “Those peo­ple say­ing that the Fulbe will seize their lands in the name of re­serves, should save their breath.It will not work in my opin­ion.” He re­peats “The con­cept of the graz­ing re­serve is a novel idea ,but it is not a so­lu­tion. In fact, it will pos­i­tively un­der­mine the ba­sis of pas­toral­ism, be­cause we are deal­ing with peo­ple who want a so­lu­tion that they don’t even un­der­stand. There is no suf­fi­cient un­der­stand­ing of the rea­sons why the no­mads move. They do so to avoid soil degra­da­tion, to avoid con­cen­tra­tion, as well as dis­eases.The re­serves will worsen the sit­u­a­tion in the long run,and I have given his­tor­i­cal and prac­ti­cal rea­sons for this po­si­tion.”

Throw­ing a chal­lenge, he de­clares “I want some­body to come and tell me of one re­serve in Nige­ria where its prom­ises have been de­liv­ered, and where the pas­toral­ists have not been left to their own de­vices. Set­ting up the re­serves will be the be­gin­ning of a catas­tro­phe which will be at once en­vi­ron­men­tal, phys­i­cal and so­cial.”

Baba adds “I know this is a very un­pop­u­lar thing to say, but the truth need not be pop­u­lar. The graz­ing re­serve ar­gu­ment is be­ing pushed and pro­moted by peo­ple who stand to ben­e­fit from it. Given the his­tor­i­cal an­tecedents, I think that the typ­i­cal pas­toral pullo will find that it is a mi­rage. It is an il­lu­sion for the ben­e­fits will not come. The agri­cul­tural bu­reau­crats are wait­ing there to cap­ture the ben­e­fits that are com­ing. It will be like the river basin de­vel­op­ment projects. They will end up sell­ing the re­serves to elites like them­selves.”

Photo: Tadaferua Ujorha

Tukur Baba

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