FG Must Step in to Open Cat­tle Routes – Dr. Aliyu Ra­malan

Cat­tle Routes Ex­ist Only in Minds of Their Pro­mot­ers – Gov Or­tom’s Aide

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - From Has­san Ibrahim, Lafia

Dr. Aliyu Ra­malan, a ve­teri­nary doc­tor, worked with the World Bank-as­sisted project of the old Lafia Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Project (LADP) in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to the cre­ation of four ad­di­tional graz­ing re­serves in the coun­try. He was per­ma­nent sec­re­tary and com­mis­sioner of Agri­cul­ture in the old Plateau State be­tween 1994 and 1997 and later be­tween 1996 and 1997, in present day Nas­sarawa State. He spoke to Daily Trust on Sun­day on the im­pli­ca­tions of anti-open graz­ing laws be­ing en­acted by some states in Nige­ria.

In a bid to curb­ing the clashes be­tween herds­men and farm­ers, some states have passed the anti open graz­ing law. What is your take on that? It is pre­ma­ture to ban open graz­ing in any state in Nige­ria to­day. At the end, it may not bring the de­sired re­sult. The con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria gives ev­ery­body the right to live where he/she likes and do busi­ness. The clashes be­tween farm­ers and herds­men can­not be solved by re­strict­ing the herds­men. Nige­ria has about 923,000 square kilo­me­ters of land, which be­longs to farm­ers and herds­men. It is the same land that is made avail­able for build­ing houses, hos­pi­tals, air­ports, uni­ver­si­ties and schools.

These herds­men are stake­hold­ers and you can­not deny them their ba­sic con­sti­tu­tional rights. They are en­ti­tled to the same land the farm­ers have ac­cess to. Ba­si­cally, there is no rea­son to deny them the use of the land un­less you pro­vide them with a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive. And you can­not pro­vide this al­ter­na­tive to­day in Nige­ria. It will span over years be­fore you ar­rive at the point where you can ban open graz­ing in Nige­ria.

In any case, just as you need food, you also re­quire an­i­mal pro­tein to sur­vive, so you must carry herds­men and farm­ers along. If you reach that point, the herds­men them­selves will look for ways of re­strict­ing their move­ment, but as it is now, it is not fea­si­ble.

But they are propos­ing ranches. When you talk about ranches, there are some tech­ni­cal in­puts that must be in place. In the first place, who are you pro­vid­ing ranches for? There are three dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of herds­men that com­pete for graz­ing lands in Nige­ria. First, we have Fu­lani herds­men who set­tle in par­tic­u­lar ar­eas. They don’t move from one place to an­other. This group is called the non-no­madic Fu­lani. They need land to graze their an­i­mals. Se­condly, we have what we call the semi-no­madic Fu­lani who stay for some months in a par­tic­u­lar area, and as soon as the at­mos­phere be­comes less con­ducive for the sur­vival of their an­i­mals, they move; and as soon as sit­u­a­tion changes, they come back to the same area. So how do you ex­pect these herds­men to do ranch­ing? Thirdly, we have what we call the no­madic Fu­lani. An­nu­ally, they start from North Africa, then come down to Nige­ria. As soon as there’s rain in their area, they move back. How can this group of cat­tle herders do ranch­ing? They don’t stay. All the three cat­e­gories I just men­tioned com­pete for the same land for graz­ing. How can you con­fine these peo­ple? Yes, we can ask the set­tled Fu­lani to op­er­ate ranches, but you have to look for land and take care of their an­i­mals. What about the sec­ond and third cat­e­gories?

As it is now, no state gov­ern­ment has made ad­e­quate pro­vi­sion to grow ex­otic grasses for proper ranch­ing. You have to think of the car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of the land. And this is nec­es­sary. You have to look at the tech­ni­cal fea­si­bil­ity of what you are say­ing. Is it tech­ni­cally fea­si­ble?

These clashes be­tween farm­ers and herds­men were pre­dicted long ago, and suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments tried to take care of it through the es­tab­lish­ment of graz­ing re­serves and cat­tle routes na­tion­wide, but this has not been given the de­sired at­ten­tion. If you look at the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Fed­eral Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and some state gov­ern­ments, you will find out that these graz­ing re­serves are nearly in ev­ery state in the North.

The con­cept of graz­ing re­serves started im­me­di­ately af­ter the Ji­had of Us­man Dan­fo­dio, and that is be­fore colo­nial rule. Even at that time, tra­di­tional rulers re­alised that there was the pos­si­bil­ity of clashes be­tween farm­ers and herds­men and started creat­ing what we call hu­rumi for herds­men, and they were re­stricted to par­tic­u­lar ar­eas.

When the colo­nial masters came in, they ad­vised the Gov­ern­ment of North­ern Nige­ria, through the World Bank, to cre­ate spe­cific ar­eas for herds­men. The ul­ti­mate aim of creat­ing graz­ing re­serves was to has­ten the process of settling the no­madic Fu­lani. The con­cept was to cre­ate lands for their ex­clu­sive use. You will at­tempt to pro­vide wa­ter, schools and hos­pi­tals in those ar­eas. Even­tu­ally, other tech­ni­cal aids would be in­tro­duced, and grasses would be grown to im­prove the pro­duc­tion of their an­i­mals, which would in turn pro­duce more meat and milk. This is why the con­cept of graz­ing re­serve was passed into law in north­ern Nige­ria.

In Adamawa State, for ex­am­ple, they have 176,000 hectares of graz­ing re­serves in all the lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas. And this is just 4.7 per cent of the to­tal avail­able land in that state. Also, in Benue State, there are pro­posed graz­ing re­serves in 10 lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas, but be­cause of the lax­ity of suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments, they were not gazetted. In Adamawa, which has over 70 graz­ing re­serves, only about 10 were not gazetted.

When were the pro­posed graz­ing re­serves de­mar­cated? It was long ago. We have 4,000 hectares in Naka, 5,000 in Uku, 6,000 in Todonga, 4,000 in Oju and other ar­eas. Now, if these graz­ing re­serves have been de­vel­oped and one or two of them are func­tion­ing, the gov­ern­ment can as­sess their suc­cess or oth­er­wise. If the gov­ern­ment at var­i­ous lev­els is se­ri­ous, it should de­velop func­tional graz­ing re­serves. How­ever, it is not a one­time ex­er­cise.

The clashes are not as a re­sult of Fu­lani peo­ple graz­ing their an­i­mals, it is about ac­cess to com­mon fa­cil­i­ties like wa­ter, road, wa­ter­ing point, routes to get to those wa­ter­ing points.

Again, the pop­u­la­tion of live­stock is in­creas­ing, hu­man pop­u­la­tion is also in­creas­ing, but the land area re­mains the same. In fact, we are los­ing some ar­eas in Nige­ria by ced­ing ar­eas to Cameroon. You will find out that this com­pe­ti­tion is nat­u­ral.

The in­ter­na­tional cat­tle route traces its root from the north­east­ern Nige­ria to NorthCen­tral, and it comes to Adamawa State through Yola, and the route passes through the neigh­bour­ing eastern state to Yel­wan Shen­dam- Kur­w­gir-Namu, Plateau State, through Jinta - Azara - Awe - Keana. It ex­its in Bu­rum­bu­rum bor­der with Benue State and ex­tends to Enugu and Nsukka axis. An­other one also ex­its in Sabo Gida, through Gboko, Katisna-Ala, to Ogoja in Cross River State. There is an­other in­ter­na­tional cat­tle route that en­tered Nige­ria through the north­west­ern state from Sokoto, down to Ko­ton Karfe, to Abuja and passes through Keffi and Gad­abuke to Benue State. The live­stock mar­ket in Lafia is one of the ter­mi­nal points of those cat­tle routes I men­tioned ear­lier.

The only way out is for the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to step in be­cause since the Benue State Gov­ern­ment com­menced the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the anti-open graz­ing law, live­stock own­ers and herders de­cided to move to­wards Cross River State. And clashes have started there. When Taraba State starts im­ple­ment­ing the law, you will get all these kinds of move­ment. The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment must come in and open up these cat­tle routes that have been blocked. Herds­men should have free ac­cess to graz­ing re­serves. For ex­am­ple, the Abuja air­port is oc­cu­py­ing part of the graz­ing re­serve. The Gombe air­port is also oc­cu­py­ing one of the graz­ing re­serves, hence there are in­ter­fer­ences from herds­men on air­craft mo­bil­ity. These are just few ex­am­ples.

Re­cently, I saw on a tele­vi­sion pro­gramme that cat­tle strayed into a class­room in Edo State be­cause it was prob­a­bly orig­i­nally a cat­tle route. The school was built along a cat­tle route.

Is there any law that es­tab­lished these cat­tle routes?

Yes. There’s a law es­tab­lish­ing the cat­tle routes. Var­i­ous gov­ern­ments in north­ern Nige­ria were pay­ing money to mem­bers of staff to clear the routes an­nu­ally so that there would be no in­fringe­ment. They marked them, but they were blocked.

What is the way out?

The way out is really for the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to come in and in­sist on open­ing these cat­tle routes; that is num­ber one. Se­condly, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment must, through the Fed­eral Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, de­sign a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity.

At any point, if a herds­man leaves Burk­ina Faso, he knows ex­actly the route to fol­low to Cross River State in Nige­ria. These routes should be clearly de­mar­cated by law and no­body should farm or build on them. Gov­ern­ment must re­alise that if you could move freely with­out in­fringe­ment in the 1950s when Nige­ria’s pop­u­la­tion was just about 40 mil­lion, you can­not do that now that we are al­most 180 mil­lion with 92,000.000 square hectares. There must be de­lib­er­ate mea­sures to avert cri­sis.

The anti-open graz­ing law will not solve this prob­lem; it will fur­ther com­pli­cate the sit­u­a­tion. If you drive the herders away from Benue, they will go to other places, and the clashes will con­tinue.

Dr. Aliyu Ra­malam

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