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Averting land conflict and safeguarding Kazura forest reserve

In the recent past, Jigawa state has been in the news over tension arising out of the allocation of land for entrepreneurs investing in sugar…

In the recent past, Jigawa state has been in the news over tension arising out of the allocation of land for entrepreneurs investing in sugar cane production with all the attendant resistance by a segment of local communities that see the development as an attempt to appropriate their ancestral lands to promote the commercial interest of foreign investors. Some communities of Garki, Sule Tankarkar and Taura Local Government Areas have been mentioned in the May, 16th edition of the Daily Trust newspaper where 12,000 hectares of farmlands have been allocated to a Chinese investor by the Jigawa state government for commercial sugarcane production. While a section of the local folks have collected compensation for their appropriated lands, several others have refused the offer considering it not in tandem with the value of their plots and thus creating mistrust and tension in the communities. Farmers that have received such compensation are seen as traitors, while those that have refused are seen as working against the dawn of progress and modernity in their rural communities.      

In an opinion page of the 17th May, 2017 edition of the same Daily Trust newspaper, one Ibrahim Sani Hadejia noted the interplay of ‘good economics and bad politics being interspersed by the peoples ignorance’ in Jigawa state while commenting over the tension generated by the attempt of the state government to partner with the private sector to promote the production of sugar in the state. He went ahead to also educate readers of the Daily Trust on a complex mathematics on the Pareto application of resources for the common good. I have to get back to my notebooks at Imperial College to understand Hadejia’s Total Economic Valuation (TEV) calculus, I must confess. 

Having read the two stories in the Daily Trust newspaper and the earlier reaction of the Jigawa state Deputy Governor, His Excellency, Ibrahim Hassan and his explanation of the win-win scenario for the state government, the foreign investor and the affected rural communities, I am convinced that when effectively implemented the sugar cane production policy will be a success story in the near future. As an indigene of Jigawa state concerned with the evident stagnation of farming practices amongst agrarian communities, I feel it will be a great leap for the state if all potential sites are identified for the promotion of modern farming practices that will engender higher yield and prosperity for the farmers that over the years have lived in drudgery under inefficient traditional farming practices. Yet, I am concerned with the outright alienation of the right of ownership of land and the promotion of the economic sentiments of investors either local or foreign.

My concern over the appropriation of communal land was further heightened by rumours making rounds in Birniwa Local Government Area of Jigawa state, that one of the oldest gazetted forest reserves in the area, the Kazura forest reserve is about to be parcelled into farmlands for crop production by local political muscles. Through some discreet investigation, I am able to confirm that some vested interests are bent on converting the forest reserve into farmlands and in the process wiping out one of the few remaining legacies of our founding fathers since the colonial times through the era of the old Kano state. While I have received some level of assurance from the Jigawa state forestry and the Birniwa Local Government officials that the Kazura forest reserve will remain protected, I will stay eternally vigilant to raise the red flag any moment this determined land grabbers might decide to scale up their antics.  

It is no more news that deadly conflicts over land resources have engulfed several states of Nigeria in the recent times with the media getting inundated with reports on pastoralist-sedentary farmer conflict almost on a daily basis. It has become necessary for us in Jigawa state to take proactive measures to avoid the consequence of creating avenue for the trigger of such fatal but graciously avoidable landuse crisis. The encroachment into grazing reserves, rangeland and stock routes have created conflict between farmers and pastoralists, two occupational groups that have hitherto complemented one another in almost all the states of Nigeria.

We must recall that majority of emerging conflicts, including the ongoing crisis in the North-East region of Nigeria have a strong nexus with heightened competition over dwindling common pool resources including land, water and natural vegetation. It only require a douse of bad governance, radical ideology, inhospitable environment, access to arms and ammunitions and the presence of a marginalised segment of persons to trigger such a monumental crisis. We must be proactive to avert such unnecessary crises and drawbacks amongst our communities.  

 To avoid this needless conflicts and the attendant losses of lives and the destruction of livelihoods, relevant authorities in both state and local government levels must live up to their billings and curtail the outright conversion of forest reserves into farmlands. This becomes more appropriate with the current high rate of land degradation associated with population pressure, climate change phenomena, the attendant degradation of flora and fauna and the depletion of genetic pool.  

It is on record, that there several technics of improving crop yields without necessarily expanding the acreage of farmlands especially through the adoption of improved high yield variety of seedlings under the guidance of professional crop extension services. It has become necessary for us get back to the old days of deploying agricultural extension service to rural farmers. I can vividly recall the days when extension workers from Kano are sent to live freely in my village, manage demonstration farms and tutor farmers on modern production methods for cowpeas, groundnuts and early maturation sorghum. It is equally pertinent to teach our pastoralists modern animal husbandry practices decoupled from seasonal migration tied to climate vagaries. Experts have argued that animals that are constantly on the move end up burning the little calories of energy they have gained while foraging in the field thereby remaining devoid of getting fattened or producing appreciable milk harvests. Sadly my brethren, the Fulbe nomads have lived in a time capsule devoid to changing their lifestyle in line with present day realities. There is no better time than now for government, institutions and individuals of goodwill support their transformation into a more sedentary and a better productive way of life.  

The old Kano state and even the young Jigawa state has recorded several firsts in the fields of agriculture and the management of forestry and rangeland resources over the years. The existing shelterbelts and gazetted forest reserves across Jigawa state are living testimonies to this novel concepts. Jigawa state is one state that demarcated and re-established all its stock routes, forestry and grazing reserves, a decision that to a large extend reduced the incessant fights between farmers and pastoralists. This commendable ideas must be sustained in addition to educating farmers in better and modern production techniques through an invigorated agricultural extension service. In the quest to introduce modern and large scale commercial agri-business, we must carry along the rural folks, protect their welfare through an all-inclusive system that puts all the multipliers at work. There must be a mechanism put in place by government to create a balance between the safeguard of corporate and collective interests. Rural farmer can be organised under an out grower scheme to cultivate cane feedstock for sugar industries and in the process improve their incomes and livelihoods for the good of Jigawa state. In this regards, I have undertaken a research work on the incorporation of sweet sorghum as a feedstock for the sugar industry and I am willing to share my findings with any interested party. Sometimes we must think outside the box. Land, a major means of production remains the foremost resource owned and jealously protected by the people, it must be safeguarded and put to use for the collective good.  

Mohammed wrote this piece from Abuja.

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