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Debunking fallacies on pastoralism

Brahman cattle in outback Queensland mixed colours

The debates on pastoralism is replete with myths and fallacies that had gained grounds so much that I fear we are in danger of losing sight of the truth. Dr. Junaidu Maina would probably be the right person to turn to, when clearing the cobwebs on pastoralism. He had been steeped in the issue for as long as many of us can remember.

A fellow of College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria, Dr. Maina retired in 2009 as the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Federation as well as the Director of the Livestock Department in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. He cut his teeth in the 1980s in faraway Addis Ababa, where he worked in the International Livestock Centre for Africa, before returning home to join the World Bank-Assisted Second Livestock Development Project based around Kaduna, which he led as Project Manager from 1996-2000.

The project was so adjudged successful that today it has become a prototype and reference point for creating other pastoralist resettlement schemes across the country by the Federal and State Governments. Since his official retirement, Dr. Maina has been sought after in the national and international fora whenever pastoralist matters are discussed. In February he was at a National Symposium on Farmer-Herder Crisis workshop in Birnin Kebbi. I found the paper he presented enlightening enough to share excerpts from it with readers. Please read on:

“One fallacy is the curious belief that there is lack of enough land for both crop and livestock production. Kano State has the highest population with a large cattle population within a lot of arable farming area and still there is relative peace. In fact, Kano State has just commenced the implementation of a $95m Agro-Pastoral project financed by Islamic Bank. However, there are some issues that over time have indeed reduced the traditional livestock feed base by either making many areas less suitable for livestock rearing or outrightly inaccessible. These have contributed to the crisis.

“Firstly, the availability of artificial inorganic fertilisers has encouraged farmers to cultivate fallow and marginal lands that were hitherto available to the pastoralists.

“Secondly, the ever-expanding cultivation of fadama (traditional dry season grazing area) under the World Bank Fadama Programme using motorised pumps instead of the shaduf, which was initially conceived for Northern States is today nationwide.

“Thirdly, climate change has affected rangeland vegetation, and consequently reducing its carrying capacity. The shrinking of the Lake Chad by over 90% and the desiccation and invasion of Typha grass of most of the wetlands have also considerably reduced animal feed resources. These have displaced several million pastoralists and their herds, forcing them to move into the sub-humid and humid zones where year-round tubers production which has little or no residue is prevalent. Other contributory factors to the conflicts are differences in faith, language and unfamiliarity with traditional land tenure system.

“Before the formulation of the Land Use Act of 1978, Nigeria operated different land tenure systems. In the Northern Region, land was under traditional rulers who gave out individual leases, sometimes recognising usufructuary rights. Later, the Land Use Act of 1978 vested all powers on land in the state governor who holds land in trust for the people and gives only rights of occupancy (not ownership). There are four critical land tenure related laws relating to pastoralism.

“Firstly, the 1965 Grazing Reserves Law of Northern Nigeria which re-designated certain forest reserves for use as dry season grazing areas, but unfortunately left the stock routes under usufructuary rights only. This law is valid only in the 19 Northern States. For over fifty years, unsuccessful attempts were made to settle pastoralists in many of the over 415 grazing reserves. This failed because of the obscure locations of the reserves that were far from farms and markets, and when developed with infrastructure, the reserves were managed as common properties. So they suffered the tragedy of the commons. Many of these reserves and stock routes have now been massively encroached upon by farmers, thus precipitating the crisis. Ironically, some Nigerians object to grazing reserves as a public good but accept the preservation of large expanse of land in form of forestry reserves and national parks for wildlife and biodiversity.

“Secondly, is the 1978 Land Use Act which under sections 5 and 6 specified categories of land that could be used for agricultural/grazing purposes. This could be only up to 5,000 hectares for livestock. This was so badly implemented that it mainly benefited the land speculators rather than pastoralists and livestock farmers.

“Thirdly, is the National Agricultural Policy of 1988 which provides that a minimum of 10% of the country’s land area representing 9.83 million hectares would be legally acquired and constituted into grazing reserves for lease allocation to herders. This policy was never implemented.

“Fourthly is the new emerging legislations against open grazing. Sequel to the Benue State Anti-Open Grazing law, Benue valley and Ogoja area which for centuries were favorite dry season grazing areas for transhumant pastoralists from Nigeria and ECOWAS now became inaccessible. Benue State is home to 3, of the 8, nationally gazetted Interstate Control Posts where transhumant and trade cattle from two major International Transhumance Routes (North-Central and the North-East) pass through to the South. Under the current law, only cattle in trucks can pass through these control posts, not on hoof. This has international implications in both trade and pastoral livelihood because Nigeria is signatory to the ECOWAS protocol on transhumance. The poor implementation of these laws has exacerbated the herder-farmer conflicts.

“Ranching is the global best practice for keeping cattle. This is false. Ranching is an intensive, enclosed, pastoral production system. Popular and successful in the Americas, Australia and some African countries like Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, has unfortunately proved less successful in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The poor performance of World Bank loans on ranching to many SSA countries including Nigeria (First Livestock Project.1975) can attest to that. Some of the reasons were: the need for large expanse of land, which is today politically unacceptable, heavy capital investments for infrastructure, appropriate marketing system which is lacking and expertise in ranch management. The failure of ranches in SSA led to a more general awareness that pastoral production systems are not as antiquated and backward as often assumed.

“However, for the future intensification of livestock production in Nigeria, a few cow/calf ranches and large dairy farms are required for massive production of breeding stock. Also necessary is to design policies that will empower pastoralists as small producers to adopt technologies for breed improvement, feeding, healthcare, have access to organised markets, partake in decision-making and push back misperceptions on pastoralism.

“The media is awash with pictures of so called ‘Fulani militants’ carrying AK 47 guns. These pictures are mainly downloaded photos of South Sudan Dinka herders. A simple study of the phenotype of both the persons and the livestock will clearly show that these are not our pastoralists. But who cares since the intention is to exploit the political fault lines. Now for the first time one party to the conflicts, the Fulani has graduated from a militant to a fully-fledged terrorist. This, coupled with ethno-centric politics, has stampeded the government into classifying the herders/farmers conflict as security challenges and requiring putting more boots on the ground. However, these are developmental challenges resulting from policy neglect.

“Singapore is the only country that agriculture did not play a role in its movement from the category of a Third World country to join the Developing World. England and Europe in the 17th and 18th Centuries, Japan in the 19th Century and Brazil, China, India in the 20th century used their agricultural base to attain the Developing World status. Therefore, if agriculture transformation is the proposed pathway to development, Nigeria must give priority to crop-livestock agriculture because day five out of six, the most valued agricultural products are milk, beef, poultry, pork and eggs.”   Dr. Junaidu A. Maina.a