Saturday, March 12, 2016 6:27 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
It is strange that in the 21st century, Nigeria is still operating slightly higher than the hunter gatherer tradition of animal husbandry. In other words, rather than government setting aside designated areas for grazing, Fulani herdsmen have turned themselves into ravaging Mongol hordes, killing, maiming, destroying properties and turning Nigerian citizens into internally displaced persons in their own country. The question remains: Will President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, find a lasting solution to the Fulani menace? This is because, many steps were taken since the 1950s by the Federal Government which failed to work or were sabotaged -or a combination of both.
An FG report obtained exclusively by TheNEWS is examined in this piece.
Early this month, Agatu local government area of Benue State was ravaged by Fulani herdsmen who killed scores of people. Others who escaped by the skin of their teeth skittered off after seeing many of their people murdered and their abodes razed. Notwithstanding that the Federal Government said that it was deploying troops to maintain peace in the area, Governor Samuel Ortom revealed that the people are still taking refuge in Otukpo and other parts of the state.
It was for this reason that Senator David Mark who represents the area in the National Assembly visited Agatu on Friday, saying: “I am shocked beyond words at the extent of destruction I have seen here in Agatu today. Nothing whatsoever justifies this brazen act of destruction meted out on the people of Agatu. Whoever was responsible for the Agatu carnage must be fished out and punished.”
It is good that Senator Mark went to ground zero to examine things personally and he can remind the National Assembly of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture’s Draft Report Of Technical Committee On Grazing Reserves And Stock Routes Development that is lying somewhere in Abuja but which this magazine exhumes here.
According to the report, grazing reserve development grew from the realization that the traditional grazing ground close to villages (Hurumi) and connecting stock route (burtali) were under pressure. Attempts were made in the 1950s to improve these areas through pasture improvement. But, these attempts, as the document reveals, did not provide sufficient grazing land to keep pace with the increasing number of livestock. Consequently, decision was taken by the then Northern Regional Government to open up Forest Reserves for grazing purposes. This led to the creation of Zamfara, Ruma Kukar Jangarai, Wase and Udubo as wet season grazing grounds (Mashekari) with technical and financial assistance from USAID in the early 1960s.
In order to give legal backing to these Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes, the Grazing Reserve Law, enabling reservation of land for grazing purposes came into being in 1965. With the creation of States from the Regions, the report states that development and management of these grazing reserves were taken over by the respective states where these reserves were located. Basic infrastructures that included watering facilities, pasture, veterinary clinics, milk collection points e.t.c. were developed at Ruma Kukar Jangarai, (Katsina Province), Zamfara (Sokoto province), Udubo (Bauchi province) and Wase in Plateau province. The reservation of grazing areas as distinct from forest reserves formalized by the Grazing Reserves Law led to the increase in the establishment of Grazing Reserves in the Northern States.
However, according to the report, the development of Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes had been slow, which necessitated the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development in 1978 to direct the Federal Livestock Department and Research Institutions to articulate guidelines for sustainable development of Grazing Reserves nation-wide. As a result, the First Livestock Development Programme (FLDP) and Second Livestock Development Programme (SLDP) assisted by the World Bank were implemented by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture which resulted in accelerated identification and gazettement of Grazing Reserves. “During the World Bank assisted Second Livestock Development Project (1985-1996); 20 Grazing Reserves were earmarked for development, however, gazettement and development were undertaken in only twelve reserves. Settlement of Pastoralists was also attempted in the following Grazing Reserves: Kachia, (Kaduna State), Bobi (Niger State), Gidan Magajiya (Kwara State).”
The 3rd National Development Plan of 1975 – 80 proposed acquisition of a total of 22 million hectares of land for constituting into grazing reserves. However, to-date, only a little over 4.275 million hectares have been acquired through the establishment of 415 Grazing Reserves (gazetted and ungazetted) in 21 states and the FCT.
What is the Current Status of the Development of Grazing Reserves and Stock Routes?
The report indicates that The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has in collaboration with the States, continued to intervene in the development of grazing reserves through re-identification, monumentation and survey of stock routes, provision of watering facilities, pastures and other necessary infrastructure in an attempt to provide adequate grazing lands and stock routes as well as to curtail crop farmer/pastoralists conflicts. The impact was however minimal due to funding constraints.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, in the report, lays claim to some bogus achievements recorded so far in the development of infrastructure of some grazing reserves and stock routes nationwide from 1995 to date. These are the construction of 95 earth dams, drilling of 603 boreholes, development of over 3500Ha for improved pasture (where?), 180km network of access roads, 19 livestock service centres constructed and 6 model grazing reserves being developed. “Out of the 20,187km of transhumance stock routes planned nationwide”, the report says, 13,260 km of primary stock routes nationwide have been retraced, demarcated and monumented.” The question remains, where are the routes?
If the above were good enough, why have crop farmers and pastoralists’ conflicts persisted, thus constituting a serious national security threat? Why have the interventions of the past Office of the National Security Adviser, National Planning Commission, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well as Federal Ministry of Environment not been effective?.
Notwithstanding that these efforts were made in the past, from the look of things, they need to be reviewed and updated. This is because, according to the report, “grazing reserves and stock routes are presently more than ever faced with a number of challenges including urbanization, rapid infrastructure development, lack of rights to land, increasing livestock numbers, inadequate support by State and Local Governments and the non-involvement of private sector in the development of grazing reserves which have resulted in the encroachment of the grazing reserves.”
What the Goodluck Jonathan Did which the Buhari government can examine
Following some aggravated conflicts between farmers and pastoralists, which have led to loss of lives and properties in some parts of the country, former Vice President, Arch. Namadi Sambo, GCON convened a meeting of Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Federal Ministry of Works, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, National Security Adviser, National Orientation Agency as well as some stakeholders to find solutions to the problem. Dr Akinwumi Adesina, former Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development presented a position paper which outlined the immediate and long term strategies to address the issues of grazing reserves and stock routes as well as resolving farmer/pastoralists conflicts.
After careful deliberations on the issues related to the development of the grazing reserves and stock routes as well as the cattle herders and farmers conflicts, it was clear, according to the report that there is the need to develop a new road map to address these issues.
The following strategies, as contained in the report, were therefore suggested for implementation:
a. Grazing Reserve map to be produced to indicate the state and functionality of the reserves
b. Need to come up with strategies on sensitization and change in life style of traditional cattle producers from the old system of farming and cultural orientation to suit changing times. The impression on pastoralist to move meat instead of animals and also imbibe the feeding of commercial feed to their animals
c. State Governments to pay more attention to the development of Grazing Reserves in their respective States.
d. The financial implication for the development of grazing reserves and stock routes is enormous and there is the need for a new financing regime for the programme. Consequently, it is imperative to pool resources and share responsibilities to all tiers of Government and stakeholders in Grazing Reserves Development.
Can Buhari take the bull by the horn and implement these recommendations?