NewsWest AfricaBroken machines and broken trust in Nigeria


Posted on Friday, 17 April 2015 17:40

Broken machines and broken trust in Nigeria

By Elnathan John in Gwagwalada

Cattle theft and conflict with farmers are just two of Fulani herders’ woes. Photo©Jacob SILBERBERG/PANOS-REAThe cattle industry in Nigeria will not take off unless more money is invested and more time is spent on addressing the conditions of pastoralist herding communities.

It will take more than fixing busted pasteurisation machines to resolve the problems of Nigeria's dairy industry.

With a huge consumer market, Nigeria's meat and dairy industries have great potential, but they are held back by a lack of investment, widespread informality and conflict between pastoralist and sedentary populations.

But all this politics seeks to twist the culture of the Fulani who is usually armed for survival

The government has promised to demarcate grazing lands for Fulani herdsmen and to provide facilities for milk collection and processing, but that proffered help has been bogged down by political obstacles.

The government estimates that the red meat sector now involves 19m head of cattle and is worth $300m, and predicts that it will grow rapidly with the rise of the middle classes and the expansion of supermarket chains.

Ahmed, a herder displaced from his hometown by violence against his community, defends Fulanis from allegations that they have attacked people: "Any herder who is really a herder of animals does not usually have sophisticated weapons, save for things like a machete," he says.

Ahmed's friend Lawan offers an amendment to his answer. "Traditionally, a Fulani man is known for his basic weapons, because of the nature of his being. He is in the bush.

"Sometimes he may need to do some hunting or just clear some bushes. He has his axe, his machete, even his Dane gun. But all this politics seeks to twist the culture of the Fulani who is usually armed for survival. But anyone who you found with a pistol or an AK-47, that one is suspect."

The two men stand under a locust bean tree waiting for a meet- ing of a dairy cooperative held in a model grazing reserve run by the government as a project to encourage sedentarism among pastoralists.

The pasteurisation machine on the reserve has been broken for months, and all the government has offered are promises.
On the face of it, the project is promising.

Sitting on almost 9,000ha, the Paiko-Kore grazing reserve in Gwagwalada is run by the agriculture and rural development secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory.

It has a large pasteurisation machine, earth dams, boreholes, a veterinary clinic, livestock improvement and breeding centre and an artificial insemination centre. But most of these have either stopped working or work intermittently.

Armed attacks on villages, especially in the north central part of Nigeria – Plateau State, Benue, Nasarawa or the south of Kaduna – often lead to the immediate assumption that 'Fulani herdsmen' have attacked.

An easily discernible aspect of the conflict between herders and farmers is the violence that results when herders and their cattle encroach on farmlands or when farmers and communities encroach on established cattle routes.

Many of these cattle routes have been recognised formally and informally for decades.

More recently two new bills have been proposed in the upper and lower houses of the national assembly to establish national grazing routes and reserves across the 36 states of Nigeria. One of the bills has been in parliament for at least four years.


However, the conflicts are further complicated by the increasingly sophisticated and organised banditry targeting livestock. One of the easiest items to convert into cash in Nigeria is livestock.

Politicians, especially at the state level, add a level of complication by their simplistic approach to dealing with the conflict.

Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, which has one of the highest cases of violence between farmers and herders, suggests that Fulani herders should be expelled from the state.

He does not recognise the complexity of the crisis the absence of a country- wide system of delineating grazing reserves, the encroachment by communities on land originally gazetted as grazing routes, the armed gangs who specialise in stealing cattle, the absence of a rapid-response conflict resolution mechanism in communities that attract large numbers of herders, and the lack of rural development.

Fix the schools

Hadiza Abubakar, the head of Kautal Hore Sippirdemen De Kosam De Fulbe milkmaid association, is clear about what Fulani milkmaids want.

Before the pasteurisation machine broke down, they used to process their milk and wholesalers came to the reserve to buy their production.

"But since the machine broke down," she says, "we have reverted to going all the way to town to hawk the unprocessed milk. We do not like moving from one place to another. We do not like hawking. We want the machine fixed so that we can rest from all the stress."

She continues: "And the [nomadic] schools. Let them fix that too. We want our children to go to school."

The primary school that has 120 students enrolled is one open tent and a cluster of five leaking huts originally meant to store grain. The school is not connected to an electricity supply.

In its PowerPoint presentations to attract investment to the beef production sector, the agriculture ministry touts cattle rearing as a "traditional Fulani livelihood", but the inability of the government and private sector to put infrastructure in place means that those using old methods are being marginalised and new improvements are not being implemented.

As national production already does not meet national demand, there is tremendous room for growth in processing, storage and other facilities.

But money alone will not bring Fulani pastoralists more fully into the value chain. Governments and community leaders have their role to play in changing perceptions and encouraging people to work together. ●

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