As the two major contenders for the office of the President happen to be largely believed to be of Fulani extraction, many have expressed joy that the runup to 2019 will not be riddled with conspiracy theories about Islamization or Fulani Oligarchy, the latter of which would have been made worse by the atrocities of some herdsmen and general misunderstanding about cattle grazing.
Not Irrelevant, as thought
Cattle (being cows, bulls, oxen, heifers, steers, bullocks or calves) are the most common domesticated animals, raised as livestock for meat (beef), as dairy animals for milk and other dairy products. They are also raised as draft animals (for pulling carts, plows and the like). Other products include leather and dung for manure or fuel.
Livestock accounts for one-third of Nigeria’s agricultural GDP, providing income, employment, food, farm energy, manure, and transport. It is also a major source of Government revenue.
According to the Director of National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Professor Clarence Lakpini, Nigeria has 19.7 million cows and 113.8 million sheep and goats.
He revealed that these animals contribute 30% to the National Agricultural GDP and 3.2% to the overall GDP. To put this in perspective, the much talked about Entertainment Industry contributes just 2.3% to the Nation’s GDP and its targeted contribution for 2020 is still not up to what Livestock contributes.
The primary occupation of the Fulani is herding, closely followed by farming with less than a tenth of the Fulanis engaged in other jobs. Although these figures are increasingly changing, non-herding jobs are seasonal and opportunistic.
Managing the herds is the man’s responsibility, but children, in their capacity as apprentices, also contribute to the labour-force. Fulani men, while ensuring the existence of the family, are also the primary household providers.
The men manage the herd, find grazing locations, build temporary houses and make see to the security of the family, while women take up roles such as sourcing food produce in the market, milking cows, weaving and mat making. Some women are also involved in farming like growing vegetables and raising poultry.
The herder has to carry out daily feeding, cleaning, and milking. Also, some cultural differences occur in working with cattle; the cattle husbandry of Fulani men rests on behavioural techniques, whereas in Europe, cattle are controlled primarily by physical means, such as fences.
Movement and Politics
Unlike in Nigeria, Cattle are often raised by allowing herds graze on the grasses of large tracts of rangeland. Raising cattle in this manner allows the use of land that might be unsuitable for growing crops.
But the suggestion that the government begins the use of abandoned land for grazing is usually met with criticism from groups in other regions who have been made to believe the nomadic lifestyle of the Fulanis is an expansionist agenda. These conspiracy theories are often sold for political profit.
Last week, while speaking at an event organized by The Nation and TVC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmad Tinubu, who is a national leader of the ruling APC, suggested the same thing, but Yonka Odunmakin, the spokesman for Afenifere, says Tinubu’s suggestion was tantamount to an endorsement of the alleged call by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association that the entire country should be converted into a cattle colony. A call that was never made.
The movement of herds is necessary for the herdsmen as a survival strategy for the cattle so as to maximize the availability of food resources and reduce excessive grazing at a spot.
Grazing is good and bad, everywhere
The average cow eats for 6 hours daily. This means Nigeria’s 19.7 million Cows will have to be feed for 6 hours daily before they chew their cuds for another 8 hours. The amount for energy and management required to pull this off would have needed either the most effective Ministry in the Nation or a tribe which considers it a part of its culture. The third option would have been importation, which is already drowning the economy.
Yet with more grazing comes more soil erosion and loss of biodiversity. North and Central California, for example, lost 70% of its native forest. In Nigeria, it is farmers losing their hard-earned farm produce and life savings, as the Nation fails to properly structure grazing route and enforce compliance. Just as in Nigeria, the North and Central California also experience growth of human population into grazing routes, but no lost of human lives as a result.