Grazing Reserves and Grazing Routes: A problem in its self
A Memo Submitted to the National Conference Committee on Agriculture by Ati Terkula on the Establishment of Grazing Routes and Reserves
I am a Tiv man from Benue state where my people have had incessant confrontations and also suffered deaths and attacks from unidentified gunmen simply known to us as Fulani herdsmen, wielding sophisticated weapons and even chemical weapons. These modern day Fulani herdsmen have visited hell and mayhem on rural Tiv farmers and even attempted to overrun urban areas in my state.
Wide postulations attribute this act of violence and wanton killings, to disagreement over land for farming and grazing between the Fulani pastoralist and the Tiv crop farmer.
Many other reasons have been advanced for these attacks and blames traded, however the most official is this stated above, to which end the federal government in its bid to find lasting solution to this problem constituted a committee to be headed by the Minister of Agriculture and Commissioners of Agriculture in the 36 states of the federation tasked with creating a framework for the establishment of grazing routes and reserves.
GRAZING ROUTES AND RESERVES
A grazing reserve is a piece of land that the government acquires, develops, and releases to the pastoral Farmer.
Grazing reserves are not new to the Nigerian agricultural system since they date as far back as the pre-colonial era . They were initially unsuccessfully introduced by the British in 1940 to demarcate grazing land and farming lands even as the fulanis who had conquered Northern Nigeria earlier on had already abrogated some parcels of land for their grazing concerns prior to this demarcation.
However, grazing reserves actually took proper recognition in Nigeria in the 1950s when Hamisu Kano, working with pastoralists on livestock vaccination, foresaw the shortages of grazing land in Northern Nigeria. With support by the government, he initiated the grazing reserve scheme with original framework arising from the obsolete government resettlement schemes (Fulani Settlement Scheme). These earlier resettlement schemes had collapsed due to government financial and managerial ineptitude thus the decision to convert into grazing reserves that were less financially committed.
The “Fulani Amenities Proposal” of 1954, which contained the creation of grazing reserves, the improvement of Fulani welfare, and the transformation of the herd management system, gave rise to the 1964 gazetting of about 6.4 million hectares of the forest reserve, ninety-eight percent in the savanna. Sokoto Province had twenty-one percent of the land, followed by Kabba, Bauchi, Zaria, Ilorin, and Katsina, with 11-15 percent each (Awogbade 1982). The Wase, Zamfara, and Udubo reserves followed in succession.
Owing to recent clashes between Fulani pastoral herdsmen and various communities especially the farming communities of Banue and Nassarawa states, the Federal government had announced the constitution of a committee headed by the Minister for Agriculture to look into modalities aimed at re-establishing grazing routes and reserves so as to temporarily forestall further mayhem while it looks into lasting and permanent measures to prevent these crisis.
The committee which is constituted by the Commissioners of Agriculture of the states is empowered to acquire and possess lands in the various states, offer compensation to those whose lands have been acquired for this reason and also enforce the use of these routes as well as watch trespassing on such routes and reserves.
The reserves as problems
It is only right to applaud the Federal government for its desire to end further violence stemming from these unnecessary clashes. However this approach adopted by the government has received more knocks than kudos as it is seen as a plastic approach to the real problem and possessing the potential to generate more problems therefrom.
- The idea of reserves is to keep the livestock (cattle) in a restricted place where they can forage while the routes are meant to lead them to such reserves scattered around the nation. This then means that millions of hectares of land will be acquired by the federal government from indigenes and states government who will be forced to relinquish same for compensation.
This idea in my view negates the very concept of equality and largely marginalizes the farming populace and non-beneficiary of this plan. This is because the farmer will be made to forfeit his ancestry farmland to make room for the herdsman to come and settle as forage land while he goes shopping for fertile land for his farming (per chance he gets any). This is a clear case of robbing Peter to pay Paul!
- The 1954 establishment of grazing routes and reserves was in line with agricultural best practices at the time which caused the adoption of same in our clime. Unfortunately agriculture has moved past this stage and era of routes and reserves to the era of ranching as can be witnessed in the developed nations of Europe and America which obviously have more land mass but have adopted ranching as a practice, thus it is a wonder why will prefer to live in the 20th Century practice of Reserves and grazing routes.
- At a time when the whole nation is talking about unity and avoiding sectionalism while encouraging fair play, it will be counterproductive to adopt a policy that will plant a feeling of favouritism and prefatory treatments.
The traditional Tiv farmer is known to have practiced the shifting cultivation system of farming where he owned different farmlands and rotate to maintain fertility and productivity, however with the desire to be part of the one and indivisible Nigeria viz-a-viz government policy of owning all lands decided to embrace best practices of fertilizer usage and other development to forfeit their lands (actually 39%) to government and make do with the remaining, while adopting agro developments to add up. It is based on this that I view the decision to rather create routes and reserves so as to maintain the Fulani acclaimed nomadic nature as inconsiderate of other ethnic groups and also a clear case of preferential treatment to a tribe and region over others.
- Also acknowledgeable is the financial waste in procurement of millions of hectares of land as a measure to pacify a certain group of individuals to the detriment and disadvantage of others, using public common wealth; when a lasting solution could be reached using same time and fewer resources.
- It is known however that the proposed grazing routes and reserves will be a temporary measure while the government looks for a long term plan, unfortunately it will be noted that resources and time will be wasted on a temporary measure while it will still be possible to implement the permanent solution to this issue as is obtainable world wide- ranching.
With the announcement of this decision to create grazing routes and reserves, there has been an unending trail of agitation various quarters especially the Tiv farmers whose scarce land will be further reduced to make reserves and routes for fulanis far away from their homes. This is largely seen as a systematic way of dominating the nation by the Fulani.
To lay to rest these beliefs and assertions it will be more of national interest if the proposed is shelved for the establishments of ranches by the herders.
- It is common knowledge that most of the cattle that transverse the nation, belong to wealthy northern elite who only contract the herdsmen to feed and tend to these cattle, thus it will be safe to say that instead of waiting on the government to establish reserves for benefit of individuals, they should be coerced to adopt the ranching system.
- Judging from the 1956 “Fulani Amenities Programme”, most of the states where reserves were proposed and established were in the far Northern states where cattle rearing is a mainstay, and so as a means of generating revenue the reserves could be restricted to these places for the herdsmen to rent or buy over as permanent farms and ranches.
- Drawing from the foregone one will be quick to remind that most of the lands in the region have been encroached upon by deserts, however it will be good to note here that even with the deserts, irrigation farming has thrived in these parts with the North accountable for 80 percent of the vegetables and onions produced in the nation. It is in this vein that I suggest that species of grass be farmed via this method to fend for the cattle. It is worthy to remind here that Israel’s main source of wealth is Agriculture, however it is a desert but grows crops. It is also wise to add here that grass grown in the rains can be stored throughout the year and made available for livestock during the dry season as hay (see a successful case in Shonga farms).
- At a time when government is embarking on cost cutting, it will be unwise to invest huge amount of billions of Naira into land buying for the purpose reserves and routes which have been clearly prescribed as a temporary measure; when the permanent measure may seem cheaper and cost effective.
- It has also been observed and even the umbrella body of the Fulani cattle rearers, Miyetti Allah Hore has affirmed that their ranks have been infiltrated by terrorist organizations which have under this guise trespassed lands to forment trouble, many have thus opined that restriction of these herds’ movement will check mate such attacks to further encourage neighbourliness and complement security measure already put in place.
- Finally many have advanced reason for the inability to keep the fulanis in one location hinging their argument on the fact that the herdsmen are naturally normads, however to co-exist, everyone must forgo some aspects of their comfort for the greater good; the farmers who were inclined to shifting cultivation have resorted to the use of fertilizers and crop rotation amidst other best practices to adjust to the governments ownership of their ancestral land. In the same light the Fulani should for the greater good of nationhood, sacrifice their nomadic nature for ranching.
It is in my humble submission and belief that if the above is adhered to North Central Nigeria will be the erstwhile peaceful region it was known and also preserve wealth for the nation.
Thank you all.