Mali Fe_©Desjeux, Traversée des bœufs à Diafarabé Les animaux, gardés sur les riches pâturages du Sahel pendant la saison des pluies, reviennent à la décrue dans les plaines inondables du bassin inférieur du fleuve Niger. La pérégrination des animaux entre le Sahel et le fleuve Niger classé au patrimoine mondial de l’humanité. L’espace culturel du yaaral et du degal correspond au vaste espace pastoral des peuls, du delta intérieur du fleuve Niger. Les deux noms désignent aussi les festivités qui marquent la traversée du fleuve, respectivement à Diafarabé et à Dialloubé, par les troupeaux de bovins qui pâturent tout au long de l’année entre les terres arides du Sahel et les plaines inondables du bassin intérieur du Niger. Selon les traditionalistes du Macina, les célébrations du retour ont toujours lieu un samedi, jour de faste dans les croyances populaires peules. Ce samedi béni est déterminé, selon eux, en fonction de l’état des pâturages et de la décrue du fleuve. Ces fêtes donnent lieu à des manifestations comme le concours du plus beau troupeau. C’est également l’occasion pour les bergers de déclamer des poèmes pastoraux, relatant leurs aventures durant les longs mois de pérégrination à travers de lointaines contrées. L’espace culturel du "Yaaral" et "Dégal" correspond au vaste espace pastoral des peuls du delta intérieur du Niger au Mali. Il comprend l’immense plaine alluviale d’environ 90.000 km2 s’étendant de Ké-Macina au sud, et Tombouctou au Nord, les Zones exondées du Sahel (Méma, Karéri, Farimaké) et la plaine de Séno au pied du plateau Dogon.

Illegal encroachment and a lack of maintenance has led to the destruction of the city’s historical barrier

It was the time of the Fulani Empire and this prosperous ancient city in northern Nigeria bustled with activities.

Hundreds of years before British colonisers set foot, Kano – now the second most populous city in Nigeria – was surrounded by a brown-mud wall standing 3.5-metres high and 1.5-metres thick to protect it from outside invasion.

The fortification covered an area of 24km and all entry and exit to the city, which at the time was home to an estimated 50,000 people, was through one of 13 giant gates manned by security guards.

The city was a centre for Islamic studies and a thriving trading hub with abundant water and rich iron deposits. The massive barrier protected the inhabitants inside, but that was the old days. Things are very different today.

Large parts of the barricade, which is more than 1,000 years old, are either destroyed or in a bad state of disrepair.

Abbas Yushau, 34, stands in front of one of the gates, talking to a group of young men taking cover next to the wall from the blazing afternoon sun.

The father of one is a campaigner who wants to preserve the barrier’s glorious past.

“The wall is our culture. That wall stands for us. When people think of Kano they think of the wall. It is our symbol. We need to preserve and maintain our ancient culture, not destroy or watch it go into ruins,” Yushau said, his eyes squinting because of the sunlight.

Kano city has expanded exponentially since its early days, now with a population of about 3.6 million. At the destroyed parts of the wall, homes and business have popped up. Other areas have been turned into a dumpsite.

Hamisu Bello just opened a mechanic shop to repair rickshaws that clog the city’s roads at a partly demolished section of the fortification. Business is booming and he is happy he chose this location to ply his trade.

“I have only been opened a month and as you can see I have more than 15 rickshaws to repair today,” he said, pointing to yellow-painted auto-tricycles awaiting his attention.

“I moved here because it has more space. I wanted to expand my business and this was the best place in the city. I want to expand the business further and this place gives me that,” he added.

Yushau, the wall-restoration campaigner, tried to talk Bello out of expanding his business space, fearing it will destroy the barrier further.

But Yushau accepts that many city residents have more pressing issues to worry about than the ancient fortification’s well-being.

“When a lot of people are struggling to survive, they will not take the issue of the wall as a priority. And I can understand that – but I won’t give up,” he said.

At the city’s Bayero University, one of the largest learning institutions in northern Nigeria, the barrier’s historical significance is still taught despite the present challenges.

Professor Tijjani Muhammad works in the university’s history department and said he cannot emphasise enough the importance of the crumbling wall to Kano’s past.