It is not an understatement to say cattle rearing business which is the major occupation of Fulani nomads in the country is being threatened by many factors. Constant clashes between farmers and herdsmen have resulted in the destruction of lives and crops. Until the discovery of oil in the early 1960’s and the subsequent relegation of agriculture as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, Fulani herdsmen were at peace with the farming communities. In Northern Nigeria, the regional government ensured the establishment of grazing reserves and routes while the Fulani herdsmen paid taxes in return.
In those days, conflicts between the nomads and farmers were minimal if it ever existed. However, the encroachment and taking over of grazing reserves and routes by farmers and land developers are prelude to the present chaos between farmers and herdsmen. In 1960, the population of Nigeria is roughly 35 million. Now, the population has hit 180 million. The population explosion has led to struggle for land both for food cultivation and shelter, leaving little for the pastoralists.
Climate change resulted in drought and desertification and has adversely affected the Lake Chad region which shrank by 75 percent and pushed Fulani to South-south in search of greener pastures. The transhuman movement of herdsmen has led to collision between sedentary farmers and nomads. Added to the woes is the absent of needed legislation that would resolve the age-long conflict between the warring parties. It is obvious open grazing is no longer acceptable globally. The ranching system has been adopted in many countries of the word and has proved effective.
When the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development came up with the idea of RUGA or cattle colony many Nigerians and conflict resolution experts commended the government’s bold initiative. If RUGA can be established as designed by the government, the Fulani herdsmen would be confined within a specific area with basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, banks, etc. The area will also experience adequate security. The proposed RUGA would tackle the rising cases of banditry and kidnapping bedevilling the country.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State