FUNAAB VC’s Antidote To Resolving Herder-Farmer Conflict By Adewale Kupoluyi

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Adewale Kupoluyi

The herder-farmer conflict has assumed a frightening dimension in terms of loss of lives, property, and economic resources. Despite concerted efforts by the state and non-state actors, not much success has been recorded in curbing what has become a serious threat to national security and the country’s corporate existence. A cursory look at this challenge came to the fore during an award lecture and public presentation of the book, ‘Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth’, organised by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Ogun State Chapter, and the Abeokuta Club, as the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, Prof. Felix Kolawole Salako delivered a paper titled “Trends in Cattle Management and Concerns About Food Insecurity in Nigeria” at the forum.

According to Salako, who was the Keynote Speaker, “As a Soil Scientist, I am into the business of making soil productive to ensure food security, prevent or reverse environmental degradation and promote sustainable land use. Invariably, I am a believer in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), which was modified to the Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030). As a Nigerian, I have travelled far and wide in the country, particularly since 1978, when I was admitted to study Agriculture (Soil Science option) at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. This meant either visiting or living in many locations within each geographical or political zone. I lived with rural people in remote areas of Nigeria, either on land or on water, without understanding the language of many of the communities. Yet, both hosts and guests were at peace”.

Recalling his personal experience on how cattle allegedly destroyed crop farms in 2016, when he was appointed as the Southwest Coordinator, African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI), a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State; “We woke up to find our cassava fields already demolished by ‘unknown’ cattle and herder(s). In FUNAAB, we know our cattle (because they are tagged) and the herders, and they would not do the demolition. In FUNAAB, we have intruders and encroachers. We could decipher who the ‘unknown’ herder(s) was or were. He was/they were not spirit(s). This demolition was a ‘humanitarian disaster’ to us because our data collection was gravely disrupted with the consequence that researchers/students had to begin again. We had similar experiences at different locations in Oyo and Ogun states”.

The Vice-Chancellor stated further that “The crop farmers, collaborating with us, were helpless. Expatriates working on the project took extra-ordinary security measures to visit sites. Agricultural research-for-development was endangered. Threats of encroachment of croplands by cattle rearers were real. Travelling on the roads became hazardous. These threats have implications for food security and must not be underestimated. They have negative implications for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which Nigeria subscribes to as research-for-development cannot yield useful results and communities cannot live in peace with these threats. Overall, these threats threaten Nigeria as a country. Allowing animals to move around without control or consideration of the interests of other land users cannot be described as animal husbandry”.

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The Professor of Soil Physics disclosed that “Even for small domestic animals, in terms of physical appearance and numbers like poultry and ruminants, there are usually disputes if a neighbour allows his/her animals to violate the territory of another neighbour. Flocks of cattle and other large animals will do more damage when such violations occur through them. Animals can be raised in the open or in cages. There is what is called free-range. Quite often, some people perceive this type of animal husbandry to mean nomadism, but this a gross misconception. Free-range is a practice within a confined area. It is basically ranching in a large expanse of land to permit the animals within the boundaries to move around and feed for specified periods. There are boundary limits, as expected when ‘range’ is considered literally”.

As obtainable in advanced countries like Israel, where there is a minority tribe within the Arabs called Bedouin and referencing Ben-David Yosef in the Jewish Virtual Library, who observed that, “Most of the livestock of the Bedouin in the Negev … are registered and approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, which provides pastureland outside the Negev for six to seven months of the year since the carrying capacity of the Negev is limited. Owners who, for reasons of tax evasion, have not registered their livestock and do not receive Ministry of Agriculture services, frequently trespass on nature reserves or populated areas. They are liable to be punished under the law”. Salako equally cited the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that “Manages livestock grazing on 155 million acres of those lands. The terms and conditions for grazing on BLM-7 managed lands (such as stipulations on forage use and season of use) are set forth in the permits and leases issued by the BLM to public land ranchers. The BLM administers nearly 18,000 permits and leases held by ranchers, who graze livestock mostly cattle and sheep, at least part of the year on more than 21,000 allotments”.

According to the Keynote Speaker, the following points are helpful in addressing the problem in Nigeria: Open grazing can be carried out in restricted areas or ranches. It is not nomadism for there is a need for scientific land evaluation for agricultural purposes upon which regulations are made to strictly allocate prime lands for agriculture, as Nigeria has agencies that are already given this responsibility, apart from the Federal and State Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Lands can be provided for pasture or fodder cultivation outside the ancestral communities of herders, but in a win-win situation through trading between local and distant communities; while the Land-Use Act must never be applied without consideration of indigenous peoples’ culture, which often relates to the attachment to ancestral lands. This disregard had always caused conflict anywhere it happened in the world.

Salako recalled a press interview that he granted and was published in 2019 titled, “Why FG should Revitalise Farm Settlements to Incorporate Cattle Ranches”, where the pointed out that many Nigerians knew that “Fadama” is a Hausa word for irrigable land in the low-lying plain and that the World Bank had adopted the word to drive an agricultural development agenda in 1993 and that the project was still active all over Nigeria. He stated that the World Bank did not relocate people not accustomed to ‘Fadama Farming’ to only Northern Nigeria and neither did it ask Northerners to occupy the non-extensive floodplains of the South because of any probable presumption of expertise. Rather, the bank merely popularised and enhanced lowland cultivation in both the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria.

Speaking further, he said “I had the opportunity of carrying out land evaluation on such flood and upland plains along River Gongola from Gombe-Abba to Nafada in the old Bauchi State, covering about 30,000 hectares for irrigation development. Similarly, along the plains of the Sokoto Rima River; all between 1987 and 1989. The host communities in these rural areas were receptive and friendly. We met herders in the bushes; they advised us not to enter specific jungles because of the wild animals inhabiting the space. This was Nigeria. The implementation of the Fadama Project suggests that if it is highly feasible, displacing people from their ancestral homes for innovative agricultural practices must not be the first option. Adaptation of innovative technologies would often lead to the quick adoption of developmental projects by host communities”.

Salako made a case that “Indigenous communities should be made to complement each other in the areas of comparative advantage. This concept was misplaced when the RUGA (Rural Grazing Area) proposal was made, making it dead on arrival. The development of Nigeria can only be through the synergy of diverse groups because Nigeria has several Ministries, Institutes, and Agencies for agricultural development. There is really no dearth of knowledge and policies, but everything usually went wrong during implementation. The basic reason is the lack of patriotism, which must be revived at this point in the history of our nation. The Federal Department of Agricultural Land Resources (FDALR), Soil Survey Division developed Soils Map for Nigeria in 1990. These are obsolete. We must update our database and ensure scientific use of lands”.

“Luckily, in this age of technology, a lot can be achieved rapidly through satellite maps and data, digital field tools and laboratory equipment, ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and software applications for agriculture, drone technology, and Nigerian experts who are not short in supply”. Such experts can be found among the staff of our institutions, members of professional bodies like the Nigerian Institute of Soil Science (NISS), and other relevant professional groups. We need Land Evaluation and Land Use Planning to demarcate prime lands for agriculture, and conservation of natural resources for sustainable development. Demarcating land for livestock and crop production, with strict regulatory laws, will stop (crop) farmer-herder clashes, if the boundary limits are respected”, Salako added.

No doubt, the Keynote Speaker has considerably highlighted the threats to food security in Nigeria from his rich experience. Salako, who is of the Department of Soil Science and Land Management, formerly known as the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Mechanisation, College of Plant Science and Crop Production (COLPLANT) of FUNAAB; is a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria; Agricultural Society of Nigeria; member, International Society of Agricultural Meteorology; International Society of Agricultural Meteorology; Nigerian Meteorological Society; and Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, Iowa, United States of America.

Salako, the Sixth Substantive Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB; was Pioneer Director, Centre for Community-Based Farming Scheme (COBFAS); two-term Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development); and Chairman, Board of the Directorate of the University Teaching and Research Farms, previously called the Teaching and Research Farm Board of FUNAAB. The Don was listed in the eighth edition of the Marquis Who-is-Who in Science and Engineering for Outstanding Achievements in 2005-2006 and grantee of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and Training and Research in Italian Laboratories (TRIL), Abdus Salaam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Italy, among others.

Salako bagged the ANA Award as the Vice-Chancellor of the Year at the occasion, which was attended by the Nobel Laureate and author of the newly-presented book, ‘Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth’, Prof. Wole Soyinka, an Honorary Awardee of Doctor of Letters from FUNAAB; foremost industrialist, Chief Olatunde Abudu; management staff of FUNAAB; ANA members and other dignitaries. Having spoken from a diverse background as an academic, researcher, administrator, and professional, it is hoped that relevant stakeholders would find Salako’s timely solution apt and very useful in tackling the herder-farmer conflict, to guarantee food security and by extension, national security in Nigeria.

Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State @AdewaleKupoluyi

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