Solving the herdsmen challenge
By Chido Nwakanma
An armed herdsman.
In the wake of the outrage against the atrocities of Fulani herdsmen, an outrage now endorsed by the Presidency, Northern Governors met on Friday, April 29. The Governors claimed that Boko Haram has been subdued. They lamented the security challenges facing the country, saying that “in the North West and North Central, the security situation is alarming as the issues of cattle rustling, kidnapping, banditry and the persistent conflict between farmers and cattle rearers were gradually assuming unacceptable proportions.”
There was no outright condemnation of the practices of the herdsmen in recent times.Rather, one of their key resolutions was to decry what they alleged as “demonization of Fulani herdsmen” and the Fulani.
No one should be shocked at this attempt by the holders of exalted positions over a vast swathe of Nigeria to externalize a problem that stems from their lands and is causing unease all over the country. Rather, we should all collectively be assisting the Northern Governors to think hard about solving their problem because we are involved.
The North has vast farmland for their cattle. They have more land than the rest of Nigeria and use it as the basis for revenue allocation! But it is increasingly becoming arid. Large portions of the land have gone with desertification and global warming. The pressure is pushing the herdsmen southward and with more desperation than hitherto.
Worse, they are behaving in Wole Soyinka’s characterization as uncultured and greedy tourists. They want to take over other people’s land, as the bill by one of their leaders in the National Assembly seeks to appropriate other people’s lands.
Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at Ezimo in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu state to access the extent of the carnage by the herdsmen.
Northern Governors should lead their people into more strategic thinking. They need only to look to the Middle East where the United Arab Emirates has recovered deserts and built greenhouses. Pray what is the benefit of their trumpeted affiliation with those Arab lands if they cannot borrow best practices from them? The solution to the lack of suitable green lands in the North lies in the Governors applying grey matter and searching for global best practices. They should break the problem down into its component parts and then reassemble it for solutions. Look at the roots.
There is the Great Green Wall project aimed at tackling this problem. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo initiated the project in 2005. The Great Green Wall initiative is a pan-African proposal to “green” the continent from west to east in order to battle desertification. It aims at tackling poverty and the degradation of soils in the Sahel-Saharan region, focusing on a strip of land of 15 km (9 mi) wide and 7,100 km (4,400 mi) long from Dakar to Djibouti.
The Global Environment Facility notes, “Populations in Sahelian Africa are among the poorest and most vulnerable to climatic variability and land degradation. They depend heavily on healthy ecosystems for rainfed agriculture, fisheries, and livestock management to sustain their livelihoods. Unfortunately, increasing population pressures on food, fodder, and fuelwood in a vulnerable environment have deteriorating impacts on natural resources, notably vegetation cover. Climate variability along with frequent droughts and poorly managed land and water resources have caused rivers and lakes to dry up and contribute to increased soil erosion.”
There is a tidy sum of about US$81m involved in this project. One writer, Dylan Thuras, notes that more money is available. He states, “International organizations have pledged over $3 billion toward the completion of this massive environmental project, designed to help stop land degradation.”
The African Union backs it. “In June 2010, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan signed a convention in Ndjamena, Chad, to create the Great Green Wall (GGW) Agency and nominate a secretary to develop the initiative further.”
Member countries choose their priorities and get funding from the Global Environment Facility. That body reports that Niger has made the most progress. “Progress is apparent especially in the Zinder region of Niger, where tree density has significantly improved since the mid-1980s. GEF CEO Monique Barbut attributes the success to working with farmers to find technical solutions, particularly long-term land and financial solutions, in order to save the trees.”
Nigeria commenced implementation in 2013 and in 2014 set up the Interim Office of the National Agency for the Great Green Wall with the appointment of an Acting Director General. Nigeria’s GGW programme involves 11 states. Benefitting states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. It involves the establishment of a greenbelt covering 1500km from Dandi Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi State to Marte in Borno State. The Federal Government approved a takeoff fund of N10b for this project under then Minister of State for Environment Lawrencia Laraba-Mallam.
What has happened to the Nigerian GGW project? What is the progress report? How are the Governors of the North driving it?
Southern leaders must now pay close attention to ecological funds. In the past, Governors in both the North and South saw it as free money and addition to their loot. Citizens must also pay attention.
Ecology must now be a subject of interest for all of us, from citizens through media to governments. Ecology is the real and open source of the problems. We need intellection and action, to tackle this challenge. Environmental challenges have been precursors of great innovations. The Dutch City Amsterdam taught the world to conquer water; there is global cooperation on tackling environmental challenges. Instead in Nigeria, it is clear that Ecology has joined with culture, religion and politics to breed terrorist Fulani herdsmen rather than the pastoralists of old.
In the South, particularly the East, we must be alert. We must take measures to protect our lands, and speak up against the Grazing Bill and such efforts to reap where people did not sow. Imeobi beckons. Vigilance. Remember the Boy Scout motto.
We must encourage the Northern Governors to internalize. The problem is within, not in the “demonization of the Fulani”. They can solve the problem, as examples from across the world show. Great civilizations tackle the problems that nature or other forces throw at them. They do so by thinking strategically. They seek solutions. Nowadays, no one does so by expropriating other people’s lands.
Most importantly, as the excesses of the herdsmen inform us, it is a collective Nigerian problem.