From Nomadism to Sedentarism: An Analysis of Development Constraints and Public Policy Issues in the Socioeconomic Transformation of the Pastoral Fulani of Nigeria [INTRODUCTION]



Ismail Iro, Ph.D.







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As sedentary or as nomadic pastoralists, the Fulani, Nigeria's traditional cattle-rearers, are searching for a near-ideal condition for raising their herds. While continually moving toward pasturage, water sources, salt licks, or livestock markets, the Fulani must avoid the tsetse flies, harsh weather, tribal enemies, livestock bandits, tax assessors, and hostile social environments. In their sojourn, the Fulani have met serious obstacles. The problems have included aberrant landscape, struggles with competing land users over scarce land resources, chronic illiteracy, and alienation by government decision-makers.

The Nigerian citizens need the meat and milk from the herds, the farmers need the dung and the bulls for farming, the government needs the revenue from cattle tax (Jangali) and political control of the Fulani. Therefore, it is in the best interest of Nigerian to maximize the fiscal and dietary contribution of these animal breeders.

To insure the existence of the pastoralists, the government stepped and the public followed, in the bid to improve the welfare of the Fulani and their herds. Different approaches based on different theories and models were applied to solve the problems of the Fulani and to bring them into the fold of the so-called progressive society. However, every attempt has failed, leaving the Fulani at the mercy of the weather and faulty government actions that impoverish rather than promote the welfare of the pastoral producers.

The authorities have become frustrated, the public disillusioned, and the Fulani disappointed by state's interventions in pastoral production. The question not yet answered is why have all these efforts and resources not produced the desired result in pastoral areas? What is clear to all, however, is that something fundamental is amiss. Could it be the defective public policy or, in some cases, the lack of policy, or the failure of the Fulani to avail themselves to modernization? Maybe the problem is the abominable climate to which little can be done.

This paper seeks to find the factors that are retarding the development of pastoral Fulani of Nigeria. The paper examines the effects of public policy on nomadic pastoralism, particularly the repeated failures of state's interventions in pastoral development.

Analysis of the data shows that three factors have contributed to the miserable performance of past development endeavors in Nigeria. First, the difficulty the Fulani have adapting to rapid successive pastoral migrations. Second, the misjudgment on the part of the government about the effectiveness of traditional form of raising livestock and the lack of understanding of the mechanism and rationale of traditional livestock enterprise. Third, the non-involvement of the pastoral Fulani in the design and implementation of development programs.

The conclusion in this paper is that ineffective policies that stress administrative and technological solutions in Nigeria are the result of the above oversight. Negative stereotypes evolved from repeated failures of development programs. Many Fulani have lost faith, some have abandoned pastoralism, many more prefer to be left alone, yet, others, in despair, resign their fates to natural and anthropogenic forces.


More than eighty percent of Nigerians depend on the pastoral Fulani, the custodians of the nation's herds, for meat, milk, ghee, cheese, hair, honey, butter, manure, incense, animal blood, poultry products, and hides and skins. In the villages, the Fulani provide the bulls used for carting, plowing, and hauling. Thousands of Nigerians wholly or partly make a living from selling, milking, butchering, or transporting herds. The government earns revenue from cattle trade and, as in the past, from the cattle tax (Jangali). The Fulani, therefore, play an important role in the economy and nutrition of Nigeria.

History identifies the Fulani, who use mobility as a strategy for production and consumption, with leadership, scholarship, livestock wealth, and pastoral movement in West Africa's aberrant landscape. Movements in search of water, markets, pasturage, salt licks, and the highly priced crop residues account for the spread of the Fulani in the Sub-Sahara. Bearing at least thirteen names in West Africa alone, and found in more than twenty countries, the Fulani make up the continent's most diffuse ethno-cultural group.

Despite their contribution, however, the Fulani are among the most neglected of Nigeria's ethnic groups. Untouched by modernity and controlling little of their economic and political destinies, the pastoral Fulani wander ceaselessly with their animals in treacherous weather conditions especially in the tropical rain, heat, and harmattan. Often these migrant Fulani come across life-threatening obstacles such as droughts, diseases, tribal enemies, and cattle thieves. The encroachment on the grazing land and cattle-route by the land-hungry farmers exposes the animals to potentially dangerous situation leading to starvation.

Past exclusion from governance has prevented the Fulani from getting state's welfare services and amenities. A former military governor in Nigeria has stated that the Fulani are enjoying only a few of the state-sponsored social welfare and outreach programs. Yet, planners and policy-makers who are supposed to provide or to create the enabling condition for sustainable health, water, shelter, education, and pasturage in pastoral areas are paying more attention to revenue extraction than to welfare provision. For the pastoral Fulani of Nigeria, particularly those who are nomadic, the essentials of decent living, schools, hospitals, and paths are either scarce or absent. Where these amenities are found in the rural areas, the Fulani cannot reach them due to competition by other users.

State operators devote many resources to developing the livestock capital to the detriment of the human capital. For example, the government spends more money to vaccinate the cattle than to immunize the children of the Fulani. In budgeting and planning for the Fulani, the planners always make a case for the livestock being a major national resource. A Fulani leader observes that government's policies in the livestock sub-sector are misplaced. The leader also notices the absence of a comprehensive national plan for the pastoral Fulani as a distinct group of Nigerians.

Seeing the desperation of Fulani and their struggle for water and pasturage, states and federal governments are changing their approaches in the pastoral sector. Policy-makers are stressing the human aspects in pastoral development. The Fulani Amenities Program and the much-publicized 1976 Land Use Reform are examples of the new approaches. The land reform, which, at least in writing, vests the land in the hands of the government, hopes to give the pastoral Fulani unlimited and unrestricted access to grazing space.

Similarly, the states and the federal governments are sinking boreholes, building livestock markets, controlling pests and diseases, reactivating cattle-routes (Burtalai), and creating more grazing reserves (Hurumai). The local governments are managing the rangeland and monitoring the traffic of herds along the international borders. Although they welcome these activities, especially the reactivation of the grazing reserves, the Fulani have reservation on some government interventions, nevertheless.

Because of how the government delivers them, well-intentioned programs hinder rather than promote the welfare of the pastoral Fulani. For example, the grazing reserves located near populated rural areas attract farmers who deprive the Fulani of the use of the pasturage. Dams, wells, and boreholes pull a multitude of herds that damage the surrounding soil and pastureland. The pastoral Fulani suffer in the settlement areas because the encampments do not provide enough water, markets, welfare amenities, and livestock feeds.

A few pasture-oriented projects in widely scattered research stations are producing some supplementary feeds, but the quantity cannot meet the subsistence needs of the nation's herds. The International Livestock Centre for Africa (I.L.C.A.) reports that under the present cropping system, Nigeria needs seventy percent of its arable land to grow enough food for the livestock. With its large population, Nigeria cannot devote this large percentage of its land to fodder production.

Farmers find it inconceivable to cultivate grass extensively when they experience mounting difficulties in growing enough grains for human consumption. Besides, the idea of growing grass for animals' use does not appeal to ancestral farmers, who think of grass as a naturally abundant resource. For food- and cash-crop farmers in Nigeria, growing fodder is an unrealistic farming practices. Moreover, the farmers and the Fulani believe that the human hand cannot feed the animals.

To feed their animals, the pastoralists must move from one pasture-ground to another. Planners view movement as a serious impediment to development. Policy-makers in Nigeria believe that frequent change of settlement hinders the efforts of the state to improve the welfare of the Fulani. To solve the problems of the migrant pastoralists, planners are recommending the sedentarization of the Fulani.

Most Fulani have voluntarily settled without problems. State's sponsored involuntary resettlement schemes, however, have been less successful in Nigeria. The lack of understanding of the reasons for movement accounts for the frequent failures of government's resettlement efforts. Similarly, educational programs fail because the government overlooks the importance of movement in pastoral life.

Issues Raised

The socioeconomic development of the pastoral Fulani of Nigeria raises some issues. How to reconcile modernism with traditionalism, consumption with production, needs with expectations, land use with land conservation, and policy formulation with policy implementation. Environmental factors are a major subset of the overall problems of the Fulani. These factors include the elements of weather, especially rainfall pattern (regime, distribution, and seasonality), and how they affect land use and spatial distribution of economic activities. The division of the vegetation into arid, semi-arid, humid, and forest zones will be used to show the limits imposed by inaccessibility, pasture scarcity, and insects predation. The vegetation types will provide an insight into the seasonal pattern of pastoral migration in Nigeria. Among the major cultural factors are Fulani demography, spatial mobility, and livestock density. The paper will look at the grazing reserves and stock-routes and how they are disappearing under the hoe. The production systems will be studied, so will the challenges and opportunities of the prevailing land tenure system, water and grazing rights, and Fulani-host relationships. The paper will examine the problems of governance, taxation, and conflicts.

The obstacles to Fulani development are discussed under environmental limitations and human or cultural constraints. The classification of these problems into two categories should not, however, give the impression that the problems are separable. They should be seen as interrelated problems whose solution demands a holistic rather than an isolated approach. The major issues are environment, mobility, land use policy, implementation, and negative stereotypes.

Environmental Limitations

The environment in which the Fulani live limits livestock production. Deforestation, desert advancement, drop in the water table, and the vagaries of the weather narrow the scope of human and livestock development. The continuance of pastoral production attests to the ability of the Fulani to adjust to the climatic predicaments. The steady collapse of the pastoral enterprise when the weather fails, however, suggests that the environment is important in animal-husbandry. Equally important is the presence of microorganisms and wild animals that threaten the Fulani and their livestock.

In the wild, hyenas and monkeys attack or frighten the herds. Quails and grasshoppers invade farms, eating up human and livestock rations. Tsetse, mosquitoes, house flies, and honey bees transmit anthrax, malaria, rinderpest, trypanosomiasis, and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (C.B.P.P.), which take a heavy toll on people and livestock. Disillusioned Fulani who cannot adapt to the environment gravitate to the urban centers to join the growing population of un waged laborers.

Mobility Limitations

To adapt to their environment, the Fulani move frequently with their animals. Movement allows the Fulani to exploit spatial pasturage. While the weather dictates the patterns of migration, the presence or absence of water and herbage for livestock use rather than for human use governs the mobility of Fulani stockkeepers. Policy-makers believe that movement hinders the implementation of development programs. To reach the Fulani with "development packages," Nigeria has made sedentariness a principal requirement for building schools, markets, clinics, cattle dips, and veterinary centers. If the Fulani refuse to settle, the government then adopts a laissez faire attitude by shifting its attention to the stable population.

Land Use Limitations

Because of limited land, the Fulani and the farmers are constantly competing for the scarce resources. Past neglects have resulted in untold hardship for periodic migrants. The lack of effective legislation on land use leads to the rapid disappearance of the grazing land. Construction works and large-scale irrigation schemes take away pasture-ground and push the Fulani deeper into unproductive land. In their search for ideal grazing space for their herds, the Fulani meet serious obstacles, including blood-letting disputes with cultivators.

Implementation Limitations

Some public officers entrusted with improving the welfare of the Fulani are corrupt and greedy. Amenities meant for the Fulani are diverted to personal use. Administrators inflate the contract fees for building of dams, roads, and schools. They also overcharge for services that are supposed to be free or subsidized. Planners have formed negative stereotypes that the Fulani are non-receptive of innovation and modern development. That planners contribute to the suffering of the Fulani underscores the contradictions in pastoral development of Nigeria.

Stereotypes Limitations

Stereotypes and misconceptions put planners in a negative frame when dealing with nomadic pastoralists. Planners have typically coded the Fulani as conservative and as agents of arrested development. Ill-conceived notions that the Fulani are non-receptive of development programs result in misinformed policies at best.

National planners and experts from foreign countries with a superficial knowledge of how the indigenous systems work enter pastoral societies with pre-conceived notions about what to bring or what to remove from the societies. These planners, who also have no stake in the consequences of their decisions, occupy themselves with unfolding development packages and dismantling the traditional system without solving the problems of the pastoralists. Development planners become competitors for land and other scarce resources rather than providers of essential services and amenities to the Fulani.

An assessment of pastoral system in Nigeria reveals that the government lacks clear policies on pastoral Fulani. Policies are faulty and are based on incorrect premises. Not only have they failed, these policies have also impoverished the Fulani. The failures of government's policies in vital spheres of living have made the Fulani to lose faith in government programs.

Ignoring the Needs of the Fulani

Because state planners have ignored the demands of pastoralists, the Fulani abandon the herding life at the slightest chance. Disenchanted herd-keepers settle in walled villages or they migrate to cities in search for elusive jobs, thereby swelling the ranks of the unemployed. Ill-equipped for urban living, these waves of migrants compound an already precarious urban situation. The new migrants hope to return to their settlements once the conditions there improve. If ever they go back, however, the returning migrants seldom resume active pastoral occupation.

Lack of State's Support

Lack of government's support speeds the disintegration of the pastoral society. Such rupture upsets the symbiosis between the Fulani and the non-Fulani and disturbs the delicate balance between herding and farming. The rupture of the community results in the loss of an important support for the economy. It also leads to a shortage of livestock-associated merchandise amid growing demands for them by a rapidly expanding population.

As the condition of the Fulani pastoralists deteriorates, the quantity and quantity of beef and dairy products ebb. The scarcity and the high price of beef and milk result in protein deficiency among the nation's poor, the largest class of Nigerians. Hides and skins are consumed at an alarming rate by people who cannot afford mutton. To protect the local shoe industries from a deficit of raw material, livestock officials have once called on Nigerian government to outlaw the eating of animal skin.

The import of canned milk, frozen fish, and refrigerated meat from Europe and South America lessens the effect of the shortages in the metropolis. The recent economic decline, however, worsens Nigeria's food and livestock imports. The devaluation of the naira (Nigeria's currency) by the Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (S.F.E.M.) and later by the Structural Adjustment Program (S.A.P.) further weakens the country's purchasing power and propensity to buying goods abroad. Many experts say the S.F.E.M. and the S.A.P. are defective economic policies.

Defective Policies

Although they did not cause all the undesirable trends in pastoral societies, faulty policies did hasten the society's structural and functional failures. A paucity of government policies on the lives of the Fulani engendered suspicions and misgivings about the real motif of the governments. It also caused the Fulani to question the benefits of citizenship. Lapses in policies allowed the sedentary people to exploit the pastoral Fulani, thereby creating a feeling of non-belonging to the society.

The Nagging Questions

Bids to improve the lives of the Fulani have invoked research interests. Questions arise, for instance, about the best way to remove stressful and wasteful animal-husbandry. Scholars and administrators are grappling with the nagging question of whether or not sedentariness is a precondition for effective development among the mobile Fulani. Researchers and policy-makers are reevaluating the appropriateness of present public policies on pastoral Fulani of Nigeria.

As they try to answer these questions, scholars and researchers are arriving at a new understanding of the Fulani problems. The thrust of the debate in development literature of the Fulani revolves on broad themes: who does what, when, and how. Workshops, conferences, and research papers are contributing to the intellectual discussions on development constraints in pastoral production. Planners now agree that for practical development of the Fulani, the nature of their problems must be understood. Understood not only from the livestock perspective, but from the human angle as well.

The socioeconomic transformation of the Fulani will not be achieved so long as the policy-makers ignore the environmental limitations and the sociocultural preferences of the pastoral Fulani. So long as the Fulani are distant from decision-making and implementation on matters affecting their welfare, a positive transformation of the Fulani will not occur. So long as the planners divorce the welfare of the Fulani from the welfare of their herds, problems will persist in Nigeria's herding sector. So long as state administrators continue to stereotype traditional pastoral system, problems will remain in the pastoral sector.

My theses in this paper, therefore, are that the traditional method is still efficient and ecologically sensible for raising livestock in Nigeria; that state interventions and technology-driven approaches are not necessarily the best solution to pastoral problems in the country.

In subsequent write ups on this topic, I will review the literature and discuss the theoretical framework, looking at the Fulani method of livestock production in a global perspective. I will then examine the core of the pastoral problems, including the problems of insects and bushfires, water and grazing land, stock-route development and livestock transportation and marketing in Nigeria. Following these will be critiques on the failures of commercial ranches, livestock improvement centers, extension services and pastoral labor. Later, I will look at the issues of livestock improvement, sedentarization, fodder bank, supplementary feed, animal traction, and livestock credit. My concluding section will center on education, nomadic and mainstream, as means of socioeconomic transformation of Nigerian pastoral producers. My analysis will assesses the impact of specific public policies and institutional barriers to development.





Ismail Iro works as a Programmer/Data Analyst in Washington, D.C. USA