Diffusion of Innovation: The Fulani Response to Livestock Improvement




Ismail Iro, Ph.D.








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  12. Diffusion of Innovation: The Fulani Response to Livestock Improvement

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Research institutions in Nigeria have launched experimental programs that will lead to better herds. Since independence, universities and research centers in the country have allocated some money for agricultural and pastoral studies. They focus on improving the quality of the local herds. When beef and milk yields increase, the Fulani will have less desire for keeping many less productive animals. Four areas of livestock improvement look promising in Nigeria. These areas are fodder bank, supplementary feed, animal traction, and livestock credit.


Fodder Bank

In addition to grass and dry leaves, animals feed on husks of cotton, millet, sorghum, peanuts, and cow peas. Farm residue produces fifty-eight percent of dependable livestock feed in the rainy-season. In the peak of the dry-season, stubble pasture supplies more than ninety percent of livestock food. On these remnants, the herds spend about seventy-one percent of their time grazing (Fricke 1979; and Otsyina and others 1987).


Poor quality grass severely cripples the development of bovine and ruminant animals in Nigeria. Natural grass and herbage in northern Nigeria, where the bulk of the livestock are raised, produce less than the minimum of six percent protein. The low protein decreases fecundity and increases weight loss in animals (Tarawali and Pamo 1992). Animals that feed from this pasturage also have low-quality and quantity of meat and milk.


Fodder Bank Development

Noting the serious shortfall in pasture bulk and protein during the dry-season, the International Livestock Centre for Africa begins a pasture development technique called the fodder bank. The fodder bank, not to be confused with conventional banks, involves the fencing, planting, concentrating, and storing and reserving of forage legumes in hays and silos. Concentrates and mineral and vitamin premixes are added (Mohammed-Saleem 1986). Fodder banks convert plants such as Stylosanthes guianensis, Centrosema pubescens, and Desmodium spp into supplementary or fall back forage kept in small to large plots for dry-season use by aging, ailing, nursing, and lactating animals (Tarawali and Pamo 1992).


Goals of Fodder Bank

Fodder banks have four primary goals: to raise the fertility of the cows; to reduce distress among the herds in the critical months of the dry-season; to generate manure that can boost crop yield; and to enhance land security among the herders (Otsyina and others 1987). Not a substitute, the fodder banks is a supplement to open range grazing. In the fodder bank system, animals graze on the bank in the morning, go on range and stubble grazing in the afternoon, and return to the bank in the evening.


Problems of Fodder Bank Development in Nigeria

The problems of fodder bank development in Nigeria include the high cost of infrastructure and land preparation, which takes a large portion of the fodder bank's budget. The use of fire to clear the land also threatens the bank, because uncontrolled flame consume valuable grass. A major constraint in the fodder bank scheme is convincing the Fulani to grow food for animals where the soil fertility is low and the weather unpredictable to support high human and livestock population. Improper use also impedes the improvement of the fodder banks.


Fencing and tethering are important in fodder, but many Fulani cannot afford the poles and barbed wires to prevent animals from infiltrating and eating premature grass. Although barricades can be made from locally available raw materials, they are less durable in tropical weather. Wooden poles, though cheaper and easier to get, are damaged easily by termites. Concrete poles that can withstand the rigorous weather are difficult to transport to the sites. Live fences, using planted trees such as Euphorbia hedges, are destroyed by wildfires or are eaten up by browsers.


Land preparation for fodder banks is expensive. A four hectares of fodder bank costs N2,314 in 1988 (Otsyina and others 1987). Improperly prepared land harbors weeds and worms that compete with the desirable legumes. Fire used to remove the weeds and to prevent infections also consumes the herbage and slows legume regeneration (Otsyina and others 1987). Yet the Fulani interviewed in this research say they have been told that burning is desirable in fodder bank development.


Although the fodder bank concept is promising in forage development, many agro-pastoralists have yet to accept the innovation. Fodder banks improve soil fertility, but farmers favor growing human food instead of animal feed. Since animal forage is usually priceless, it is inconceivable for the farmers to grow fodder where cereals bring higher profits. Convincing the Fulani to develop a portion of their land to grow animal feed, therefore, is one of the main problems of the fodder bank. 


Serious obstacles that reduce the scope of fodder banks in Nigeria include low soil fertility and high human and livestock density (Mohammed-Saleem 1986). An unexpected break in the seasonal rainfall can destroy all that is invested in the bank. Early cessation of rainfall, even for a few days, can result in the drying up of the seedlings. Ants, birds, locusts, and grasshoppers are also a great menace. They eat up the animals' food or render them inedible.


Although fodder banks are meant for the driest months of the year, the Fulani enter the banks prematurely. Furthermore, the Fulani graze all their animals in the fodder banks instead of restricting the usage to calving, nursing, and lactating cows for whom the fodder banks are primarily established. The Fulani do not segregate their herds during herding as requested by fodder bank developers. Supplementary feeding is not selective. Animals, regardless of their age or nutritional needs, have equal access to all food sources.


Supplementary Feed

Supplementary feeding and forage intervention are the main means of bridging forage deficits between the wet- and the dry-seasons. As the green tussock is depleted, the future of raising livestock depends more on the use of local provender. Maize, wheat, cassava, soybean, rice bran, and fish meals have the highest prospects. In some places, supplementary feeds have already replaced natural grass as the main source of food for the animals. For example, ruminants raised near settlements subsist on feeds generated from households and industries (N.L.P.D. record 1992).


Nearly all tamed animals in northern Nigeria depend on the protein-rich husk or bark of thrashed corn and millet (dusa). These products are obtained as by-products of corn powder processing and corn preparation. Supplementary feed provides a good source of roughage. When enriched with vitamins and flavorings, processed feeds can dramatically improve the nutrition and appetite of the animal. An important addition to livestock feeding is the use of salt licks (Vengroff 1980). In the absence of pharmaceutical mineral supplements, medicinal rocks provide the calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other trace elements for animal's health. These minerals are essential in fattening, lactation, reproduction, and good skins and hooves. The Fulani prefer the salt licks to tables because tolerance for these chemicals varies with the individual herd. Animals will lick the amount their bodies need, unlike taking tablets that can over- or under-mineralize the herds (Riesman 1977). The cheapest and most common feed supplements are from agro-allied factories such as breweries, ginneries, wineries, and distilleries. The Dry Brewers Grain (D.B.G) is the most popular feed used by ruminants and monogastric stock. Table 1 shows the types of feeds used in Nigeria in 1985.



Types of Feed Quantity (in tons)

Palm Kernel Meal/pellets

Palm Kernel Cake

Cotton Seed Cake

Peanut Cake

Soya Bean Meal

Dried Brewers Grain

Fresh Brewers Grain

Wheat Offal










SOURCE: (N.L.P.D. record 1992).


Evolution of Supplementary Feed in Nigeria

Despite their obvious use in reducing the acute shortages of food, supplementary feeds are just becoming acceptable to the Fulani pastoralists. At the beginning, the Fulani refuse to use industrial by-products, because of the profound rumors that they impair the health and reproduction of the animals. To convince the pastoralists that industrially generated stock feeds are harmless and beneficial, the government establishes a demonstration scheme where it feeds its own livestock from these by-products. Seeing how the demonstration stock are fattening quickly without adverse effects, the Fulani have started using supplementary feed from industrial by-products. The government of Nigeria introduced edible industrial wastes to pastoralists around 1962. The initial products included molasses, peanut cakes, cotton seed, and dry or wet brewers grain. Within few years, these products, especially the cotton seed, became the essential non-pharmaceutical protein supplement in livestock feeds, despite their low lysine, methionine, and amino acids, the main constituents of protein. To encourage the production of supplementary feed, the government and the private firms located the feedmill industries near their raw material sources.


In the beginning, the breweries and the ginneries gave out their refuse free to animal-rearers. The industries even paid dearly to get rid of the wet, bulky, brewery dross. When livestock keepers found the use of these garbage, and the demand for them grew, the brewers and distillers started charging husbanders for these by-product. Industries started charging the very people they used to pay to remove the end-product. Unscrupulous middle men began buying the product from agro-based industries and reselling them to herders at exorbitant prices. Either because they did not know how to apply for the product, or because they were far away from the industrial sites, the Fulani had limited access to industrial products.


The demand for supplementary feed among livestock-raisers rose quickly. By 1986, the Fulani were using supplementary feeds extensively. The demand for dry brewers grain alone exceeded twenty-six thousand tons. As the number of breweries, ginneries and distilleries grew in Nigeria, so did the quantity of brewers grain. In 1983, ten of the twenty-five breweries in the country produced 9,850 tons of dry matter, most of which were consumed by the Fulani livestock. Agro-industrial by-products accounted for about twenty percent of the food ration for pigs, sheep, cattle, and rabbit (N.L.P.D. record 1992). Feed price rose as they became a commercial item. A ton of D.B.G. at N40 in 1985 sold at N250 in 1988, and N450 in 1989.


Problems of Supplementary Feed Development in Nigeria

Apart from relieving the over-dependence on grass, industrially generated feeds improve the health and nutrition of the cattle. The development of substitute feed in Nigeria faces many obstacles. First, much of the feed is wasted through bad management practices. Second, government's ban on the import of wheat and barley has reduced the capacity of the industries to produce the by-products used as feeds. Third, other industries are using these by-products as their raw materials, thus increasing the demand. Fourth, the Fulani cannot rely on the feeds because the supply is erratic. Fifth, transportation is a major bottleneck in the transfer of the wet, bulky industrial harvest to the consumer.


Although Nigeria produces a tangible amount of scum and crop residue, much of it is wasted. About twenty percent of the crop residue remains inedible due to bad storage. The rest is lost to termites, burning, and trampling. The farmers and the Fulani use some quantity of the residue in cooking, fencing, roofing, and hut making. Animals destroy a good portion of the residue through wasteful eating habits. Many products are yet to be explored as potential livestock food. Some that are being experimented with may take several decades before stockkeppers accept the products as safe food for their animals.


The government's ban on food imports reduced the output of import-dependent industries in Nigeria. For example, the embargo on the purchase of wheat and barley, the brewers main ingredients, curtailed the expansion and production of brewery-based supplementary feed, even though the government allowed a zero import duty on mineral/vitamin premix for livestock feeding (Bashir 1986). Corn and sorghum, used as substitutes to wheat and barley by desperate breweries to remain afloat, produced low-grade wine, beer, offal, and supplementary feed.


The transportation cost of processed feed from local raw materials is high. For example, corn and sorghum are grown in Northern Nigeria where only five of the country's thirty-two functioning breweries are located. The north, however, produces ninety percent of the herds that consumed the feeds. The shortage of raw material has reduced the output of the industries or has forced their closure. In 1980, livestock feedmills have turned out over two million metric tons of feed. By 1988, however, the 450 feedmills in Nigeria have produced less than a half million tons of mostly poultry feed (N.L.P.D. record 1992).


Livestock feed output is coming to a grinding halt in Nigeria because locally produced grains used in making animal feeds are also a human staple. Animal feed cannot be produced in large quantity where scarcity for human food is widespread. Industrial by-products are also being used as raw material for other industries. By-product output is falling because of the increase in the efficiency of the industries that use up to ninety percent of their raw materials by weight. Synthetic and petrochemical industries are substituting agricultural raw materials, thereby, lowering agro-based by-products.


The Fulani have a limited and unstable supply of the of supplementary feed (Mohammed-Saleem, 1986). A few Fulani on grazing reserves getting peanut husk and corn stovers from the government, but the supply is so erratic that no one depends on them for raising livestock. Industrial by-products usually go to commercial ranchers who know the staff working in the industries. Industrial residues are useless unless they are processed into edible food and transported to the herds. Brewers grain is wet, bulky, and heavy to transport. Agro-industrial products have a potential use if they can be dried. The drying reduces balkiness, transport costs, and storage space. It must be dried immediately to stop it from rotting away in tropical weather. Although drying is best done at the factories, most of the factories do not have the drying machines. The industries cannot afford the machines or staff and the spare parts to maintain them. The interest of the factories may differ or conflict with the goals of processing by-products. Since industries are established without the use of their by-products in mind, the processing of such by-products falls outside the initial plan for the industries.


Animal Traction

The government has introduced animal traction to cash-crop farmers in Northern Nigeria around 1922 as a labor saving, manure producing, and income generating device. These farmers use the Zebu, White Fulani, and Sokoto Gudali to transport water, farm tools, and farm produces (Bako and Ingawa 1988). Animal traction has greatly revolutionized agriculture. Since the start of animal traction in Nigeria, many farmers and a few Fulani have become agro-pastoralists.


Nigeria lacks precise policies on animal-powered farming system, although the country favors the use of animals in agriculture. This favor has led to an increase in the number of mixed-farmers from three in 1925, to 32,261 in 1964, and to 64,522 in 1987 (Fricke 1978; and Bako and Ingawa 1988). By giving loans, the government encourages farmers to start agro-pastoralism. The government also provides plows, harrows, storage, animal feeds, and trained work-bulls in addition to improving animal health, animal-husbandry, bull castration, and extension service. For instance, the Kano State Agricultural Development Project built a farm center that trained farmers in scientific methods of animal-husbandry.


Despite the abundance of animal resources, however, the Fulani have only recently started using their animals in farming. Mixed-farming is more popular among sedentary farmers who keep animals purposely for plowing. The use of bull-plow among the Fulani is becoming widespread due to sedentarization and changes in land tenure system. Many Fulani household in Katsina and Kaduna states are using work-bulls to expand their cultivable hectage. Many of them have up to four pairs of plows, indicating extensive use of animal traction.


The effect of tractorization in Nigeria's agriculture

The mechanization of Nigeria's agricultural sector has reduced the dependence on livestock in farming. The government encourages the automation of the farming sector by importing and subsidizing tractors and harvesters. Some farmers who cannot afford the implements can lease them. As power-driven farming tools replace draft animals in agriculture, the mutual bond between the Fulani and the farmers in the rural areas weakens.


Limitations of Draft Animals

Biting insects and shortages of feed, which lower the health and productivity of the animals, curtail the potentials of draft animals in traditional farming in Nigeria. Without special breed for traction, Nigeria relies on the Fulani cattle for plowing. Amid the abundance of livestock is inadequate plow bulls in Nigeria. These animals lack nutritious food essential for the working beasts. Besides, the bulls have to ration the food with other animals. Malnutrition in the previous season causes the bulls to enter the next cultivation season in sub-optimal condition.


A paradox in animal traction is that the Fulani who produce the animals do not farm, while the farmers who use the animals do not raise them. Not only are the bulls expensive, so are the plows. The Fulani who rent the plows complain that they cannot get the tools at the critical planting season, since the leasers, who also farm, must use the plows first before renting them to someone else. Many Fulani who wish to rent the plows cannot afford them, and there is no credit facility for plow hiring.


Livestock Credit

Before the introduction of credit schemes, the Fulani in Nigeria have relied on the traditional social system to build their herd. The system ensures that by puberty, most Fulani have their livestock capital. Once a child is borne, some cows or calves are allocated to it. So efficient is this system that the Fulani still depend on it to increase their livestock asset. The Fulani pastoralists, do not, and in some cases are ashamed of, taking loans from banks for livestock development.


There are no loan arrangements in Nigeria specifically for the pastoral Fulani, despite the Central Bank's request that the N.A.C.B. disburses ten percent of its lending to pastoralists. The N.A.C.B. gives loan to anyone interested in pastoral or agricultural career. Although one of the reasons for creating the N.A.C.B. in 1972 was to promote livestock and agro-allied business in the country, the primary goals of establishing the bank was to reduce the mounting joblessness among school graduates and retrenched workers. Most N.A.C.B. loan beneficiaries are civil servants, business men, university lecturers, and retired army officers. They use the money to build ranches, piggeries, rabbitries, fisheries, poultry farms, and fattening centers.


The Problems of Credit Schemes

Credit schemes in Nigeria are beset by several problems, some serious enough to mar the good intentions. The Fulani cannot meet most of the bank's conditions of obtaining a loan. Credit schemes are also plagued by logistical problems that cause delays in disbursement and prevent the Fulani from benefiting from the credit facility. The issues of credit acquisition by the Fulani include the lack of awareness of the existence of the schemes.


Some of the conditions for obtaining the loans conflict with the goals of traditional pastoralism. For example, the bank stresses profit-making through animal fattening and sale, contrary to traditional practice that discourages the selling of livestock. The Fulani have problems with the bank's requirement that the borrowers have land or fixed assets as collateral. The Fulani do not have such collateral. Cows are not acceptable as collateral because they are elusive and difficult to confiscate when payment of the loan is defaulted. Under the Second Livestock Development Project, the bank planned to introduce group lending scheme so that loans can be recovered from the group rather than from oblivious individual nomadic creditors. The Fulani will not qualify for loans because they have no proof of permanent residency, tax clearance certificate, and feasibility studies that the bank demands.


An important inhibition to Fulani use of credit is how the bank monitors, supervises, and evaluates every stage of the loan implementation. The bank even goes to the extent of giving the loans in kind rather than in cash. Loan supervision, particularly in the purchase of cows and hardware, puts the interests of the bank at odds with those of the Fulani. Borrowers dislike being told how to spend the money, and many Fulani say they will reject the loan because of this unmet requirements.


Logistical problems preclude the bank from extending loans to migrating Fulani. Scarcity of accessible roads, postal services, and telephone lines in rural areas hinder bank officials from reaching prospective loan applicants in remote places. The lack of money prevents the bank from establishing many branches and operating mobile units that can reach remote places. A look at the distribution of N.A.C.B. branches shows that the branches are few in the rural areas.


The insurance scheme built into the loans complicates the borrowing procedure. The borrowers, on the one hand, blame the insurance companies for failing to pay the claims promptly. The insurance companies, on the other hand, criticize the clients for violating the insurance policies and making false claims. Problems may arise, for example, when a borrower fails to report at once the death of an animal to the bank. The terms of the insurance demand the remains or pictures of the dead animal or a statement from a notable witness of the caliber of a ward head. Insurance companies have turned down genuine claims just because the borrowers cannot produce such a witness or photograph of the dead animal.


More than ninety-eight percent of the cattle Fulani in this sample are unaware of the credit facilities. In a sample of three hundred loan applicants, not one of them is a pastoral Fulani (N.A.C.B. record 1992). Interviews indicate that the Fulani are ignorant of the loan application procedure. Lack of formal education forces the borrowers to seek the help of teachers, students, and civil servants in filing loan applications. Often, these helpers cheat.



It is obvious that the constraints to livestock development are varied. For an effective transformation of the livestock sub-sector in Nigeria policymakers must grapple with the onerous task of maintaining the delicate balance between innovation and traditional pastoralization. In terms of objectives, traditionalism is often at odds with modernism. The success in overcoming the shortcoming lies in research and investigation based on demonstration schemes, especially using involving the Fulani at the planning and implementation stages. 




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Bashir, I. "Food Crisis and Government Response in Nigeria: A Critique of the River Basin Authorities." Working Paper no. 115 African Studies Center Boston 1986, by the University of Boston: Boston, 1986.

Fricke, Werner. "Cattle Husbandry in Nigeria: A Study of its Ecological Conditions and Social-Geographical Differentiations." Translated by J. Hellen and Gordon Cockburn. Heidelberg: n.p., 1979.

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Otsyina, M., R. von Kaufmann, A. Mohammed-Saleem, and S. Habibu. "Manual on Fodder Bank Establishment and Management." Kaduna: I.L.C.A., 1987.

Riesman, P. Freedom in Fulani Social Life: An Introspective Ethnology. Translated by Martha Fuller. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Tarawali, G., and T. Pamo. "A Case for On-farm Trials of Fodder Bank on the Adamawa Plateau in Cameroon." G. Britain: Institute of Animal Research, Wakwa Centre Experimental Agriculture, 1992.

Vengroff, R. "Upper Volta: Environmental Uncertainty and Livestock Production." Texas: n.p., 1980.

Dr. Ismail Iro is a Programmer/Data Analyst in Washington, D.C., USA