A PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF RURAL GRAZING AREA (RUGA) SETTLEMENT IN NIGERIA
Nigerian livestock industry is largely dependent on natural vegetation. Although there is vast hectare of natural vegetation in the country they are not maximally utilized due to poor planning and conflicting government policies. It was estimated that there are over 40 million hectares of grazing land in Nigeria, out of which only 3 million hectares are specifically tagged as grazing reserves (Kemi,1967; Adegbola,1982). These grazing reserves are areas set aside primarily for livestock production and were established under the Northern Region Grazing Reserves Law
of 1965 (Nuru, 1988). It was earlier recognized that over 90% of the nation’s livestock (excluding pigs and poultry) are in the hand of transhumance and nomadic pastoralist, although there are growing number of settled livestock owners and agro pastoralist (Calder bank, 1991). According to Ezeomah (1987), in the past pastoralist did not make any serious effort to acquire lands largely because of their conservatism, independence and abundance of grazing lands. However, in recent years increased crop cultivation associated with other land needs due to the rapidly growing population has created serious pressure on many traditional grazing areas. These and other related problems have made the pastoralist to start seeking for the lands to settle for at least wet season. Ruga Settlement that seeks to settle migrant pastoral families simply means rural settlement in which animal farmers, not just cattle herders, will be settled in an organized place with provision of necessary and adequate basic amenities such as schools, hospitals, road networks, vet clinics ,markets and manufacturing entities that will process and add value to meats and animal products.The research project presented illuminating discourse and assess the Ruga policy under General Muhammadu Buhari regime.
Background to the study
The implementation of Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) settlements, the latest plan by thePresident Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to put an end to a recurring conflict betweennomadic herders and farmers has been met with considerable outrage from Nigerians. Ruga is noother thing than a measure in ethnic domination and conquest, it seeks to create a new territory forFulani people all over the Nation, this might not be about cattle in any way
The concept of providing grazing lands for the uses of livestock can be traced to the traditional grazing ground “Hurmi” which were the areas of land at the vicinity of the towns and villages throughout Northern Nigeria (Nuru,2010). However, as the need of more farmland arises due to increasing human population, the available “Hurmi” and their connecting “Burtali” (Cattle Path) continue to decrease and their carrying capacity deteriorated. An attempt to preserve and restore their potential was undertaken by sowing better seeds in the late 1950’s around Kano and Katsina, but without legal status to prevent encroachment (Nuru, 1978; Suleiman, 1988). In recognition of the growing problem of diminishing grazing land in the late 1950’s, the forestry authorities were approved and an agreement was reached that grazing in certain forest reservescould be allowed in order t o provide the wet season “mashekari” for the pastoralist and indeed as a measure to avoid ever increasing farmers’ pastoralist clashes of wet season (Nuru, 1978; Ekpere,1984 and Calderbank, 1991). Consequently, the forest reserves at Wase, kukar-Jangarai, Zamfara-Anka, Udubo and Falgore were selected. The Federal Government and International Agencies likeUnited State Agency for International Development (USAID) provided the staff, technical trainingand financial assistance. Control grazing in these fores t reserves was started in the early 1960’s
(Nuru, 1978) however, the need to protect and improve the grazing areas and stock route and to understand the pastoral system was recognized by the colonial government in the early ‘50’s.
(Awogbade,1982; Ezeomah,1987). According to Nuru (1978); Suleman (1988) and Lamorde(1997), the first attempt to change the scope of nomadism in Nigeria dates back to 1901, when a very devastating drought occurred in some part of Northern Nigeria. The idea to encourage nomads to settle was first made in 1942 and the first trial settlement was at Riyom near Jos, Plateau State
To encourage pastoralist to settle, each herding household unit was allocated a piece ofland, encouraged to practice mixed farming and develop pasture areas. The plan did not last long because it was over-run by tin mining operations. In 1954, the World Bank reviewed the nature of pastoralism in Nigeria. In the review, it noted that range grazing practices was a seriousimpediment to livestock development and modernization. It further recommended that settlement or what is referred to as “stabilization” was the most important factor in the expansion and modernization of production. Three proposals were advanced for immediate developments. These were establishment of grazing reserves to be protected by law; provision of land rights to the pastoralist and the development of communal villages in grazing reserves as a means of bringing livestock into peasant agriculture. In 1965 these recommendations were passed in to law. The law allowed for a minimum 10% of the country’s land area to be legally acquired and constituted into grazing reserves for lease allocation to grazers. Presently, out of 299 proposed grazing reserves in the former Northern States and Abuja totaling to 2.3 million hectares, only 23 have been gazetted covering a total of just over 500,000 hectares
Fulani pastoralist constitutes a small but distinct cultural group wherever they are found in Nigeria. They share common feature and speak the same Fulfulde language with dialectical variation, but the truth of the matter is that the Fulani People hardly eat cow meat as they know it’s not healthy for human consumption the true meaning of Ruga is they are more at home withlean meat. The Fulani indisputably represent a significant component of the Nigerian economy.They constitute the major breeders of cattle, the main source of meat, the most available and cheap source of animal proteins consumed by Nigerians. The Fulani own over 90% of the nation’s
livestock population which accounts for one- third of agricultural GDP and 3.2% of the nation’s
GDP (Eniola, 2007). Furthermore, the contribution of the Fulani to the local food chain and national food security cannot be overstressed. The Fulani, with their dominance in the Sahel region, are the best known and most numerous of all the pastoral groups in Nigeria. The traditionaland unique Fulani encampment (ruga) consisting of temporary structures made of stalks, closelyknit family members and livestock is the natural habitat of the orthodox Fulbe settlement (Eniola,2007) (Eniola, 2007)
It is estimated that about 30% of the Nigerian pastoralist are fully settled, 50% are semi-nomadic and only about 20% are truly nomadic. The semi nomadic group practice transhumance.They send out cattle to the areas of greener pasture during dry season and return to base “Mashakari” during the set season. The nomadic groups are continuously on the move according to the state of pastorage or food supply and have no fixed address (ILRI, cited by Lamorde,1997).In semi-nomadic and nomadic animal husbandry system, livestock can be sustained throughout the year enabling them to utilize crop residue, avoiding localized overgrazing and buildup of parasitic diseases (Calderbank,1991). This singular factor and other socioeconomic reasons are the main causes of migratory movement of pastoralist not only in Nigeria but throughout sub-Saharan Africa (Awogbode, 1982). Although the movement of the pastoralist is determined by the onset of wet or dry season, pattern of farmland under cultivation and access to market for the disposal of milk by the pastoral women; clashes and conflict between the arable farmers and pastoralist is ever increasing.