By: Arno Maatman, Project Director 2SCALE
Clashes between herdsmen and farmers were all over the news in Nigeria, with some very violent outbursts reported, for instance in Benue State where some 70 farmers were killed. While the major conflict areas seem to be in Benue and Taraba States, the tension is also felt in Oyo State where we have two partnerships, one with the Fulani herdsmen, and one with cassava farmers.
In the 2SCALE office in Ibadan, with a ventilator in the ceiling obstinately sweeping in front of the only light in the room, we discussed the dairy partnership with the Fulani, supplying milk to FrieslandCampina WAMCO. The dairy farmers are Fulani, a pastoralist society with roots in the Sahel and savanna zones of West Africa. For generations they travel the cattle trails, to the coast to sell their animals, and across the region following grass, crop residues, and water, in sync with the seasons. The Fulani in Oyo State already live in this region (South-west Nigeria) for a long time. They still move around with their herd, but within shorter distances, as they are getting close to the sea. Their movements are however more and more constrained, because of increasing population densities, and related expansion of farmers’ fields (in particular from the cassava farmers!), towns and infrastructures.
According to Mohammed, our dairy partnership facilitator, the conflicts mainly involve the Fulani that travel from the North into the South. As the trails get thinner, their cattle increasingly enter and destroy the fields of the farmers; angry farmers in turn kill the animals; and the Fulani end-up killing farmers. Both Fulani and sedentary farmers accuse each other as being the cause of the problems. The situation is of course much more complicated than I can describe here and probably more complicated than I understand. This blog is not about the history and reasons of these conflicts, but about Mohammed and his work.
Mohammed strongly feels that the Fulani that become part of formal dairy value chains, and develop new businesses in addition to processing the milk into wara, a traditional cheese product, will have reasons to solve conflicts differently, or even to avoid them entirely. He dreams of Fulani that keep the milking cows separate from the herd, and gradually move to more sedentary farming styles. This is something that after years of work seems to start in the dairy partnership, in particular under the influence and leadership of the Fulani women and youth. Mohammed has been working day and night to inform the Fulani about this new business opportunity, to develop trust, and relations, between the women producing the milk and the young Fulani transporting the milk to the milk collection centers, between the Fulani and the FrieslandCampina WAMCO staff working in these milk collection centers, between the Fulani herdsmen and the veterinary services. He has involved the Fulani elders from the start, to get their consent. He would also like to see some of these neighbors develop into commercial farmers producing feed and fodder for the Fulani dairy farmers. The more linkages the better, even if those linkages begin from a purely commercial perspective.
Still much needs to happen to promote more sedentary lifestyles. A recent inspiring example is the establishment of a women cooperative. The cooperative will offer training, extension services, and aims to be a driver for further innovations, through investments in cross-breeding, cattle sheds, improved nutrition for animals, and for their families. The cooperative also aims to represent the women in partnership and business negotiations. Money will be mobilized through a small fee on the milk transactions.
One women cooperative is not enough of course. A few Fulani that on their own see the benefit of delivering stable volumes of milk to FrieslandCampina WAMCO, and start to keep their milking cows separate, is nice, but still not enough. We definitely need to replicate these examples, to present a convincing “business case” for more sedentary lifestyles of the Fulani. We also need to identify more Fulani willing and able to champion such transitions. Not as a dream, but as a feasible realistic option.
Will this solve all the problems? No, certainly not. Much more action is needed to allow both communities to live peacefully together. Some argue for grazing parks and ranches where the Fulani communities can live. Others argue for more creative approaches to reduce tension, and competing claims on the same lands, while allowing the Fulani to preserve at least part of their traditional lifestyles.
2SCALE has no power to solve such enormous issues. But I still hope that over the coming years, Mohamed will be able to continue his hard work, in collaboration with FrieslandCampina WAMCO; maybe even in other regions with other dairy industries as well. Finally, FrieslandCampina needs to be recognized for having had the courage to invest in milk collection centers at proximity of the Fulani communities; in laboratories, staff and in logistics (i.e., to bring the milk from the milk collection centers to the factory in Lagos), even if today, some of its experts feel that the transition to sedentary lifestyles, and in particular to more intensive dairy farming, goes too slowly.