Fixing Nigeria’s dairy industry will take more than repairing busted pasteurization machines. With huge demand, Nigeria’s meat and dairy industries have great potential. The prospect of becoming globally competitive can only happen if international best practices are brought to bear. Held back by a lack of investment, widespread informality, and conflict between pastorals and sedentary populations, Nigerian farmers are yet to achieve even the minimum in meat and dairy production.
The government has pledged to provide infrastructure for milk collection and processing. Also they have promised to demarcate grazing spaces for Fulani herdsmen. But political barriers prevent the offered assistance from being implemented. With the growth of the middle class and the expansion of grocery chains, the government projects a $300 million market for the 19 million cattle used in the red meat industry.
Ahmed, a herder displaced from his hometown by violence against his community, defends Fulanis from allegations that they have attacked people: “Any herder is a herder of animals does not usually have sophisticated weapons, save for things like a machete,” he says. Ahmed’s friend Lawal offers an amendment to his answer. “Traditionally, a Fulani is known for his basic weapons, because of the nature of his being. He is in the bush. Sometimes he may need to do some hunting or clear some bushes. He has his ax, his machete, and even his Dane gun. But all this politics seeks to twist the culture of the Fulani, who is armed for survival. But anyone who you found with a pistol or an AK-47, that one is a suspect.” The two men stand under a locust bean tree, waiting for a meeting of a dairy cooperative. The meeting was hosted in a model grazing reserve thmanaged by the government. The pasteurization machine on the reserve has been broken for months, and all the government has offered are promises.
The initiative appears to have potential. The Paiko-Kore grazing reserve in Gwagwalada covers about 9,000 acres – managed by the FCT’s secretariat for agriculture and rural development. It features a sizable pasteurization machine, earth dams, boreholes, a veterinary clinic, a center for cattle breeding and improvement, and a facility for artificial insemination. Yet, majority of these either do not function or do so only sometimes.
Armed attacks on villages, especially in the north-central part of Nigeria – Plateau State, Benue, Nassarawa, or the south of Kaduna – often lead to the immediate assumption that ‘Fulani herdsmen’ have attacked. An easily discernible aspect of the conflict between herders and farmers is the violence, that results when herders and their cattle encroach on farmlands or when farmers and communities encroach on established cattle routes. Many of these cattle routes, have been recognized formally or otherwise for decades. Recently, two new bills have been proposed in the upper and lower houses of the national assembly to establish national grazing routes and reserves across the 36 states of Nigeria. One of the bills has been in parliament for at least four years.
However, the conflicts are complicated further by the increasingly sophisticated and organized banditry targeting livestock. Livestock is one item that is most accessible to convert to cash in Nigeria. Politically, especially at the state level, add a level of complication with their simplistic approach to dealing with the conflict. Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, which has one of the highest incidents of violence between farmers and herders, suggests that Fulani herders be expelled from the state. He does not recognize the complexity of the crisis.