BY TADAFERUA UJORHA
Herders in a part of Abuja wash their hands for 4 seconds, rather than the 20 recommended by WHO. The protocol on hand washing is good, but the reality is that nomads find it hard to abide by it, given the scarcity of pipe borne water in their camps. Every day hundreds of milkmaids spend a lot of time fetching drinking water from streams. In one kraal nomads have been fetching water from a stream for 65 years, mirroring a long term epic failure in governance. This 2-month long investigation which also examines the social and economic impact of Covid-19 on the pastoral Fulbe, involves interviews with nomads, medical doctors, animal health scientists, veterinary doctors, hydrologists, NGOs etc.
Khadija Ahmadu wears a face mask whenever she leaves Shere and goes into the city. She explains that it is not possible for the nomads in the camp to wash their hands for twenty seconds, as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Her words “It will be a waste of water. We can only wash hands for at least four seconds here. This is because we don’t have water, and we have no option but to practice economy in the use of water”. As women and girls return from the nearby stream with buckets of water, she demands that government should provide nomads with a borehole.
“It is difficult for us to wash our hands for twenty seconds while in the camp. This is except for those rearing cows in the bush. If they are close to a river while seeking pasture, then they can afford to wash their hands for twenty seconds,” says Isa Musa, a herdsman, whose cows can be seen grazing in the distance.
Aisha Idris, a milkmaid, has a similar view on the water problem “It won’t be possible to wash our hands for twenty seconds in our camp. It can only happen if we leave the camp, and go to the river. We don’t have water here.” If they had water, they are likely to wash their hands for more than 20 seconds identified, but there isn’t a drop of water in the camp.
On the washing of hands, Hashimu Hussaini, Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) in Bwari Area Council, argues, “Most nomads don’t have water in their camps and they fetch water from streams. They cannot wash their hands for as long as twenty seconds. Lack of water means they can only wash for five seconds and no more.”
Long term neglect
“Nomads have an inner urge to travel” reveals Ardo Likita Ibrahim. It is a living intuition among them, like a call from nature which must be obeyed. If there is an outbreak of disease the nomad and his entire family may have to depart with their herds even if this be in the dead of night. The flight will break the transmission of disease and protect the herd. “We have a method of isolating our cattle, and this is known in Fulfulde as Surol. We also have herbal medicine to vaccinate our herds and the leaves of some trees are used to achieve this”, one of Ibrahim’s sons tells me.
Ibrahim is the leader of the nomads in Shere, Bwari Area Council of the FCT. Shere is home to more than two thousand nomads. Inadequate grazing areas, lack of water and electricity, as well as growing insecurity are some of the problems confronting the nomads there. Long term neglect of pastoral life in Nigeria has had a crippling effect on daily life among the group, and Covid-19 exposes this neglect. Meanwhile, the livestock sector which has 19.5 million cattle according to a 2016 report has the potential to be second or third in terms of the contribution to the nations GDP.
‘Lockdown restricted us’
His words “Movement is a form of inheritance and is something that was bequeathed to us. Staying in one spot on account of the lockdown is a tough decision.” He highlights the contrast between the lockdown which restricts movement, and his people who have a hunger for travel in their DNA.
“We normally leave Abuja and take the cattle to Bauchi or Kaduna states for feeding at the time of the first rains. Animals feed on certain types of grass, but everywhere around us today are farms. This means that there is little grass available for the cattle around Shere,” he says. His answer points to the conflict between farmers and herders which has lasted for many years. Land for grazing is shrinking because farming activities are increasing, and the human population is ballooning.
The annual movement out of Abuja is known in Fulfulde as Rinduki. The nomad, his wives, children and cattle begin the long trek to Bauchi across plains and valleys. If the family do not pause anywhere along the route, then the journey should last one month, and the stay in Bauchi is usually six months long. As the lockdown was still in place at the onset of the rainy season, the nomads could not travel as they do every year. They are looking forward to making the trek next year around the time of the first rains.
According to him “70% of the nomads nationwide have not moved on account of the lockdown. There are many advantages in taking the cattle on the long trip to get fresh pasture. They will eat fresh grass, become fatter, and produce more milk. This is also significant financially.”
Rinduki is a very important moment or cycle for the nomads. But this cycle has been broken by the pandemic. Another aspect of pastoral life affected by Covid -19 is ‘Hinnoki badirabe’, the uplifting culture of visiting relations once every three months by the nomads. This too has been postponed.
‘If you throw away milk’
Early in the morning the nomads go to the cows which are at a spot some distance from the camp. Then jets of milk begin to fill the calabash. Soon the calabash is full and the nomad beams and bends to have a drink of rich, creamy milk. Milking of cows is known in Fulfulde as Birol, and takes place every morning. In early April a lot of milk has either been consumed by the nomads or thrown away.
Ardo Ibrahim explains that nomads are upset that they have had to throw away milk, and they did a lot of that during the lockdown because they were not able to trade, and also because there are no modern storage facilities for milk within the camp “We are not happy throwing away milk. In Fulani culture if you mistakenly throw away milk, you immediately pour water on it. Now, we find ourselves deliberately throwing it away. That’s very bad for us.”
Cows & prestige
The culture of selling a cow in order to raise money was badly hit during the lockdown, and is known in Fulfulde as ‘Yarukilomo’. According to the MACBAN Chairman, “Whenever Fulani need money they take cattle to the markets to sell. This is our culture. We sell cows in order to buy food, gifts, fund education, and buy medicine for cattle. It is very easy to sell cows at the market because there are buyers already there, but during the lockdown with markets closed it was difficult to sell cows from the camp. It could take up to three weeks to sell a cow. Many nomads faced this challenge during the lockdown.” The lockdown made the nomads poor even if the physical symbol of wealth in their culture (cattle) was around them.
No light, no water
“We don’t have a school. There is no water, no light and no clinic here,” says Alhaji Haruna Ya’u, Sarkin Fulani (leader of the Fulani), Mpape, moving his arms about to make his point. He adds “Many of us have to go down to Mpape just to charge our phones.” The absence of light has slowed down many daily activities in the camp. This is the first of many visits to Ya’u during the pandemic. There are wood and thatch dwellings across the horizon, stretching as far as the eye can see. Around us are a series of hills which provide a stunning view of Abuja. Pointing to the nearby valley, in response to a question on washing hands for twenty seconds, he says that there is a stream in the valley which is their daily source of water. A group of women can be seen returning from the stream, and within the camp are numerous containers used for the storage of water.
Water is gold
Sarki Yau’s response is that the washing of hands for twenty seconds means an immediate loss of a lot of water at any given time. Water is gold in the camp, as well as in the six other camps visited by this reporter in the course of this investigation, especially the camps at Shere, Mpape, Durumi, Jikoko and Katampe I &II. Many of these are quite large and home to hundreds of nomads. None has pipe borne water laid on. The Chairman of Bwari Area Council declined when contacted for a response, stating he will not grant a telephone interview. However, a source in the Council argued during a telephone discussion that since the nomads don’t reside in one place, it may not make much sense extending boreholes to them. Another indicated that the council has interest in the welfare of nomads, and that it has constructed boreholes in places such as Shere and Tudun Fulani, a part of Dutse Alhaji.
WaterAid Nigeria indicates on its website that 3 in 10 people in Nigeria don’t have clean water close to home. This applies to these nomads as the investigation will show. It also adds that 4 in 5 people in Nigeria lack hand washing facilities at home. Absence of clean water and lack of hand washing facilities is a toxic combination in a time of Covid-19, and could predispose the nomads to water borne diseases. Only few camps of the nomads in Nigeria have pipe borne water laid on. There are hundreds of children in the camp, and a considerable number are not yet going to school. Some of the nomads put the population of children at two hundred and fifty. To confirm this they point out that in some instances, you will find a family made up of husband, four wives and twenty children.
Ramatu Adamu, a milkmaid, is one of many who make the walk to the stream to fetch water every day. On this, she says “If there are ten women at the stream, the rest of us have to wait, for the water level would have gone down.” Every morning there is a struggle by each woman to get to the stream early enough, ahead of her peers. It’s a bit of a contest.
She adds “If we get there late, we may have to wait for an hour before the water emerges, in order for us to fetch.” Waiting for the water to emerge from the earth, is another long delay, in the long list of delays confronting the women. Others include the absence of electricity, an inability to sell milk or prepared meals because of the lockdown, and lack of a school.
Maimuna Ibrahim, another milkmaid, goes to the stream a record ten times each day. This is a lot for the mother of two, but she is used to it. She mentions that some of the other women may go to the stream between five to seven times each day, depending on the domestic need.
Fatima Adamu, a mother of 3 children, tells me that she sometimes has to wait two to three hours before she can fetch water at the stream. This depends on whether the queue before her is a large one, and if the water has gone down a bit. From time to time each day cattle go down to the stream to drink water, while the women wash clothes by the side.
The absence of water makes it difficult to follow the WHO protocols on the washing of hands, and even social distancing. The women wonder how they are expected to achieve social distancing when they gather at the stream, either washing clothes and household items or fetching water. Added to this is the fact that in the camp nomads eat together, prepare meals together. We meet Fatima Adam who mentions that she cannot wash her hands for 20 seconds, given the lack of water in the camp. She cannot say how long she washes her hands, but she is certain that it is not up to 20 seconds.
‘Virus cannot affect us’
On Coronavirus, Ya’u opines that it won’t affect his people, explaining that this is why the nomads do not wear face masks.
His words “We live in a village located on a hill. We are far from the town, and the virus cannot affect us”. He argues ‘We don’t mix with crowds and we don’t need to obey all those rules’.
Sarkin Fulani is confident that his people are safe. However, the nomads are experiencing a decline in economic fortunes. For instance, most milkmaids usually realise N5000 ($10.6) each day from the sale of fura da nono (yoghurt and millet meal), and the sixty milkmaids in the community lost three hundred thousand Naira (N300, 000) ($639.6) at the end of the first two weeks of the lockdown. The milk economy has become comatose, and the milk maids tell me that hunger “may kill us before corona gets to the camp.”
Milk is a very important item in the life of the nomads. One nomad mentions that if milk is mistakenly thrown away, the individual has to immediately pour water on it, echoing the nomads of Shere. He develops the idea by adding that there is a belief that if cows see milk thrown on the ground, they may begin to die.
Yusuf Sale, a herdsman, opens up on the experiences the herdsmen went through during the lockdown “Nomads used to go with their cattle to Mpape junction towards the Kubwa expressway to find grounds for pasture, but the police won’t allow them. The cows are not feeding well and they are not producing much milk.”
He laments “The water around here is not very good. There’s no grass, and no space for pasture because of the construction of houses and the numerous fences. Even if you want to sell a cow during the lockdown, nobody will buy. Everybody is complaining.”
Sale points out “When elections draw near, politicians come here. We won’t see them again until it’s time for another fresh election.”
Ya’u Adamu, a security man, makes a point on the issue of land in the community “Nobody has land here. If government can give us land, this will enable us to build our houses. As it is now, we can be asked to leave at any time.”
‘Hunger will kill us’
“I haven’t seen anything like this in my entire life,” says Hauwau Adam, 95. She laments the absence of water, food, hospitals and schools. “The milk business has crashed. Lockdown has created hunger and poverty.”
Usman Saleh is a gardener, and comments on life during the lockdown “Government should relocate us, everywhere here is fenced. Nothing is going in, everything is going out. If you keep spending for two weeks, and no money is coming in, finally there will be a problem.”
He exclaims “I am begging the government to consider us and send some palliatives to help us. If you come in the next two weeks, you will discover that its hunger killing some of us, not the coronavirus.” The nomads also complain that the food and money government promised has not reached any of them. They were still complaining about this in the middle of July just before publication.
Saleh sheds light on the water crises “Too many people depend on the stream. Formerly, we used it to wash clothes. Now everybody is drinking from it. The water can dry up.”
During a subsequent visit to Sarki Ya’u he mentions that he now wears a mask. He confesses “When I am at home, I will not wear it. But if I am going out, I will put it on.” He tells me that he bought a mask when government made the wearing of masks mandatory.
Yau states joyfully “There is no corona in the camp. Last week medical doctors came here and did some testing. None of us has the virus.” He shows me a printed well illustrated guidance which the medical team left behind in connection with the washing of hands.
On washing of hands as advised by the WHO, he insists “We will wash our hands for four or five, rather than twenty seconds. We don’t have water here and therefore cannot wash for twenty seconds. It will be a waste of water to wash for twenty seconds.”
Yahuza Jibrin, a security man, reasons “It is impossible to wash hands for twenty seconds. There is no water here and there is a lot of dirt in the environment which enters the nearby stream where we fetch water. One thing we do is that we save water whenever it rains.”
Jibrin adds that the camp needs a borehole, and that not all the women living there sell milk. This is because many of the families lost their cows when conflicts occurred in different parts of the country, some years ago. The nomads affected by the crises then migrated to their present location. Some of the nomads, like Jibrin, had their education disrupted on account of the crises. He wants to study law.
Jibrin says that like nomads in other neighbouring camps, many nomads did not go on the yearly trip out of Abuja with their herds at the beginning of the rainy season. One of such areas is Enugu, which is a month and two weeks trek from Abuja, if the nomad stops along the way. If the nomad does not halt on the journey, the trip is usually made in one month.
A lady emerges from one of the huts wearing a dark face mask which blends nicely with her grey hijab. Upon sighting her the children who are eight in number instantly begin to sing ‘Corona Virus, Corona, Corona’. It is a fun filled spontaneous melody from the children. They keep this up for a while. The lady laughs. Everybody laughs.
‘Nomads at risk’
“The twenty seconds was not an arbitrary timing. It was well researched by the WHO. Even with good soap, for viruses and bacteria to be completely washed off your hand, it needs to be washed under twenty seconds in flowing water. The jets of water should fall upon the hand. As it drops it carries away the bacteria or the virus. The nomads are exposing themselves to Covid-19 or other viruses and bacteria by washing their hands for only four seconds,” replies Dr. Abdullahi Mohammed, professor of Anatomic Pathology at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Shika, Zaria, while commenting on the challenges faced by the nomads.
On the environment where the nomads live, he says “The nomads are at risk because the faeces, urine and flies in the camp increase the burden of infection. The flies around could carry the infection and infect the food, and many could develop diarrhoeal diseases. At that point the body will be too weak to fight Covid-19. It will have a severe case of the virus due to the disease burden.”
He opens up on the likely way Covid-19 may spread in the camp “Since the nomads eat together, I can assure you that an infected person suffering from the symptoms will transmit it to another. It’s a droplet infection. They drink from the same calabash and share many items together. If they have a very active case of Covid-19, it will go through the whole place, sparing the younger ones, and infecting the older ones. If the older people tend to have a core morbidity, that is, a pre-existing health condition apart from Covid-19, it will affect him faster than one who does not have.”
4 seconds, not ok
“Anybody not washing his hands for the minimum time prescribed is at risk of contracting the organism, whether virus or bacteria. When we talk about social distancing, it should be universally applied. Social distancing will help in reducing disease transmission, and the Fulani would have to do it in their camp,” warns Professor Isa Sadeeq Abubakar of the Centre for Infectious Diseases Research, Bayero University, Kano.
Dr. Ibrahim Abdullah, an Animal Health Scientist, comments on the nomads immediate environment “An environment filled with filth or dirty items harbours different organisms, bacteria and viruses. It is not an ideal environment for people to live. The Fulani must ensure a high level of sanitation and personal hygiene to get rid of any organism in their environment.”
He speaks on the mode of transmission of the virus from animals to humans “This is by nasal discharges, saliva and through breathing, especially if you are very close to the animals. During the process of tying and untying the animal, transmission can occur. This can also happen when nomads go into the middle of the herd, and also when the nomads massage the face of the cattle.”
‘We drink stream water’
Ruga Fulani Durumi is the next camp visited by this reporter. It lacks pipe borne water, hospitals and schools. Water is obtained from a nearby stream to which at least a hundred women make a daily trek. The stream lies within a depression, and women, and young girls troop there in a long line with buckets and containers of different sizes and shapes, all morning. Some of the women bear babies on their backs, while some very young children carry miniature buckets to join the procession.
One woman with a baby tied on her back bends and fetches water for the group of women lining up behind her. As she bends the baby at her back with eyes wide open bends gently forward. Then she straightens up and pours water in another bucket, and then she bends again. Fetching water is a group activity here as well as in many other communities. Children help to carry mud blocks on their heads from a block industry located to the right of the stream. A house is being built within the camp, and these are the young helpers carrying blocks on their heads to the building site.
Shuaibu Isa is the Village head “We get water from the nearby stream. Some of the villagers drink the water just as it is. Others filter it before drinking.”
He draws attention to the lack of electricity “We need electricity supply. We have discussed with PHCN and they mentioned that we need to get a transformer. But we don’t have capacity to purchase a transformer. We are therefore appealing to government to help us.”
Khadija Auwal, a housewife, sheds light on the water crises facing the locals “We have a water problem here. Women go to the stream sometimes five to six times each day. They go there to fetch water which they use to wash plates, wash clothes, and bath children. Many of us drink the water without boiling or purifying it.”
At Katampe I Wakili Likita speaks of an acute water problem, but that the locals are helped by a nearby borehole which is not part of the camp.
Likita reflects on the experience during the lockdown “Formerly, women sell milk and cheese, and use the money to buy items for their children. This gives the women an economy and some measure of independence. But now the women cannot take milk into town. We have to throw away the milk because there is no market for it, and we are not allowed to take cows to the market. There is no food to eat and the economy is limping.”
Hauwau Abubakar confirms the point made by Likita “Most of us are not going out today to sell milk, and we have no option but to throw away the milk. In the past I used to realise N8000 ($17) each day from milk sales, and there are up to three hundred women here who go out to sell milk every day. If you calculate, this is a huge loss suffered by the women.”
At Katampe II, Ibrahim Abdullahi takes us to a stream from where the community gets water for domestic use, as well as for drinking. Dogs, cattle and nomads go to the same muddy stream every day. Abdullahi says that in the morning if cattle and hunters dogs have been to the stream, the women would have to wait for the disturbed waters to settle. Then they fill their bowls and buckets with water and make a return to the camp. Abdullahi bends down and dips his hand into the muddy stream and drinks from it.
He mentions that his children often fall ill with rashes and skin diseases. He thinks that the dirty stream water is responsible for this. At Jikoko the herdsman takes us to a rock from which water issues. This is the only water source for his camp, a ten minutes’ walk away. This camp is in an isolated spot and a winding bush path gets us there.
In Shere the nomads have been fetching water from the same stream for sixty five years. They point to the stream with fondness. Women go to fetch water several times each day.
According to Ardo Ibrahim “Children used to go into town to sell milk, but that is not possible now, because of the lockdown. Before the lockdown commercial motorcyclists will go out to seek passengers and make some money. Now they cannot do so, and so the men are losing N3,000 ($6.3)each day and that is a big loss.”
Saidu Likita opens up on life in the Ruga “We are being taken for granted. It is as though we are not Nigerians. We don’t have light and water. Indeed, we get water from the stream, from which we have been fetching water for sixty five years.” To emphasise the point of neglect, he adds that the last time a veterinary doctor visited the camp was two years ago. Chaiman MACBAN also complains of the lack of visits by veterinary doctors to many of the settlements.
4 seconds, not 20
During my second visit to Ardo Ibrahim a change has occurred. He indicates that he now wears a mask, alongside his family. His words “When government made it mandatory for citizens to wear face masks, I went and got some for myself and one each for my wife and children.”
On the washing of hands for twenty seconds, he points out “It is not possible to wash our hands for twenty seconds in the camp, when we don’t have water. We can wash for four or five seconds. If government wants us to wash for 20 seconds, it should come and construct a borehole for us, which will enable people to abide by the rules.”
He insists, as he did during my first visit, that the nomads live in the ‘bush’ and that they are not abiding by the guidance on social distancing.
According to him “many of us are mingling freely because we are in the bush”. He believes that the ‘bush’ is safer than the city in terms of the Coronavirus.
Failure of governance
“The issue of nomads not affording water for washing their hands for more than four seconds and their likely exposure to bacteria and viruses, is one of the indicators of governments at all levels, failing to provide for their citizens,” states Professor Salihu Mustafa, a Professor of Civil Engineering, while opening up on the neglect suffered by the nomads over the years.
He compares the lives of nomads in Nigeria with the experiences of Gypsies in Europe “Compare with Gypsies in Europe, because of their lifestyle which involves moving across boundaries and regions in Europe and Asia throughout the years, most countries provide permanent camps with electricity, water, schools, and health facilities for them during their temporary stay”.
‘Nomads use streams’
“The use of streams and springs for nomads comes in as a natural recourse to pastoralism. It is natural to graze your animals where there is availability of water and pasture. The Fulanis are known for moving from one point to the other in search of greener pastures and water. Since they are not mostly sedentary, the streams and waters come in handy,” says Salim Umar, Chairman, Farmers and Herders Initiative for Peace and Development(FHIPD) Africa as he sheds light on the water scarcity among the nomads.
‘Cattle may transmit Covid’
Dr. Abdullah adds “For thirty years the government has neglected the livestock sub sector. The pastoralists are left on their own in terms of production, feeding and medication.” On diseases among the nomads, he says “The nomads have been exposed to diseases even before Covid-19. These include Tuberculosis and Liver flu which also affect human beings, and these are known as zoonotic diseases. The Coronavirus can be in animals, and it has many strains. Nomads are naturally predisposed to diseases, but government is doing nothing to help them. At a time like this, they should be helped.”
On possible exposure of the nomads to Covid-19, Abdullah, who is also the National Secretary General of Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GAFDAN) explains “The nomads could be exposed on account of Covid-19 because of the long period of neglect they have suffered, and the nature of the settlement which is located in remote areas. There is no provision by government to provide outreaches, and sensitisation in terms of what to do, and what not to do.”
‘Livestock extension officers’
Dr. Abdullah laments “If you go to the arable sector of agriculture, you will find that extension officers are sent to farms. Livestock extension officers should be employed by government to provide service to the nomads. Unfortunately, in Nigeria there is no government policy or programme targeted at the nomadic community, it is as if nomads don’t exist here.”
“The Fulani are at the high risk state as far as the Coronavirus is concerned. They don’t have clean water to drink, not to talk of washing hands. They are at high risk of spreading the Covid-19. If Covid -19 does not affect the younger ones, they may bring it to their parents”, notes Dr. Umar Salisu, a Veterinary Doctor with the Department of Livestock and Grazing Reserves, Katsina, answering a question on the risks the nomads may be exposed to
He warns “While government is neglecting the camp, it is likely that the camp can serve as a breeding ground for another strain of Covid 19. It can transmit same to animals, undergo some mutation and affect the human being again.”
Dr. Salisu comments on some aspects of nomadic life which can aid the process of transmission “They are always with their animals, and their whole life is spent around the animals. It’s very likely the camp may serve as a reservoir of a new strain of Covid, especially if the Fulani are neglected. They should be enlightened about the washing of hands, social distancing, isolation and washing of hands, especially if the children come back from a high risk or vulnerable area. They should then be isolated, if not for fourteen days, at least for some time. The Fulani should try to keep their animals a little far away from their camps, so that they don’t come in contact with the dung and urine. They should be encouraged to wash their hands using soap and water.”
“I want to emphasise the fact that our health policy should be reviewed, so that it takes care of the entire society, irrespective of where they live, whether in the city or in remote areas. The livestock sector should be brought to life by implementation of an annual budgetary allocation to the sector. Today, less than 2% is allocated to the livestock sector, but the implementation is zero,” adds Dr. Abdullah while commenting on the way forward.
He recalls “At the beginning of Covid-19, many Fulani organisations tried to reach out to government for support and sensitisation to be extended to the nomads. However, support was not forthcoming except for one state in the South South. Government has done nothing in terms of sensitisation and palliatives to our people. Meanwhile, the water from streams which they drink without sanitising it, can lead to water borne diseases. The nomads have not received any sensitisation about how to look after their animals at this time.”
“Government can invest in the testing of animals and their handlers. But is this realistic now, when the testing of human beings is not yet covered? So, government can test for the handlers and project for the future. If the handlers are positive, they should go into isolation, and leave the animals to relatives who are not positive,” suggests Professor Mohammed.
Professor Sadeeq advices “It is often said that the virus does not travel from one point to another. It is the human beings that help to move it around. So, nomads should follow the guidance and protocols from WHO and other bodies. The Fulani must be educated to practice hand hygiene with running water and soap for twenty seconds. They should use hand sanitizers where water is not available, and they must ensure the use of face masks in the community. Nomads must observe themselves for symptoms suggestive of Covid -19, such as fever, cough, sneezing, general body weakness, and then call the attention of health authorities, if necessary.”
Wells & boreholes
Professor Mustafa who is a past President of the Nigerian Association of Hydrological Science (NAHS) suggests “In South Africa, the government constructs watering points and ponds using windmills to pump water from the ground to the surface for wild animals to drink from during the drought periods. Why would our governments not go to the remotest settlements across the country, and construct ponds, watering points, hand dug wells, and drill boreholes utilizing the abundant energy from solar and wind to power them?”
Umar explains why nomads are reluctant to wear face masks “This boils down to the level of awareness. Are the nomads properly conscientized to understand the negative consequences of the rampaging pandemic of Covid-19? So, if awareness is raised in the pastoralist communities, definitely they will key in and take necessary precautions. It goes back to creating mass awareness. The pastoralists are not resistant to changes, but they need to know why there is the necessity to wash hands and to adopt social distancing in the first place.”
‘nomads in one place’
Dr. Ibrahim Ado Shehu, Acting President, Nigeria Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), reasons “In the general way of farming in the country there is a bias towards agriculture rather than cattle. People tend more towards plants and agriculture. The livestock sector has been dragged back a bit even though it has great potential. Livestock is a lucrative sector of the economy, and it can bring great returns to the farmer.”
On improving the livestock sector, he suggests “If we want to improve the livestock sector, we have to engage the nomads to stay in one place and rear their livestock. Moving around the country will not allow the animals to put on considerable weight and flourish. The strain of walking up and down drains the animals. At the end of the rainy season you see the animals healthy and fattened up. If stationed in one place with access to food, water and health care, they will breed faster, multiply faster, and put on weight faster.”
Chairman of MACBAN makes an appeal “The Fulani need boreholes. We are no longer nomads since we reside in one place. Therefore, we need pipe borne water and we need power supply, which will allow for the proper storage of milk and cheese. If we have boreholes we would be able to wash our hands for more than twenty seconds.”
Ujorha is a Freelance Journalist and writes from firstname.lastname@example.org