Professional agriculture: the Fulani in Central Africa
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CTA. 1994. Professional agriculture: the Fulani in Central Africa. Spore 53. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49471
Many farmers' organizations have been formed in Africa since the 1980s. Farmers formed groups to achieve recognition, improve the protection of their interests and to restore functions once performed by the government but which they are now in a...
Many farmers' organizations have been formed in Africa since the 1980s. Farmers formed groups to achieve recognition, improve the protection of their interests and to restore functions once performed by the government but which they are now in a better position to undertake. Every country has its own type of group, which may be a federation, an organization or association. Livestock farmers in Central Africa who form the FNEC have virtually become spokesmen for the State. When my father arrived from the Cameroons with his cattle in 1926, he thought he had found the best grazing in the world', recalled Hodi Alidou an old Fulani man. 'The climate was good and there was no tax on livestock'. However he would have found diseases such as trypanosomiasis and also ticks, vectors of piroplasmosis, rinderpest and pleuropneumonia as well as other disease. The colonists of the time found they had to help the Fulani control these diseases which threatened their production of meat. At the time of Independence in 1965 there were nearly 500,000 head of cattle in Central Africa. As the result of disease control, vaccination and controlled transhumance, the health of the cattle was excellent. The Fulani had community land rights and livestock 'communes' protected their territory. The French veterinary officers left the country after the change in regime. As they were not replaced, there were no longer medicines for livestock, in fact there were no medicines at all. The traditional Fulani chiefs took the matter into their own hands. In 1973 they formed the National Association of Central African Livestock Breeders (ANEC). This first group was unfortunately unable to prevent the health of stock in the country from deteriorating. Livestock came in from neighbouring countries; there was no longer any control over transhumance and pastures were overgrazed. Production slumped. Who can buy meat? In 1980 international donors were authorised to return to the country. 'Our first objective was of course to restore the health of the livestock by reintroducing the system for distributing medicines' recalled Dr Bernard Vallat who was then manager of the French Cooperative national livestock development project, 'provided that the farmers took charge and formed Graziers Interest Groups (GIP). ANEC came in just in time. The Association sold veterinary medicines to the GlPs, while their officials were taught to read and write and were trained by teams travelling out in the bush'. In 1986 ANEC changed its status and became the National Federation of Central African Livestock Farmers (FNEC). The following year the government formed the National Agency for Livestock Development (ANDE), which operates as a Livestock Service. 'The Federation should be funded by contributions and the sale of medicine', said Dr Vallat, 'and ANDE should be funded by a sales tax'. However, the economic crisis which seriously affected Central Africa did not spare the livestock sector. With delays in paying employees' wages and poor prices for raw materials, who could afford to buy Central African meat? Consumers in towns preferred meat from the Sudan as it was cheaper. Gabon and the Congo bought cheap cuts from Europe, which were much cheaper than meat produced in Central Africa. Customs change with the times The cost of living for the Fulani has increased very considerably and instead of their traditional foods they now eat cassava. It used to be cheap but since the famines of 1983 it is now their most expensive item of expenditure. According to Febou, an ANDE regional manager, 'Farmers sell more cattle than in the past just to provide enough money to cover their expenses'. Farming has become a more sedentary occupation. Nearly half the livestock farmers now grow crops as they are unable to buy the food they need. Temporary settlements are moving less; livestock are moved within a radius of no more than 50 kilometres, with the result that the environment is being seriously affected. Livestock farmers must be guaranteed land rights if they are to undertake to conserve their pastures. FNEC as a professional organization should play a decisive role here. Its effectiveness is unfortunately hampered by internal disputes. 'FNEC is still led by traditional chiefs who are members by right. It was originally accepted that these leaders understood the fundamentals of stock farming but over the years the situation has changed. GIPs have made it easier for young people to come forward. They are dynamic; they understand the concerns of livestock farmers better and want to have their say in the direction in which the FNEC is going', said Dr Jean Michael Berg\E8s, French cooperative assistant with ANDE. However, FNEC has generally obtained results. All cooperatives in Africa have not always worked as well; many have become insignificant or have ceased to exist. The distribution of medicines in Central Africa is now the responsibility of farmers. FNEC is the only farmers' organization in French-speaking Africa which runs a development project and carries out the work which in the other countries is done by government. It is a recognized and accepted spokesman for livestock policies.