Hassan Bachiri, a middle-aged Fulani man, was grazing his herd of cattle on a grassy field allotted for the Ruga settlement at Rinji Sakkida forest, 15 kilometres north of Maradun Local Government Area.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, the highly elated herder said, “We are really very grateful for the project. It will go a long way in helping herders to settle and improve their business. When I heard about the plan for Ruga, I told my family that we would halt our movement with the cattle southwards,’’ he said.
Another herder, Dan Sani Usman, told our correspondent that the state government would succeed in stopping the farmer-herder conflict that has been a recurrent phenomenon for quite a long time.
“The unnecessary bloodshed in Zamfara is mostly prompted by struggle for survival. Everyone wants to take centre stage in determining what to go for. With this initiative, tension will be doused and conflicts resolved,” he added.
What mostly excites Ado Danlami, another herder, is the inclusion of schools for nomadic education in the settlement project. He said Fulani children, who could not have access to education largely due to the conflict in the state, would now be enrolled in school.
“None of my children has ever been enrolled in school, not because I don’t want them to be educated, but because of the conflict that engulfed the state for years. I have six children and all of them are not attending school.
“A part from conflict, another issue that is holding the Fulani back educationally is the mass movement from one place to another. You hardly can find a typical Fulani man with a herd of cattle spending up to five years in a particular place or location. We move from one place to another and often with our families, in search of areas with greener postures,’’ he added.
Similarly, a farmer, Sani Aliyu, said the return of peace to rural communities called for a lot of celebration. He added that villages in the state had suffered a lot, owing to the carnage that plagued the state for more than eight years.
“We are delighted by how peace has returned to communities. Let me tell you that six months ago, you dared not come to this location, even as a journalist. Our gathering here is an indication that peace has returned,’’ he said.
The secretary of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore in the state, Alhaji Abdulsamad Idris Gidado, told Daily Trust on Sunday that Ruga settlement would not only benefit herders but all other well-meaning citizens in the state.
“What is causing the movement of herders from one place to another is greener pasture. If this is provided, there would be no reason for movement, which in most of cases is causing conflicts in the country.
“You will see a herder moving with 100 cows, which are sometimes not well fed. If good pastures are provided for the animals, the quality of dairy product would improve, and this will in return have a positive financial implication on the owners of the cows.
“We met SAN Yoghurt and we went to their production centre in Zaria. They told us that they would be glad if they would be getting quality dairy product from some designated production centres. What they mean is that there should be centres for the production of dairy milk, and we see Ruga as an opportunity, more especially that it would be equipped with modern dairy production machines.
“Also, there will be no more hawking of milk by Fulani women since large herds of cattle would be settled and mass production of milk with ready markets would be guaranteed.
“The Ruga settlement will also solve the problem of cattle rustling as suspicious cows will not be brought to the settlement. Government also stands to benefit a lot in terms of revenue generation,’’ Gidado said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the three pilot settlements, which would have state-of-the-art facilities, would be established in each of the three senatorial zones of the state. Each of the settlement would cover 100 hectares of land, which would make the environment lively for the community and enhance cattle production.
The facilities include veterinary clinics, cattle ranches, 210 housing units of three and two-bedroom flats, primary school of a 12-classroom capacity, secondary school.
Other facilities are Islamiyya school, primary health care centre of a 30-bed capacity, earth dam, cattle cottage, grazing yard and modern abattoir, Jumu’at mosque, cemetery, police station, mini market consisting of 140 open and locked-up shops.
The rest are livestock market, access roads covering the entire vicinity of the settlement, irrigation farms and canals, dairy collection centre, 12 hand pumps and four solar motorised ones. Grass band that matures within 16 weeks, which will improve the quantity and quality of cow milk, and is medicinal; shelter belt, social centre for sporting activities, ceremonies and other community engagements.
Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle, who laid the foundation for the Ruga settlement in Rinji Sakkida forest on Wednesday, said the project would cost N8.631 billion.
The governor said the project was aimed at transforming the way of life of the Fulani community and bring them in tune with modern realities by halting their movement, which often results in clashes with farmers.
“Over the years, one of the thorny issues in the social life of our people is that of the perennial clashes between the communities of farmers and cattle herders. The primary issue at stake has always been that of access to grazing lands, watering points and cattle routes, which often clash with the interest of farmers, who need lands for crop production.
“As we have seen in recent times, these conflicts have taken an uglier dimension we have never seen. In modern times, efforts are being made all over the world to transform the system of cattle rearing and production from nomadism to sedentary.
“It is, therefore, clear that our decision to embark on the Ruga project is tied to the broader issue of security, ensuring harmonious coexistence and solidarity among our people, especially farmers and herders,’’ Governor Matawalle said, adding that those are the essential ingredients for the development of any society.