Feature Article of Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Columnist: Dakurah, Collins

The Fulani Menace: A Product Of Climate Change ....

..... Education And Misconception Of Nationality

These days the Fulani are always in the news for the wrong reasons. Many have put out theories for and against them. Whilst I amongst the group who are wary of the Fulani herdsmen population I would seek in this article to shed some light on aspects of the conflicts which only people who stayed in the bush like me would comprehend. Climate change is affecting the availability of forage land for nomadic herdsmen in Ghana, as a result they have slowly begun to migrate towards the middle savannah areas and in lower proportions to some southern parts of Ghana.

The Fulani population is growing steadily and ever fewer of them are getting cattle to rear. Note that Fulani's don't rear their own cattle but strangely take pride with been entrusted with another's cattle. As more young ones grow up they realize they can't find cattle to keep and by custom once they get married they can not as it were 'perch' their fathers ranch or herd. At this point it becomes clear also that he did not get an education and worst of all because they lived in the bush did not socialize much and so can't even speak the local dialects in their area apart from some little Hausa which isn't very helpful in Ghana even if they could speak it fluently. At this point, the options are narrowed to stealing food crops, cows and evidently preferably ARMED ROBBERY for which they have the capital (courage, jungle terrain training and AK47 assault rifles). I know a few Fulani's who were deemed too weak for the bush and were sent to school, these ironically have like many other Ghanaians made it through our questionable rural educational systems and gotten meaningful jobs.

So the question is, if we have the knowledge that every Ghanaian child deserves an education why don't we enforce it and compel Fulani's born in Ghana to receive an education that would widen their economic options and integrate them into society? Do we realize that the current generation of Fulani armed robbers are between the ages of 12 - 25 years and that they would be around to terrorize us for a long time? If we have missed that generation what are we doing to ensure that the next generation of young Fulani doesn’t fall into the same quagmire? I leave this to CHRAJ, GES and the MMDA's.

Again much of the controversies I hear on radio seem to create the impression that Fulani's are migrants and non Ghanaians. Most people seem to forget you don't need an ethnic homeland to be a Ghanaian, it’s purely a legal matter. In fact your hometown is not where your ancestor's come from but where you were born. An appreciation of this legal issue would possibly help eradicate the tribal and ethnic sentiments most people have. I have stayed with a Fulani family for a couple days in the Central Gonja district (Tulwe) after we had a vehicle breakdown in the middle of our journey and whilst there was a heavy downpour. I got to know the family head was the third generation of the family born and bred in Ghana! (I must add the locals thought we were lucky we weren't killed and our valuables stolen as happens to people who ride brand new motorbikes alone in the bush or to butchers who make the mistake of coming to buy cows in the bush with the money for payment).

Now, I stayed in Adape (Adakrom) on the confluence of the White and Black Volta in Central Gonja for two months and got to understand a lot. The Chief allows Fulani's on his land for a certain time. He moves them to another location once i a while so he can make use of the manure that has gathered in the herds pen area for farming. Interestingly, because of perennial flooding in the area from the Volta River and general uncertainties about the yield of their crops, many farmers strangely sited their farms very close to the Fulani herd pen. In some cases the Fulani's seemed to be cornered on three sides with farms to tempt the cattle. The locals did this in the hope that by chance if the cows strayed into their farms then they would seize a cow in return or demand huge compensations for a farm project which yield would possibly have been poor. Hemming the cattle pen with farms also meant that the Fulani had to be very skillful to navigate his cows away from the green and tasty rice and corn fields in the cattle's path.

At harvest, many farmers strangely refused to harvest their crops mostly because the yield was bad. They waited till there was a bush fire that would burn the farm and that would naturally be blamed on the Fulani in the Chief's court and compensation demanded. So as you may deduce, the few gainfully employed Fulani cattle herdsmen are very bitter from such incidents, whereas the majority young unemployed seem to be given a good reason not to bother about cattle rearing but opt for the all too easy armed robbery attacks on our highways.

The Fulani problem is a long term one that can only be addressed with Free Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE). Any other measures, especially the ones proposed by big talking politicians in Accra won't work! P.S. My use of the tern FULANI is not one hundred percent generic but intended to refer to those employed in cattle pasturing.

Collins Dakurah