First Week Back In Bobi!
Late in the afternoon of Friday, October 5th, our team of seven drove into Kilishi Village, Alhaji Buba’s compound in the Bobi Grazing Reserve, exactly one month later than we had expected! We were given a hero’s welcome which was fun, but beyond that, we are just so thankful to finally be here, ready and able to do the work at hand!
When we left Bobi at the end of May the rains had not yet fallen, so the reserve was basically a dry, dust bowl, with hardly a blade of grass for the animals to eat. We met a very different reserve when we drove in on Friday: corn and millet high as an elephant’s eye, sheep and cows fat from the lush, green grasses and bushes lining the road, fields of pepper, peanuts, yams and beans as far as the eye could see.
The first work facing us, on Saturday and part of Sunday, was that of cleaning our quarters, which involved sweeping and dusting, knocking down wasps’ nests, wiping spiders and cobwebs off the walls, making sure there were no snakes hiding in the rafters….and settling back into life among our Fulani friends! The children were thrilled to see Shane again, and so interested in Bullet, Shane’s four-month-old Boerbol puppy! Bullet was a bit overwhelmed at first by all the attention and the sheer number of children flocking around him, but gradually as the days go by, children and puppy are getting used to each other!
And here, in brief, is how we spent our next five days!
On Monday, we met with Sariki Bello and other leaders of the reserve to hear from them on the progress of the three primary schools and community health program and to know how best Schools for Africa could serve their people in the future.
Regarding the schools, the leaders reported that their children are learning at a rate they never expected, and some of the parents are attending classes as well! They are very happy with the progress. I let them know of the second reading workshop coming up in February, 2019, and the addition of verbal reasoning to the curriculum, which will extend the school day to 1pm instead of 12:30pm.
The community health program is also a great success and receives highest approval from the community. For details, refer to the report further down in this blog.
I explained that before we can start building the much-needed maternity clinic, we must have full approval from the Ministry of Health and Director of Lands. Halliru, our community liaison, will make appointments for us to see these officials next week in Minna, capital city of Niger State. It was agreed that the clinic will be sited half-way between Sariki Bello’s compound and the main road through the reserve, next to that location’s working borehole.
Then we broached the topic of grazing. Wow. Hot topic.
I asked the leaders, “Are your cows still outside of the reserve?” (You will remember that Bobi reserve is 95% encroached by farms, with only a small section of bush in Block 2 available for grazing. For two years I’ve written letters and visited the Governor, receiving promises of dividing the land fairly between farmers and herdsmen, but with no results.)
“Our cows are still outside,” the Malaam answered. “When the Governor visited the reserve, he told the farmers not to plant again and told us to bring back our cows, but the farms are still there, and although we want to bring back our cows, because of the problems we face trying to find pasture up and down the country, we cannot. There is simply no grazing land here.”
The leaders asked if I’d write to the Governor on their behalf, that they needed to tell him the truth of what is happening on this reserve. We made a plan to meet in two days’ time and write the letter.
After the meeting adjourned, we went to our nearby primary school, Bobi 1, to greet the children and their teachers, and visit the classes. We were very pleased with the children’s progress.
Tuesday was the day to visit Bobi 3, or ‘Big Dam Primary School’. We were not disappointed! The children know the sounds of all the letters and took turns going to the board, writing a word of their choice then asking their classmates to read it! Spelling? Perfect! Reading? Yes, perfect too!
On Wednesday we first drove to Kontagora to do some banking, then returned to the reserve driving straight to Bobi 2, the primary school within Sariki Ahijo’s domain. On the way, we passed five camels walking majestically along the roadside, carrying their handlers and loads with ease and aplomb!
Sariki Ahijo’s domain is a fairly remote area deep inside of the reserve, with many communities and villages we’ve never yet had the opportunity to visit. Sariki was there to meet us and proudly take us from class to class, where we were once again truly impressed by how quickly and well the children are learning to read and write, how well they understand their numbers!
After Shane took a school picture, we went with Sariki to see Dam Arga, the big dam which has provided water for the thousands of cows and residents in his area for a period of thirty-three years. Along the way, Sariki told us that the rains had been so heavy this year that water filled the dam to such a great extent that the walls failed and the dam broke; all the water was lost. And it is true. We saw the great, empty basin of land with just a small stream running through the break in the dam. Later, Ahijo took Shane to see the small stream, a run-off from a larger river, that supplied water to the dam. He told Shane that in two months’ time, both water-ways would be dried up.
“I don’t know how we’ll manage,” Sariki told me. “This dam has provided water for all our cows and people. What will we do now?” I told Sariki Ahijo that we must include this issue in the letter to the Governor; he promised he would come to Alhaji Buba’s compound the following day to do so.
We passed through large sections of open, grassy woodland on the way back to our quarters in Alhaji Buba’s compound, an area that would be perfect for grazing! And there were large herds of cattle there, doing just that! I mentioned to Shane that if the leaders were in agreement, here would be a perfect place to start rotational grazing!
Thursday morning, bright and early, Sariki Bello, Sariki Ahijo and the other leaders and I met again under the mango tree to write yet another letter to Governor Bello. I explained to them that this was their letter, they were the ones to tell the Governor their concerns and ask for his help. I was just going to put it down in English, and print it off for them. They would sign the letter.
I’ve copied most of this letter for you to read.
‘We, the Fulani community leaders of the Bobi Grazing Reserve, wish to begin by greeting you, Your Excellency, and assuring you of our continuing loyalty, love and support. We want to thank you for your recent visit to the reserve, for the road work which has already begun and for your interest in our well-being in terms, most especially, of our grazing challenges. It is these challenges, Your Excellency, which necessitate our urgent appeal to you today, both through this letter and this visit.
Your Excellency, when you visited our reserve, we told you that due to the serious problems of rearing cattle outside this reserve in various parts of the country, we urgently need to bring our thousands of cows back into the reserve, and you agreed. You told us to bring our cattle back inside the reserve, that there would be no further encroachment into our grazing lands.
One month after your visit to Block 2, where ample bush was still available for the thousands of cows there, a State security staff, one ****, divided that bush into three sections, giving himself one section, while the remaining two sections he gave to *** and ***, for farming!
Your Excellency, you have given the Fulani this land for grazing, but put those of another language, (tribe,) as security for the land, others who are using it for personal profit. It is like giving a house to a beloved son, but putting others as security of this house, others who have no love for the house or the contents and don’t mind selling it off.
Your Excellency, if this reserve is for farmers, then let the Fulani leave. But if it is true that this reserve is for the Fulani pastoralists, then let the farmers leave. We have no problem with the farmers, but we desperately need to bring our cattle back into the reserve, but because there is no grazing land, and even the little remaining is being sold to farmers, we cannot do so. We urgently request your help.
We also ask the following, issues which are no less important:
1. Repair of Dam Arga in Block 2. The flood waters have broken this dam, which was providing water for 3,000 head of cattle and the many Fulani living in the area. The dam is now empty, leaving a serious situation for these families and their animals. Dam repair is needed, as well as boreholes for the various villages and communities in the area.
2. Two culverts are needed, one in Block 1, the other in Block 2.
3. We request a polling unit on the reserve, against the upcoming election in February, 2019.
Thank you, Your Excellency, for receiving us today and attending to our needs. We know you have our well-being at heart, as well as the well-being of all your constituents in Niger State. You want peace, even as we Fulani want peace. Let us work together, hand in hand, towards peace and progress in this our beloved State.
Respectfully awaiting your response,
The Fulani Community Leaders,
Bobi Grazing Reserve
On Friday, Shane and Lawal went to Kampani Bobi to buy building supplies for a new toilet for the teachers’ quarters at Bobi 2. The old toilet floor has apparently collapsed! Not good at all!
Reminds me of one time when we were driving to Bobi but ran out of daylight, so pulled into a police station to sleep in our car. In the morning I asked where the bathroom was, and was directed around back to a zinc enclosure with a wooden door. LUCKILY, I was watching my step when I pushed open that door, because if not, I would have fallen straight into a huge hole! The entire floor, except for a one-foot border of clay around the inside wall, had collapsed in on itself! And this was the bathroom to which the police had directed me! Well, I HAD to ‘go’, so I crept around the edge of the hole to a corner and there, ‘eased’ myself! But, what an experience!
The teachers themselves want to rebuild their toilet, which I think is great! I love how our teachers, both Muslim and Christian, are living and working together in such peace and harmony. What a great example they are setting for the community and reserve as a whole.
Besides the teachers’ toilet, other repairs are needed in the three schools, and so with the mason our friend Lawal brought from Abuja, we’ll be doing some important maintenance work this coming week.
Friday afternoon, I met with nine Fulani women, some of the Community Health Resource Personnel on the reserve, along with their supervisors, Faith and Hauwa, (Faith and Hauwa are also two of our teachers at Bobi 1 Primary School.) We heard reports from each of the women on the work they are doing among young children and their mothers, the effectiveness of the treatments, the referrals they’ve sent on to the government clinic, the joys and the challenges!
For those of you who are interested, here is the report of the Community Health work on Bobi Grazing Reserve, so far!!
1. Sariki Ahijo’s domain.
The supervisor is Ms. Hauwa Aiki, overseeing 5 communities, Zaure, Dam Arga, Dam Dutse, Malaise's and Zaure.
Number of patients treated; 156.
Types of illness were cough, diarrhea, malaria. There were no patients needing government clinic referral.
Amount of medicines used were: Paracetamol tablets, 15 pcks. Paracetamol liquid, 16 bottles. Antimalarial tablets, 73 pcks. Amoxicillin capsules, 9 pcks. Amoxicillin suspension, 70 pcks. ORS 73 pcks. RDT tests, 3 boxes.
Ages of children treated, 6 months to 5 years.
2. Talauye area.
Supervisor is Mrs. Faith Tunde, overseeing 5 communities: Sariki, Wakili, Buba 1, Maradawa and Buba 2.
Number of patients treated were 168.
Types of illness: cough, diarrhea and malaria.
5 children were referred to government clinic.
Amount of medicines used were; Paracetamol tablets, 16 pcks. Paracetamol liquid, 20 bottles. RDT tests, 6 boxes. Antimalarial tablets, 90 pcks. Amoxicillin capsules, 8 boxes. Amoxicillin suspension, 62 pcks. ORS 84 pcks.
Ages of children treated, from 6 months to 5 years.
3. Big Dam area.
Supervisor is Rev. John Raji, overseeing 3 communities: Takacami, Iri and Big Dam.
Number of patients treated were 179.
Types of illness: cough, diarrhea, malaria.
1 child was referred to the government clinic.
Amount of medicines used were: Paracetamol tablets, 20 pcks. Paracetamol liquid, 17 bottles. RDT tests, 3 boxes. Antimalarial tablets, 76 pcks. Amoxicillin capsules, 9 pcks. Amoxicillin suspension, 45 pcks. ORS 52 pcks.
Ages of children treated, from 6 months to 5 years
Children treated: 503
Clinic referrals: 6
The Fulani Community Health Personnel are doing an amazing job; I thank God for them and the way in which they are selflessly serving their communities! The women continue with weekly literacy and health training with John, Faith and Hauwa, who are always on hand to answer questions and give advice.
The first week in Bobi has ended well, but heavy on my mind is all the work ahead of us. School repairs and maintenance, upcoming teachers’ meetings, a trip to Minna to meet with officials and the Governor, the building permits we must acquire. The building of the maternity clinic and the new school requested by the Dam Dutse community.
The heaviest need is the repair of the failed Arga Dam, and the water needs of the thousands of cattle and people living in Sariki Ahijo’s domain. We have two dams now that need to be repaired: one here on Bobi, the other on the Kachia reserve. It will take at least $30,000 to do the work. But our God, Elohim, the Mighty Creator, owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine, and I know He will make a way to provide water for His people and His creation.
Sheep are feeding in the lush green grass outside my window – grass brought about by the heavy rains that fall here nearly every night. All day, the heat and humidity rise, until finally, towards evening, thunder and lightning announce the coming of the rain and the weather breaks. We all scurry to find shelter! Remembering the lightning strike so close to us on the Ero Mountain Reserve, I’m thankful that we are no longer camping outside in our tents!
Thank you for your continuing support of our efforts here in Nigeria!