Exactly eleven hours from now Shane and I will be boarding a plane and flying back to Seattle! I want to give you an idea before we go, of how we are leaving things on the reserves, the work that will take place in our absence and our itinerary for the two months we’ll be in the States.
Status Quo of work on four grazing reserves - Garbagal, Kachia, Ero Mountain and Bobi Reserves.
Work on Garbagal Reserve is temporarily at a standstill, awaiting intervention by the Governor into a highly political situation instigated by a disgruntled civil servant who wasn’t doing his job as a teacher on the reserve. The man was fired, then accused us of opening a church on the reserve, not a school, finally convincing the local government to close us down.
With the help of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture believe that the situation will soon be rectified and work on the reserve will resume.
On the Kachia Reserve, now that the rains have started, planned, rotational grazing will begin. Thanks to Chester Novak who recently repaired one large dam on Kachia and built a second dam from scratch, the grazing of thousands of animals will take place in those areas. Two members of our team, Officer Saidu Usman and Lawal Amman will be spending the month of June in Kachia, working with the Fulani leaders there, registering the herdsmen and their cattle, demarcating the paddocks and overseeing the grazing project.
In July, Officer Saidu and Lawal will be doing similar work on the Ero Mountain Reserve in Kogi State. There has been a lack of proper management on that reserve, but with strategic adjustments to the staff, (by Saidu and Lawal,) and as they put things back in order, we believe that the Fulani families and their many cattle and sheep will enjoy success on the reserve. The two men will also be selling some of the bulls in our herd and buying more cows. They’ve invited our friend Alhaji Buba, from the Bobi reserve, to come and help with that job! Alhaji Buba has over one thousand cows and knows the cattle business like no other! We’re grateful for his help on the Ero Mountain reserve!
The NewPointe Community School continues to provide a solid education to the Fulani children living on and around the reserve.
Finally, work on the Bobi Reserve is going forward with gusto! By God’s special grace, we were able to finish the first health training for twenty-three women from all corners of the reserve, with thirteen women successfully completing the course and receiving ample supplies of medicine to use against malaria, diarrhea and cough among women and very young children in their communities. The ten who we felt were not ready to begin this work will continue classes in literacy and health three times a week until they too are ready to begin. It’s worked out so beautifully to have three of our teachers in the Bobi schools, Rev John, Hauwa and Faith, as trainers and supervisors in this program of community health! These community resource persons, or CORPs, love and trust their teachers, and have them to turn to for advice and help whenever it is needed.
It was last Wednesday when we learned of the death of two sisters in the same family, Aisha, 17 years old and Yardubu, 19. Both girls died in childbirth after having been turned away from treatment at the government clinic in the town of Kampani Bobi, outside the reserve, about 20 miles from their home. Only one newborn infant survived. We had gone to visit our school in that area, that morning, only to find it deserted with just the head teacher on duty. The entire community was in mourning.
What struck me hard when we learned of this tragedy was, even if the CORPs respond to emergency situations, they’ve been told to refer critical cases to the government clinic. But if these Fulani patients are being turned away from treatment, what have we achieved? What is the point?
It boils down to this. We need our own maternity clinic on the Bobi grazing reserve.
I went immediately to the Ministry of Health; they approved the clinic without hesitation. The Director of Lands will have to approve a small plot on which to build. I’ve made that application as well.
If you would like to help us set up this maternity clinic, please contact me as quickly as possible.
The three schools on Bobi are moving forward very successfully under the expert supervision of Mrs. Josephine Raji, wife of health supervisor and teacher, Rev John Raji. Rev. John and Josephine are Free Methodists with over 14 years of teaching experience!
The grazing situation on Bobi has been challenging, to say the least. This is the reserve that’s been heavily encroached by farming. Last December I was given a mandate by Niger State’s Director of Lands to divide the area between farmers and Fulani, but when Shane and I returned to Bobi in March we had a visit from a State official who told us that he and others, (politicians all,) had taken over this project, were preparing a multi-million naira proposal to do the work, and we should keep out of it! That proposal has not yet been accepted by the Governor, by the way! The situation is exactly as it was before: no grazing land for the Fulani, and farms over 93% of the reserve.
Last Tuesday Shane and I were able to meet with Governor Bello face to face. I did a full ‘show and tell’ on holistic land and livestock management, and the benefits of planned, rotational grazing, using my tried and true PowerPoint presentation, and asked the Governor to allow Schools for Africa to establish and oversee planned grazing on the reserve. Governor Bello told us he very much liked what he saw, and wanted our methods incorporated into the plan for Bobi, directing us to be a part of the over-all development of the reserve. We don’t know if, during the next two months the politicians will begin any work, but our own plan is, when Shane and I return to Bobi in August, we’ll return to Government House, get the ‘go ahead’ and begin dividing available grazing land into paddocks and start. The joy of Bobi grazing reserve is the warm friendship and cooperation we enjoy with the Fulani herdsmen and their families. We are all on the same page together – wanting only to achieve the ‘Good Life’ for the Fulani on their reserve.
Have I told you about the ‘Good Life’ for Fulani herdsmen? No? Well, let me tell you all about it now!
First, imagine an African, three-legged cooking pot. Inside the pot is simmering the ‘Good Life’ for Fulani herdsmen. To achieve this ‘Good Life’, attention must be given to all three of the pot’s legs! If even one leg weakens and breaks, the pot will tip over and the ‘Good Life’ will be lost!
So, what are the three legs, you ask? The first leg is the family – physical and spiritual health, and education. The second is the economy, and the third, the environment – grass, bushes, trees and animals.
Our goal is to make sure all three legs are strong and the ‘Good life’ for Fulani herdsmen a reality!
So, as I said before, in just a few hours now, we’re flying back to our other home – Seattle, WA!
If you’re interested, here are some places where we’ll be sharing our story in the next few weeks:
June 3, Marysville FM Church, Washington
June 8, Wabash Conference, Indiana
June 21 – 23, We’ll have a table at the Leadership Conference at Timberlake FMC in Redmond, Washington.
July 1st, Northlake Community Christian Church, Bothell.
July 8 – 15, Several locations in the Sierra Pacific Conference in California
July 20 – 23, Several locations in Pennsylvania
August 5, Arlington FMC, Washington State.
Thank you all so much for continuing to support the work we’re doing among the Fulani!
Blessings to you all! Phyllis Sortor and Shane Verschelden