The demographic boom in Africa has brought about a growing need for food and especially meat. At the same time, the traditional breeders, who provide the bulk of the red meat consumed by populated cities in Central and Western Africa, face a situation that is becoming more and more difficult. The Fulani shepherds, a large ethnic group native to Nubia, have been among the first affected. From Mauritania to Sudan, these nomads – with their remarkable know-how and their supple, independent livestock farming – have brought worth to entire countries in the Sahel region thanks to their numerous flocks of zebus and sheep. Moreover, researchers have assessed their form of breeding, migrating, and grazing is best suited for these parts of Africa.
But today, they are facing enormous challenges. Their favored regions have been struck over the last few decades by repeated droughts and an incessant expansion of farmers, making access to water and pastures more and more difficult during the dry season. Considered well-off, these shepherds are neglected by governments, discriminated and extorted by farmers and local authorities, and attacked by bush thieves. Even worse, they must also compete with subsidized meat imported from Europe and Latin America.
In Senegal and Chad, stock breeders need help fighting against the unjust market laws in order to protect Africa’s vital economy. While respecting the environment, the Fulani’s sustainable way of farming could teach us vast lessons when our world is becoming more and more subjected to climate hazards and increasing economic uncertainties.