Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Fulani Herders Face Igbo Women

Fulani Herders

Fulani herder

A Fulani herdsman waters his cattle in Nigeria May 7, 2015. EMMANUEL AREWA/AFP/Getty Images)

I read this intriguing article about how a group of Igbo women confronted Fulani herders whose cows were destroying their crops.

They put their heads together and came up with a novel solution. What did they do?

A clue – their answer did not involve the usual weapons. You’ll have to read to find out!

Fears of Fulani Herders

I read on Ainehi Edoro’s blog Brittle Paper that the Nigerian novelist Chika Unigwe has just won a prestigious position at Brown University. So I went to Twitter to follow her.

Chika Unigwe

Nigerian/Belgian author Chika Unigwe

As often happens when I’m looking at Tweets, I was led to another item to share. I found this piece about the conflict between the Fulani herders and farmers.

Mark Amaza, author of the article in Quartz, says clashes between the nomadic Fulani herders and farmers have gone on for a couple of decades. But they were only in the far north.

Now, he says, “due to the increasing desertification of nomadic grazing land in those areas which are traditional cattle-rearing territories, overgrazing and lower rainfall, the nomadic herdsmen have been pushing farther and farther south in search of grass and water for their herd.”

Fulani herders subject of Amaza's article

Mark Amaza writes about Fulani herders

Sounds like an early sign of climate change to me.

The Fulani herders are being encouraged to take up ranching for their cattle, but this has not yet proved popular, even though there are studies showing better financial results. They assert a constitutional right to free movement around the country.

Amaza hopes for intervention by security forces to quell these disturbances. He concludes, “Seemingly, only a transition to ranching by cattle rearers will bring an end to these conflicts.”

Fulani Herders and Me

But as I’ve been reading about the difficulties between the herders and farmers in many parts of Nigeria, I’m reminded of my own very different experience.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in the ’60s I taught and lived in the capital Lagos. I also taught part-time in a small village school about 15 miles away.

My tiny Fiat was like this one

My Fiat looked like this with a top that opened

Three times a week I drove out to the school in my tiny Fiat 500. Peace Corps supplied me with the vehicle – there was no other option to reach the school in a reasonable time.

I was lucky! (And that car led to meeting my husband. That’s a story told in the anthology Love on the Road 2015, and in my memoir.)

I often had to drive through a herd of cows shepherded by Fulani boys and young men. I was terrified – the cows were larger than my car, and their horns were scary.

One day I was driving too fast on a curve on the one-lane road, and my car turned over.

The Fulani herders came running. They helped me out of the upturned vehicle and saw that I was not hurt.

Then they kept their cows away while they righted my car.


Adichie who wrote about her sister

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a lovely piece about her sister for Vanity Fair. She writes with fondness of early memories and their relationship today.

She says she has counted on her sister for help since she was little. When they were in a new house and she was fearful of going up the stairs, her sister she says, “I was 4; she was 15. It is my earliest memory of my attachment to her,” she says.

Her sister is a pharmacist. They are different in their hair styles, careers, and feelings about housework. “Still, we ask each other’s opinions of outfits and hairstyles. We have long conversations about my book events and her pharmaceutical conferences. We talk and e-mail often.”

I also have a sister I love. She lives in Cincinnati.

And we too have long conversations about all sorts of events. My book events and her bowling results often feature.

Nigeria Revisited is Reviewed 

I’m happy to report that my memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad received a great review from Kirkus.

Nigeria Revisited

Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad

The reviewer said, “The author is an experienced speaker on topics related to Nigerian culture, and so she proves a dab hand at it here, providing just enough detail to answer readers’ questions but not so much that they feel overwhelmed.”

Not sure of the meaning of ‘dab,’ but I’ll take it as praise!

When I spoke about Nigerian customs this afternoon at Atria Senior Living in Darien, CT, I tried not to overwhelm my audience with too much detail.

They asked lots of questions which I consider a good sign – they clearly wanted to know more, and I’ve been invited back.

He/she says, “. . . the pace of her book is stately—never rushing forward during scenes of crisis nor lollygagging when little is afoot.”

I loved the final sentences: “Overall, she’s an excellent steward of her past emotions, and readers will wish they were there at the Kakadu nightclub in Lagos, where she “danced with abandon to the sensual music,” or at a traditional Mmos masquerade, where she trembled at the spectacle.

An accomplished story of life overseas by a woman of the world.” – Kirkus Review

Gender Equality

President of Mexico

President of Mexico

The president of Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto, wrote a piece for Huffington Post about gender equality. He speaks with pride of his country’s efforts.

“In 1975, my country hosted the first World Conference on Women where we established the founding principles of today’s UN Women,” he says.

“More recently, Mexico promoted gender mainstreaming through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” He says we all share the responsibility for ending discrimination based on gender.

Thank you, President Peña Nieto. I’m with you.


Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. A very interesting post, Catherine. I particularly enjoy hearing about you and your Peace Corps experiences. This scene with the car turning over shows the good actions of a group – and is what I expect. I think expecting the good means that is what’s more likely to occur, instead of anticipating difficulties and problems.

  2. Hail to the female!! This was one of the best, enjoy it immensely…I have a sister in CT, love her a lot!!💜

  3. I read the article about how the women stopped the herders. I feel sure I saw something similar in the past 6 months or so. However, I believe it was applied to stop wild animals (elephants maybe?) from causing destruction. The scenario reminds me of the old western US and the fights that occurred over the open range concept. Do you remember the song in the musical “Oklahoma”: “The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends”?

    • Interesting – I hadn’t seen a similar story. Maybe it’s all a “rural myth!!” Yes, I remember the song. Land ownership and land use are issues ripe for conflict, it seems, in large and small ways.

      • I saw the thing about the wild animals in a documentary on TV, actually saw the people going to the market to get whatever substance would repel the animals and putting it out, then keeping watch overnight to see how it worked. That’s when the animals used to come, in the night. Let’s hope the herdsman and farmers can reach an amicable settlement.