13 January 2013

Nigeria: Tizhe, Shepherd Boy With a Dream

Tending cattle, like any work, is not an easy task, but Tizhe, a five year-old boy in Muruva village, is happy as he makes sure that the family animals are well fed and are attended to.

He is not a Fulani boy, neither is he a nomad, but he lives a life that involves tending cattles to help the family earn a living. Tizhe, a dedicated Kamue boy, who lives with his parents in Muruva, a village in Michika Local Government of Adamawa State, has a story to tell.

He was fetching water from the pot close to a tree by his father's house. At a tender age of one, he noticed cattle in the family house. Next, he found them running in circles as if impressing someone who had the time to enjoy their show and he soon discovered that they lived in the same compound. He was then 'tempted' to chase with the intention of catching them but could not catch any.

And so it turned out. Tizhe had recently become one of the best shepherds around. "It has never been my plan to take care of cows; it started like a child's play. I remember in those days, I will run behind them in the compound and they will run away. It was a fruitless exercise because all I did was to run after them but today, the story has changed. They are now my friends. "

No one needs to be told that the cattle are truly his friends. Like the Biblical sheep, the cattle know his voice and are happy being led by him. He says, "Whenever I am around, they prefer me to lead them to where they can eat or take them home".

Like the good shepherd he intends to be, he holds a stick, directing the cattle to a greener pasture as it was getting late. Not minding who was looking at him, he moves ahead, goes back, moves to the right and left, to be sure that the animals were in line.

Unlike his contemporaries who are usually afraid to come close to such animals, Tizhe is not afraid to shepherd the cattle. Barely able to express himself, he says, "My father asked me to take care of them so that he will sell them and buy me clothes and rice." This promise is what gives him the courage to be at home with his work.

It was 4pm, Monday, December 31, 2012, while other children were busy playing about, he was trying to ensure that his cherished animals were alright. He brings water from the family house, a short distance from the spot where the cattle feed. He says; "Once it is evening, I come to check if they have eaten enough to take them through the night.

I also change their water as they usually mess it up or dirts from different places can make the water bad."

Leaving his house as early as 7am everyday, he comes back for break just before midday, then goes back at 3pm and finally closes at 5pm everyday of the week. Tizhe is truly on duty nurturing cattle for the family to earn a living. He says his primary aim is to make sure that the cattle are fed well and hopes to tend cattle when he grows up.

Today, unlike most days, Tizhe is not in the field tending his flock. He is rather sitting under a tree while his pets are tied under the trees. "I could not go to the field today because of the Christmas festivities and it will be New Year tomorrow.

We have enough feed for them at home and that can take them for the season. As you know, there are few grasses around. My father, who is also a farmer, has been able to store some feeds for them."

Dressed in a blue buba and trousers with his younger brother, Zira by his stide, Tizhe is, to say the very least, a fulfilled boy. At different intervals, he joins his friends, who were planning for the New Year, a short distance from where his beloved cattle are.

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