July 24, 2024

Incessant farmers-herders clashes in Nigeria—A prompt for urgent mediations

By Lateef A. Abdulsalam

The rate of conflicts between transhumance pastoralists and plant agriculturists in a country often referred to as the giant of all Africa countries in recent decades is alarming, and if not interfered with at this point in time, then the future of harmonious relationships between tribes is doubtful.

Attacks between the duo have contributed in no small amount to the harsh sustainability of the rural dwellers, whose survival is solely on cultivated crops, causing them to either flee their farm zones or pay the price of breathing their lasts if attempting to safeguard grown crops from being fed upon by wandering cattle of the nomadic herders.

A report from a non-governmental conflict data analysis project, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), recorded 8,343 deaths in 1,350 attacks between 2005 and 2021.

Several causes have been attributed to transhumance pastoralism (the movement of cattle from place to place in search of green pastures by herdsmen), including limited land resources (urbanization), climatic factors (desertification), and cattle rustling.

Therefore, in order to face these threats that are disrupting peaceful coexistence in our nation, all hands need to be on deck. The timely interventions need not be left to the federal government alone; private organizations, individuals and international bodies are expected to stand in solidarity by contributing their quota to bringing the menace to fellow humans to a halt.

The immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, after several consultations with experts and relevant stakeholders at both state and federal levels, took the bull by the horn by developing a 10-year implementation strategy to end the conflicts.

The strategy, termed the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), aimed to modernize the traditional system of animal husbandry of the Fulani herders, who happen to be the predominant livestock producers in the country.

Obstacles to project implementation

In the very beginning, things appeared to be workable and executable as the federal government signed synergy with investors of the Dutch dairy company, set aside land for ranching across the 36 states, including the FCT, and announced its readiness to provide full funding for the project. However, the implementation was countered with a lot of challenges from different stakeholders, with the Fulani herders, whom the project was perceived to benefit the most, not being an exception.

The traditional Fulani nomadic herders rejected the move because it appeared to change the thousand-year-old norms and values, while other members of the public, particularly the southerners, saw it as a plot by President Buhari, a Fulani by tribe, to hijack part of the limited land mass of the south for settling his people, having forgotten that the establishment of ranches will not only boost their local economy (through investment opportunity) but also reduce the cost of animal protein, of which they appear to be the major consumer.

Moreover, the ethnic and religious oppositions from most of the southern states governments and civilians were later exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2021 and the 2023 general election preparations in the last quarter of 2021. All of which disrupted the federal government’s plan for fund generation and sourcing, resulting in its abandonment.

Way out of the dreadful situation

1. Reactivation of NLTP and reorientation: The present administration should rejuvenate the benevolent plan of its predecessor and make public the benefits of its implementation, as this will not only correct the existing misperception of the populace but also facilitate smooth execution.

2. More collaboration with the private sector: Engagement with relevant non-governmental organizations would harness the process of information diffusion among the locals. It will also allow for more investment opportunities, which will in turn result in increased funding for the project.

3. Training and retraining of new and existing animal experts: Following the enabling operational environment and funding availability, expert training happens to be the next priority to bring an end to the standing attacks. In fact, it can even be said to be the No. 1 remedy because if the government fails to provide the required funding and tribes decide not to drop their misperceived idea of the perception, then individual/private investors can go ahead in establishing their pastures and rangelands; however, if the technical personnel are not available, it is impossible. Imagine the huge costs incurred by the federal government in inviting foreign investors with all the enticing packages (tax waiver, special security guarantee, etc.) being spent on the local professionals and the project itself. The burden of a funding shortage would have been minimal. Many so-called professionals in the federal ministry of agriculture lack the hands-on skills required to establish and maintain a ranch due to inadequate training and retraining.

Now, the institute, which is supposed to be at the forefront of training young / upcoming experts in addition to the theoretical knowledge acquired in the classroom, is handicapped. Many fresh graduates of animal husbandry also lack the financial resources to go for the alternative of schooling abroad, where the acquisition of both theoretical and practical knowledge is possible. Therefore, the international bodies should help in providing scholarship opportunities to qualified graduates of the developing world, particularly Nigeria, to solve the problem of professional incompetence.

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