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Farmers, herders meet in Abuja over conflict

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By Abraham Adekunle

Professionals in the agribusiness look for solutions to the age-long issues.

The age-long farmer-herder clash in several northern regions of Nigeria is one issue that has not only been persistent but also taken a lot of lives. The herder is a mobile persona. He walks his cattle from place to place in search of grass, and in his wake leaves grazed land and destroyed crops. Since cattle have to constantly be on the move to graze properly and herders do not have particular lands of their own, they have been reported to have encroached on people’s lands.

This is one of the fundamental factors that births this clash. With a view to solving this problem, crop farmers, professionals in livestock production and other stakeholders in agribusiness gather in Abuja to discuss how to put an end to the conflicts between sedentary farmers and nomadic cattle herders. Previous efforts to find solutions to these recurrent clashes have been met with huge political resistance. In some cases, farmers have been reported to have mobilized each other and launched reprisals on the herders. And then, an endless cycle of attacks and reprisals is created.

Farmer-herder clashes threatens food security in Nigeria.

Most of the affected states in Nigeria are in the North-Central geopolitical zone in Nigeria. They are commonly known as the Middle Belt. Most of them are food-producing states. For instance, Benue State, in which a significant proportion of the attacks were carried out, has its slogan as “Food basket of the nation.” This is not just in slogan; Benue State produces varieties of raw foods, such as yam, pepper, cassava, palm nuts, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and even rice.

Unfortunately, the clashes between the farmers and the herders, have been blown out of proportion, has aggravated the state of insecurity in the region. The farmers lose most of their crops to grazing without being compensated. What this has created over time is food insecurity because farmers are not free to grow their crops to maturity before they are destroyed by cattle. At some point when herders were known to wield AK-47 rifles, the farmers had no choice but to let their cattle graze. Those who resisted were massacred.

The populace has also criticized the RUGA policy.

In an attempt to solve the problem, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari tried to implement the RUGA policy. The RUGA policy (which literally means “human settlement policy”) is a Federal Government policy, which was introduced by the Buhari Presidency and was aimed at resolving the conflict between nomadic Fulani herdsmen and sedentary farmers. The policy aimed to create reserved communities where herders will live, grow and tend their cattle, produce milk, and undertake other activities associated with the cattle business without having to move around in search of grazing land for their cattle.

However, the policy is currently suspended. Southerners believed that the policy was designed to benefit the Fulanis. Many southerners and religious bodies resisted against the policy. Of course, the government is trying to implement it as well as most northerners who have borne the brunt of the unending conflicts. While some states in the Middle Belt have joined the North to support RUGA, Benue State aligned with southerners on the issue, having had a lot of violence between herdsmen and farmers.

FG committee to try some other means to resolve the issue.

This time around, the Federal Government Committee established through the Kano State Government will be revisiting the government’s initiatives such as the livestock resettlement project, a World Bank project for Nigeria. The development objective of the Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support Project for Nigeria is to improve livestock productivity, resilience and commercialization of selected value chains and to strengthen the country’s capacity to respond to an eligible crisis or emergency. Hopefully, with renewed efforts, Nigeria can move past the farmer-herder clash.

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