21 November 2012

Nigeria: Cattle Herders and Climate Stress


Clashes between cattle herders and farmers are a major cause of increasing violence and general insecurity in Nigeria. The frequency and scale of these communal conflicts are alarming. As a matter of national security, the concept of land grazing should be put on the front burner of national policy and action. In this regard, model reserves which eliminate herder-farmer conflicts and integrate both groups into our mainstream national economy should be our goal.

Local models should be studied and scaled up in other locations in the country. One of such local models is being run by a civil society advocacy group, Pastoral Resolve (PARE), which is running the Kachia Reserve in Kaduna. We commend the effort of PARE to reform the environment for pastoral business which we understand is funded by the UK Department for International development (DFID) and is supported by Adam Smith International and the Springfield Centre. Grazing reserves are found in such countries as the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Australia. Where they protect and promote the interests and welfare of our nomadic pastoralists and preserve their tradition and cultural values, best practices from these developing and developed countries alike should be incorporated into our local models. Of course, an integrated approach to our herders-farmers should include climate governance.

The pattern of movement of our herders reflects a general trend in world migration. People regularly leave areas of lower economic opportunities in communities of origin to locations of higher economic potential in foreign destinations. In this case, herder-farmer conflicts occur in the course of the movement of normadic herders from the northern parts of the country to the sedentary south. Four northern states with two vegetation zones, for example, illustrate involvement of climate stress in the south-bound migration. Desert encroachment is known to be more severe in Sudan Savannah in the northern parts of Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina and Kano than in Guinea Savannah in the south. In Sokoto State west of Kebbi and south of Zamfara, which is entirely Sudan Savannah, declining agricultural productivity has been reported in the last several years. Also, Nigeria is not always the destination of this migration; it has also been the origin. Members of the Fulani-dominated Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria have been known to flee Nigeria's eastern Taraba State to Cameroun to escape clashes which broke out in the Mambilla plateau with farming communities.

Clearly, then, our herder-farmer conflict is not a national affair. It is also not a regional affair; it is a global affair.

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