Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cattle herders versus farmers in Nigeria

Can the people in Nigeria overcome culture, ethnicity, and economics to become Nigerians?

Most news reports about the conflicts between farmers and herders in Nigeria's Middle Belt come from southern sources and seem to describe the herders as evil invaders. This report seems more balanced.

Nigerian Herders Face Threat From Farmers Competing for Land
Across parts of Nigeria, conflicts that mirror the 20th Century range wars in the American West have broken out between farmers and herdsmen vying for land, leading to bloody battles.

In the first six months of this year, these clashes killed an estimated 1,300 people –- six times the number who died in the war with the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in the same period, the International Crisis Group says.

About 300,000 people have been forced from their homes because of violence between farmers and herders, conflicts that are often exacerbated by religion, ethnicity and even the erratic weather patterns that accompany climate change and create competition between humans and cattle for water.

Herder in Nigeria
Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Kenya and other areas across the continent where populations are rising struggle with the problem as well. Here in Nigeria, where the population has quadrupled in the past 60 years to nearly 200 million, the fighting has been so fierce that the government deployed the military to contain some of the battles.

Numerous regional bodies, including the Economic Community of West African States, have pledged to protect the rights of herdsmen, but little action has been taken. Nigeria’s federal government has proposed setting aside land for herders, yet the country is also grappling with widespread unemployment. So it is pushing more people into farming, which adds to the tensions.

Some states have banned open grazing entirely. Local laws that aim to address the conflicts are largely unenforced, especially in rural areas where government is virtually nonexistent.

Like the majority of herdsmen, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, is ethnically Fulani Muslim. And though he has done little to contain the violence or help herdsmen, he is often perceived as siding with Fulanis, who are one of the major ethnic groups of the north…

In much of Nigeria, especially the mostly Christian south, Fulani herdsmen are considered terrorists and compared to Boko Haram, notorious for rapes and beheadings. News reports often focus on killings by herdsmen without mentioning deadly attacks by farmers…

Gombe State… is known for its wide-open spaces and peaceful relations between farmers and herdsmen. Many of the farmers here are also Fulani, like the herders, and ethnic tension is minimal.

But even in this state, open land is being squeezed…

 Download for teacher background: From Cooperation to Contention, Political unsettlement and farmer-pastoralist conflicts in Nigeria

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