Nigeria’s deadly battle for land: Herdsmen v farmers

The BBC reports on the growing tension between Fulani herdsmen and Nigerian farmers in which hundreds have died during 2016.

Herdsmen and farmers appear to be on an endless collision course, the outcome of which no one can predict. And both sides are arming themselves with sophisticated weaponry. Tensions are mounting, with Climate Change and increasing demand for land – caused by Nigeria’s growing population – major factors; both exacerbated by Muslim-Christian tensions. The Fulani played a key role in the revival of Islam in Nigeria during the 19th Century.

The Fulani’s argue that their traditional grazing land which generations have availed of, are increasingly being turned into no-go farmlands. During Nigeria’s dry season herdsmen begin the long migration from the country’s northern states in search of grazing pastures and water in the central region. It is a centuries old journey.

w.Rotimi Williams, rice farmerThe BBC report also looks at efforts in conflict resolution concluding with an unusual compromise reached by a farmer who had cause to be furious with the herdsmen. Rotimi Williams, a rice farmer, had 49 acres of rice paddies destroyed in February by Fulani cattle and some of his farmhands were ready to go to war. However, Williams kept a cool head, rationalising, “We need a pragmatic approach where we learn to resolve conflicts with our neighbours.”

Williams’ remedy was to reach out to the Fulani’s. “Everyone is scared of the herdsmen. But if you give them respect then you get respect in turn.”

The rice farmer decided to hire Fulani herdsmen to provide security for his farm and when the harvesting season came, hired dozens of women from a nearby Fulani village to work in the fields.

Ominously, the report concludes: “Respect and resolution are rare on the ground… and with the demand for land growing the violence may only intensify.”

You can read the full BBC report here


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