Farmer-Herder Crisis: German foundation moves to end killings in North Central Nigeria

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Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Foundation of Germany said it has initiated result-oriented activities and a roadmap towards ending the famers-herders crises in North Central Nigeria.

The foundation stated this at a Roundtable Discussion on the Root Cause of Farmers Herders Crisis in North Central Nigeria organized by CHARIS Heathcare and Community Support Initiative; a non governmental organization based in Jos, which is concerned about supporting individuals, families and communities in distress through providence of evidence based psychosocial care and support achieving immediate and lasting change.

According to the foundation, understanding the root cause of the problem is key to ending the menace which has cost lots of lives and properties over the years.

A highlight of the event was the free distribution and review of a reference book capturing a research report on the root cause of farmers-herders crisis in North Central.

The research was funded by Rosa Luxemburg Stiffing Foundation, while two lecturers from the Department of Sociology, University of Jos. Dr Plangshak Musa Suchi (Ph.D) and Dr Sallek Yaks Musa (Ph.D) undertook the research.

According to the brochure, the study conducted 72 in-depth interviews with traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders, representatives of local government authority, farmers, herders, security agencies and the civil society across selected affected communities in North Central states with a view to understanding the root cause of the farmers-herders crisis in the region.

The researchers findings revealed that the crisis was caused by multiple but interrelated socio-economic and political factors associated with the structure of the society and the character of the Nigerian state. And the immediate trigger of the crisis has often been the destruction of food crops by cattle and/or cattle rustling by criminal elements.

“Beyond these manifest causes, some deeper and more fundamental factors propelling the crisis were equally identified. Principal among these include scarcity of economic resources, especially arable land and fresh water, which some of the participants associated with explosion in human and animal population. There is also influx of herders and expansion of farming activities and cattle grazing.

“Others are socio-political marginalisation of ethnic and/or occupational groups especially the marginalisation of Fulani herders in the political affairs of some farming communities including discriminatory policies, deeply entrenched ethnic animosity between farming communities and the Fulani herders, which is further associated with cultural tension between the two parties, religious prejudice and sentiments between the predominantly Christian farmers and the Muslim Fulani dominated herders.

“Again, weak security and justice institutions which mostly manifests in poor handling of the cases of crop destruction by security and justice agencies across the communities, high level of unemployment and endemic poverty in the rural communities.

“In general, there is overwhelming evidence suggesting that the root cause of the farmers-herders crisis in North-Central Nigeria is therefore centred on the social structure of the Nigerian society and the inherent contradictions within the Nigerian state. Issues relating to blocking of cattle routes and encroachment on grazing lands by crop farmers, rampant destruction of food crops by herders, cattle rustling by criminals and violent attacks on farming communities, as well as scarcity of economic resources, are all facets of the farmers-herders crisis,” the book pointed out.

With respect to the roadmap to finding peace therefore, the researchers recommended that there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to address the underlying socio-economic and political factors associated with the crisis, such as historical legacies of injustice against minority ethnic groups in the region, inequality in access to economic and political resources between ethnic, religious, occupational, regional and gender groups and  high rate of unemployment and poverty.

It also recommended that the  corruption among the ruling elites; and weak security and justice institutions through good governance and policies that promote rapid reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced victims of the crisis.

“Furthermore, in implementing the livestock transformation plan as a step towards ending open grazing, the Federal Government in conjunction with the State Governments must first allay the fears of farming communities of possible land grabbing, occupation, and colonisation by Fulani herders.

“These herders must respect the customs and traditions of the host communities and protect their historical heritage. More crucially, as an immediate step towards resolving this crisis, the Federal Government must take pre-emptive steps to guarantee the security and safety of vulnerable communities from attacks and counter attacks that are associated with the farmers-herders crisis.

“One way this can be achieved is by designing a uniform structure for the organisation and delivery of community based policing across the entire region and the country at large,” it added.

In her remark at the event, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung West Africa Office/Bureau Programme Manager, Angela Odah, said their decision to popularize the findings of the research is for the other stakeholders and experts to look at the implication of the research and take the necessary action.

She said the roundtable discussion was also to look at the crisis from mental health aspect and gender perspective of how women are affected, adding that this is an opportunity for Nigerians to realize that everyone is affected one way or another by the crisis and that the people are therefore stakeholders in building peace.

Facilitators at the event who also presented papers and partly reviewed the book were Henry Ajine Ojenya, a Clinical Psychologist and Programme Manager CHARIS Healthcare and Community Support Initiative, Jos and Aishatu Yusha’u Armiya’u, Associate Professor of Psychiatry Department of Psychiatry, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University. Bauchi State.

Over 100 people were in attendance, including youth and community leaders, traditional rulers, youths, community members, religious leaders, online community, academia, CSOs, among others.

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