Taking away farmers’ rights will not solve Gombe’s farmer-herder crisis, By Olajide Oladokun

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The farmer-herder crisis is a recurring issue in many parts of Nigeria. According to the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, these

conflicts

displaced over 300,000 and killed more than 1,868 people between 2018 and 2021. Apart from the loss of lives, the periodic clashes between nomadic herders and farmers are

responsible

for the lose of farm produce worth millions annually. 

Gombe State

recorded

several casualties during the farmer-herder crises in the past few years.

In 2021, herders

killed

eight people in Billiri and burnt their houses and farmlands. In January 2022, suspected herders

killed

thirteen people in the southern parts of Gombe. About eight months after that incident, some herders also killed three persons and burnt eleven houses.

In January, Muhammad Yahaya, the

Gombe

State governor,

ordered

farmers to hasten their harvests to allow cows graze on their farmlands. He also prohibited farmers from burning their farm residues. While his intention to assuage the age-long conflict is commendable, the approach violates the farmers’ freedom and does not produce the desired results.

Issuing a directive in favour of one party at the expense of the other is discriminatory and does not solve the problem sustainably.

In November 2021, Yahaya had given a similar

order

. Then, the state government

issued

a deadline for farmers to harvest their crop produce for the same reason above. Despite the forced directive, herders continued to attack farmers in the state. Section 17(2)(e) of the Nigerian Constitution provides citizens equal rights, obligations, and opportunities before the law. Therefore, the governor needs to reverse his forced directives. 

A 2021 study by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

discovered

that the destruction of farm produce by moving cattle is the prime cause of farmer-herder conflicts. Pastoralists move around in search of green pastures for their livestock.

As long as this grazing style continues, clashes are inevitable.

To solve the farmer-herder crisis, the Gombe State government must introduce

ranching

as an alternative to open grazing.

Ranching

is the practice of raising grazing livestock on large tracts of land. Ranching

is a proven model for achieving the

peaceful coexistence

of pastoralists and farmers. 

The Nigerian Federal Government approved the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in 2019. The initiative aims to modernise livestock and create about 119 national ranches in ten years. Unfortunately, like several other policies, the Federal Government is far from fully implementing the plan.

Five years after the approval for its take-off, the

government’s commitment to the NLTP remains minimal. In 2022, the pilot implementation of the NLTP began in four states, and the Federal Government promised to extend the project to more states.

The delay in implementing the NLTP is partly due to the government’s

refusal

to release funds, coupled with the herders’ disposition towards ranching. 

To begin with, the Nigerian Federal Government should partner with livestock farmers and investors to fund

the establishment of the proposed one hundred ranches as contained in the NLTP

. Such partnerships could offer investors tax incentives and land areas for a specific tenure, in exchange for funding to build the ranches across states. That would encourage states like Gombe to embrace the ranching policy. Gombe State government should also lobby the Federal Government to include the state in its priority list of the next NLTP project beneficiaries. 

Many herders do not know about ranching and its benefits.

According

to the Cattle Breeder Association, ranching is strange; herders are used to walking around with their cattle. Through the federal and state ministries of agriculture, the government should educate cattle breeders on how ranching would increase their cattle’s productivity in milk and meat production. The government should also train them on the operational procedures of ranching

through periodic workshops and seminars.

Herders will likely embrace the idea when they understand how ranching works and its potential benefits.

Gombe State government also needs to state its stance against open grazing. As obtainable in several other states, Gombe is yet to establish legislation addressing open grazing. The state governor has, on numerous occasions,

opposed

anti-open grazing legislation

in Nigeria. The lack of an anti-open grazing law shows the state is not committed to ending the farmers-herders crisis. Open grazing instigates clashes between farmers and herders, degrades the land, and negatively affects farm productivity. Hence, the state government should enact a law that prohibits the act. Muhammad Yahaya must desist from such

an oppressive approach

to solving issues among farmers and herders. An order like that would only set a terrible precedent for other states to embrace. 

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