Conflicts involving farmers and herders in Nigeria remain one of the country’s main security concerns and a direct threat to national stability and unity. Indeed, the actors generally belong to different ethno-religious sections. These sections are the dominant model of public mobilization and political loyalty in the country. Conflicts seemingly remain intractable as the main drivers of conflict are not well understood.
PREMIUM TIMES photographed the environmental situation in the far north of Nigeria, the area of origin of the Fulani herders, to explain a root factor that pushes shepherds south to the subhumid Middle Belt, the main theater of conflict and the South. The environmental situation becomes even more serious during the dry season and when pastoralists migrate south, they compete for scarce resources with sedentary farmers. The result, in the context of distant governance and years of mistrust, is conflict, which usually turns into violence.
Many times the violence is interpreted as ethno-religious in the media and in public discourse. However, the reality is that farmers and ranchers do not care about religion or ethnicity, but about resources to plant crops and graze cattle, respectively. The environmental problem also threatens food security.
Reality of the advancing desert: Desert-like conditions affecting large tracts of land in Jibia, the city in Katsina State, located on the Nigerian border with the Republic of Niger. Residents, including farmers, ranchers and local journalists, said desertification is spreading year after year, resulting in losses of fertile land for agriculture and pasture for livestock. The effects are a threat to food security and national security, following the scarcity of resources needed to sustain the lives and migration of pastoralists to pastures in the Middle Belt and southern Nigeria..
A child shepherd, Mohammed, is frustrated by the entry into force of the dry season, which worsens the environmental situation. He struggles to graze cattle and says his family would soon move south to graze. The farmland behind it is collapsing. It’s the 2020 dry season in Jibia, Katsina state.
Arid areas in Goronyo, Sokoto State, semi-arid northwestern Nigeria: Pastures barely provide sufficient resources to feed livestock. The breeder told PREMIUM TIMES that he will be moving to Benue State in Nigeria’s central belt for pasture. While Benue promises greater resources for grazing, the reality is that its population is increasing, with consequent needs for land to build homes and businesses, and for more resources for agriculture by sedentary indigenous farmers. Then, competition for scarce resources ensues, usually leading to violence in rural communities where governance is far removed.
Arid areas in Goronyo, Sokoto State: Aridity spreads to previously fertile land, threatening food security
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