The recurringissue of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in some parts of Nigeria remainsone of the major threats to food security.
In the country.Fulaniherdsmen or Fulani pastoralists are nomadic or semi nomadic Fulani herders whoseprimary occupation is raising livestock. The pure Fulani pastoralist engages inrandom movement of cattle while the semi-nomadic makes transhumance migrationand return to their camps or homes. In Nigeria. the livestock supplied by theherdsmen provide a bulk of the beef consumption in the country. Fulani herdsmen’sengage in both random and planned transhumance movements.Fulanipastroalists started migrating into Northern Nigeria from the Senegambia regionaround the thirteenth or fourteenth century..
After the Uthman dan Fodio jihad,the Fulani became integrated into the Hausa culture of Northern Nigeria .Thereafter, during the dry season when tsetse fly population is reduced, Fulanipastoralists began to drive their cattle into the middle belt zone dominated bynon Hausa groups returning to the north at the onset of the rainy season. But while managingthe herd and driving cattle, cattle grazing on farmlands sometimes occurleading to destruction of crops and becoming a source of conflict. The Nigeria government designed some areas asgrazing routes but this has not reduced clashes. These attacks have gone on forsome decades but arenow becoming morefrequent with occurrences in different parts of Nigeria inthe year 2016alone. The numbers of casualties arising from these attacks havebeen on the rise,as witnessed from the Agatu killings in Benue state, to the killings in EnuguState. These Fulani herdsmen seem to be taking up the position of a new face ofterror to be reckoned with in Nigeria as they leave in their wake wantondestruction oflives, houses and farmlands.
They are thereby, competing with theacknowledgedBoko-haram terror group in causing fear and unrest in ourcommunities. Everyday, we areassailed with ill reports of how Fulani herdsmen are launching ferociousattacks, sometimes unprovoked, on theindigenes of communities where they grazetheir cattle. And this is across board.Until now, theherdsmen we knew merely carried short sticks with which they hit and directedthe movement of the cows. At other times, they had bows and arrows and catapultswith which they warded off wild animals wanting to prey on their cattle. Not anymore.The Fulani herdsmen of today are sometimes more armed than soldiers.
The point isstraight and simple. Some people in pursuit of their own private endeavours,shepherd their flock to other people’s land tograze. The cows do not know the difference between grass and crops. As long asthey are all green, they are good for a sweet crush.
Their owners who shouldknow the difference between grasses and crops pretend not to know and indeedlead the cows to crush down on all grasses and plants and crops. These same plantsand crops are the only source of livelihood of the local farmers. When the cowsdestroy them, the farmers will suffer pangs of hunger and starvation for a fullfarming season which can lead to death. The importance of vegetables and cropscan not be quantified in human life. The activities of theFulani herdsmen will not only pose a threat to national security but a greatchallenge to food security especially when people are calling for thediversification of the economy while agriculture remains the main focus.
Justimagine, after cultivation, planting, harvesting etc thefulani herdsmensent their cows to devour our farms eating our crops. In time past,herdsmen and their farmers used to have a reasonably symbiotic relationship.While the cattle served as means of transportation fordaily goods aswell as manure to fertilize the fields for farmers; the herdsmen in turnobtained grains and other farm produce from the farmers.
But later, as theexpansion of farming activities, which invariably led to a huge demand for farmlands,drastically reduced supply of grazing land, flocks of cattle frequentlyencroached upon already cultivated fields to the chagrin of farmers. This,indeed, is a major source of unending friction between the two. Unfortunately, thefriction, if not properly checked could have adverse effect on food security inthe country. In Benue State,referred to as the Food Basket of the Nation, farmers and residents haveexpressed apprehension over imminent famine and starvation if urgent measureswere not taken by both the federal and state governments to end the intractableattacks on farmers by suspected Fulani herdsmen..
Vice Chairman, AllFarmers Association of Nigeria, (AFAN), controlling Benue and North East, Mr. TerfaYalu, stated that 80 per cent of the Benue population depends largely onagriculture, which is mostly done at a subsistence level, and noted that ifurgent measures are not initiated with aview to ending thefeud, the country will be confronted with serious food scarcity. “I am foreseeing a situation in Benue Statewhere famine and starvation are likely to strike due to the incessant attackson farmers. You can see that the farmers who are producing the food and evenexporting to other countries are being massacred like animals by the Fulaniinsurgents and when these farmers are not there, then it means there will behunger in the land”.
“Let metell you, Benue State is widely known as the food basket of the nation and whenthe farmers are killed or their crops destroyed, it will definitely give riseto famine, hunger and starvation”, Yalupredicted. The growingactivities of some rampaging Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country,particularly in the North Central Nigeria’s region of Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states,could pose potential threat to sectors’development, including agriculture, mining, industries, among others.If not nipped inthe bud, the nation’s economy could witness another long- drawnshock, that may be worse than the recession the country just exited.
Adesola Afolabinotes that “Most of the communities in the Middle-Belt where the attackshave taken place are in the much vaunted ‘food basket’ of thecountry. The Middle-Belt has traditionally been one of Nigeria’s most agriculturally productive regions.Crops such as yam, cassava, rice, soy beans and guinea corn, amongst otherswhich are grown in the rich soils hold the key to Nigeria’s quest for self- sustainability in foodproduction. It will therefore not be an exaggerationto note that thecurrent pastoral conflict raging across key Middle-Belt states probably hasmore economic implications to the country than the conflict in North EasternNigeria. Many have not planted or harvested for as much as seven years since2011 due to the ongoing violence.
. A lot of the produce from the north thatgoes to the densely populated south such as pepper, tomatoes and grains passthrough this region as well. As more and more communities abandon farming andtake up arms, the impact on supply of these foods and meat to the south willreflect even more on the price and food inflation will continue to rise. On the contrary,the authorities have done little or nothing to arrest the farmers and herdsmen standoffs.Once more, the standoffs have infused fears into the women and men farmers inthe areas to attend to their farms, thereby causing a setback to theiragricultural productivities. Other countrieshave disarmed groups in the past, and it is time for Nigeriato do so, and alsoto take really seriously, the challenge of climate change which is squeezingvarious groups into limited land.
Nigeria’s green wall project appears to have stalled. Waitinguntil the herdsmen are capable of taking on entire military formations likeBoko Haram have been doing, or worse, until other groups get their own access tomilitary grade weapons, is not a solution.