GUEST Columnist by Zayyad I. Muhammad
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The present conflict between herdsmen and farmers is an economic and environmental problem. Some politicians and few gullible Nigerians have turned it to a political one. At this moment, the crisis requires both political and socio-economic solutions. Most of us have chosen to ignore the fact that though, clashes between nomadic cattle rearers and farming communities have taken some dangerous dimension, the conflict in Nigeria is as old as the trades. Furthermore, due to demographic changes and other factors like cattle rustling, overgrazing and expanding human and cattle population, the entire conflict is now purely a ‘resources war’ – land and access to it. But at the present, politics, tongue and faith have crept in at some communities in which the herdsmen and the farmer belong to different tribes and religions. Nevertheless, remove land and the conflict will fizzle, leaving us with the political ripples.
The herdsmen/farmers conflict requires economic, environmental and political solutions – the political class and other stakeholders need to provide permanent, feasible and win-win solutions. Ranching or cattle colonies are indeed one of the best ways to rear cows but it is complex, complicated and not as easy as we assumed. On the other hand, anti-grazing law have proven to be more of crisis igniter than a problem solving vehicle.
So many Nigerians have offered solutions to the current conflict- a media veteran, Timawus Mathias has called for a return to the ‘old other’- “The old order rested on mutual respect, access to grazing land through mutually agreed terms with traditional authority and locals. Peace was essential not AK47 rifles”
An environmental educationist, Murtalla Abdullahi posited that: “solutions that have been proposed are mostly kinetic in nature and will not solve the crisis but only help in tackling the symptoms and the grazing bill that focuses on appropriating grazing land and stock reserves will lead to an intensification of the conflict”
Politicians have turned the herdsmen/farmer conflict into an easy to ‘sell’ and ‘buy’ commodity for campaign, as 2019 elections are approaching; this has exposed the level of poverty of ideas of some of our politicians as they can only use crude method to grasp power. Those linking President Muhammadu Buhari to this conflict are not only unfair to him but have also chosen to play politics and downplay the fact that, in security, the Buhari presidency has fared better than all the governments from 1999.
There are many commissioned reports and recommendations on how to tackle the conflict. However, what is needed now is a feasible solution- which is advocacy. The easiest way to reach the entire herdsmen population is through the radio, despite being nomads, the Fulani herdsmen always move around with radio sets while the farmers can be reached through community leaders.
Herdsmen and farmers are indeed partners; it is politicians that are making the situation look like a ‘we’ versus ‘them’ situation to score cheap political points. Most nomadic Fulani communities and farming communities have co-existed peacefully. In fact, in farming communities, once harvests are done with, they invite herdsmen to camp at their farms for mutual benefits- the farmland get manure while the cattle eats from the farm’s residue.
The Buhari government should maintain its bold stance- neutralize the current politicizing of the conflict and focus on the providing economic, environmental and political solutions to the conflict.
Advocacy and community engagement are excellent political solution, but economic and environment solution are also needed. The Buhari government and indeed other states governments should copy what former Jigawa state governor Sule Lamido did. In most parts of Jigawa state, the then government established demarcated grazing reserves, cattle routes and water pumping windmills for herdsmen to freely nosh their herds. The grazing land is also watered frequently by the water pumping windmills for grasses to grow even during dry seasons. On the other hand, the farmers were provided with large expanse of farmland to cultivate crops. One beauty of this is; the farmlands have dual function- they have on them facilities for dry season farming. This dual solution, apart from promoting co-existence between farmers and herdsmen, will enhance local community security, safety and development.
Another advantage of this is most of the herdsmen will not unnecessarily wander around in search of pasture and water because the windmills provide drinking water for their own use as well as for their large livestock. The multi-bladed wind pumps constantly pump water which continually irrigates the large area of the land on which lush grasses grow even during dry seasons. And finally, both herdsmen and farmers feel ownership of the land.
The herdsmen/farmers conflicts are not faith, tongue, ethnic, geographic or class wars, but rather resources.
Zayyad I. Muhammad Jimeta, Adamawa State, email@example.com, www.zayyad.com.ng