One peculiar problem that has plagued Nigeria has been the perennial tussle between Fulani`s herders and farmers. The herdsman is in constant look for greener pastures, for his cattle. And often encroaches into neighbouring farms for those greener pastures. It has frequently resulted in quarrels between herders and farmers and painfully degenerating into blood-feasts and consequently reprisal attacks.
We have a national crisis in our hands. And many don't seem to have a glimpse of the scale of the ongoing disaster. A Brussels-based research company analysed the phenomenon between May 2017 and May 2020, estimating 2059 victims in that period. The crisis, with an origin in the arid North of the country has since spread it talons to the South and its rainforest, as the shepherd of these cattle continues to migrate to every nook of the nation. A crisis that stemmed from the tussle for space and grass is gradually turning nastier with a total number of 393 kidnaps, and 7572 homes of civilians and farmers destroyed, 16 raped and 393 wounded. There are a presumed number of 350 million illegal weapons in circulation in the country that makes the situation even scarier.
It's important to point out that not all herders are criminals: deteriorating environmental conditions have forced many of them from Northern Nigeria to seek greener pastures in the South. The journey is fraught with many challenges of health and sometimes the loss of their cattle. The growing number of clashes over access to land and its resources has increased the level of violence and attacks in the Nigerian state. The victims are mostly farmers who have had their activities disrupted and displaced from their settlements.
The uprising now gaining grounds in the southern part of the country creates fresh calls for its representatives and governments to rise up to the task of protecting its rural settlers from these invasions. When a region is in crisis its government is moved by the urgency at hand, to seek solutions. Governors like Akeredolu and Ortom have been most vocal on the crisis. Also an African commando, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as IGBOHO, is winning the hearts of many with his new activist role as freedom fighter; dislodging unverified and criminal herders from the Southwest. On several occasions, he has urged the Buhari government to do more to react to a very dangerous situation for the country.
This problem, which also has an ethnic component, must be solved in as little time as possible, before it turns into a disaster of major proportions. Solutions are frankly available and, among them, ranching is at the forefront. There are people who oppose this line of thought, claiming that the ranching system would diminish the nomadic culture which is integral to the herders. They believe such initiative would alienate a people from their ageless traditions.
Yet, we can point to successful prototypes of the ranching system around the world, especially in Europe and North America and most recently in African countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Eritrea, where the nomadic tendencies of herders have given way to a more economically effective way of cattle rearing, through the ranching system.
So, at what cost should we hold-on to traditions that are in dire need of modification? Ranching could provide a remedy to this crisis, ensuring the safety of livestock, herders and farmers, preventing fractures between communities, and safeguarding the health of the herders as they meander from forest to forest. A properly executed ranching system, which in itself is not an alien initiative, would not diminish an ancient tradition of cattle rearing, but align it to modern realities.
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Edited by Alexander Omoniyi Ominyi, President of Mondo Internazionale Nigeria