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An open letter to President Tinubu on sustainable solution to perennial pastoralist, farmer conflict

The purpose of this letter, Your Excellency, is to make our modest and humble contribution towards a sustainable solution to the perennial pastoralist/farmer conflict which…

The purpose of this letter, Your Excellency, is to make our modest and humble contribution towards a sustainable solution to the perennial pastoralist/farmer conflict which has over the years escalated into a near scale war, with the unfortunate loss of lives and property.

  1. Nigeria is endowed with 19.5 million cattle, 22 million sheep, 34 million goats, 104 million poultry and 3.3 million pigs, 1 million donkeys, 298,000 horses and 88,000 camels. About 90 percent of the livestock are maintained by pastoralists. Although there are an estimated 542 ranches mainly owned by state governments and private individuals, the total stock holding of these ranches make up less than one percent of the national herd.
  2. Pastoralism (including transhumance) is the main system of livestock production practiced by the majority of Nigerian livestock producers. The livestock are raised on natural grazing land with access to crop residue, browse plants and lopped trees. The seasonal movement between the north and the southern parts of the country is dictated by the seasonal availability of pasture, crop residues and water.
  3. Pastoralism is an economically viable production system to the extent that it contributes significantly to the economy of many developing countries. It contributes largely to the growth of local economies and plays a major role in providing protein to the wider population. In this part of the world, meat, milk as well as butter are the major sources of protein to the majority of the population. In addition, thousands of Nigerians make a living from the sale, transportation, processing and marketing of livestock products that include, meat, milk, butter, hides and skins, bones and as ploughing power to farmers. Furthermore, various states and local governments earn substantial revenue, albeit illegally, through multiple taxation when cattle are being conveyed in trucks through states and local government areas to markets down south.
  4. There is no doubt that livestock contributes significantly to the economy of Nigeria. Consequently, the conflict between farmers and pastoralists requires a lasting solution to maintain and improve on the contributions of this sector of agriculture which contributes about 50 percent of the 40 percent that agriculture contributes to the national GDP. Any attempt to strangulate this sector will only impoverish and marginalize a huge chunk of the rural populace whose livelihood depends entirely on livestock production and marketing, thereby exacerbating the current social problems we are facing.

Causes of conflict between pastoralists and farmers

  1. Traditionally, past conflicts were solely due to overlap of farmlands with cattle routes or burtali, where farmers grow crops on the routes. However, recently, this conflict has escalated, taking another dimension of ethnic and religious dimensions. The existence of one-sided reporting by the media, which tends to highlight and report cases in which the pastoralist faulted farmers, and completely ignores the losses of the former only aggravates the situation. Ethnic jingoists and politicians have been benefitting in these efforts and have succeeded in creating a divide between the farmers and pastoralists. In addition to the overlap of farm land and cattle routes, the following have been identified by various scholars and researchers as causes of conflict between pastoralists and farmers: –
  2. a) Dwindling land resources as a result of expanding population and increase in land cultivation as a result of the use of chemical fertilizers;
  3. b) Climate change and other environmental factors, which increase aridity forcing pastoralists to locate to areas which were hitherto sparsely populated;
  4. c) Poor management of existing grazing reserves;
  5. d) Revolutionisation of agriculture through the use of tractors, herbicides etc has brought about extensive use of land for farming to the detriment of the pastoralist;
  6. e) Extensive construction of infrastructure, such as roads, railways, and dams which often traverse ancient stock routes.
  7. Arising from the above, Your Excellency may wish to note that land and or its scarcity is the major cause of conflict between farmers and pastoralists. These conflicts have a direct impact on the livelihood of those involved. They disrupt and threaten the sustainability of pastoral production and agriculture in Nigeria. They reinforce a circle of extreme poverty and hunger, and destroy social status, food security and affect mostly the most marginalized groups such as women and children.

Proposed solutions/recommendation

  1. The Land Use Act of 1978 has granted equal rights and opportunities to Nigerians to live in any part of the country undeterred and regards all citizens as Nigerians. Furthermore, the Nigerian Grazing Reserve Law of 1964 was enacted for the purpose of accessing grazing lands by pastoralists, thereby encouraging sedentarisation and addressing conflict. Not much progress in terms of land acquisition has been made over the years. The approval of the 1988 National Agricultural Policy which provided for the setting aside of 10 percent of the national territory of 98million i.e. 9.8 million hectares as grazing land fell far short of expectation as only 2.8 percent from 313 grazing reserves was achieved.
  2. The inability to achieve the goals set in the national agricultural policy and the land use act calls for the review of the policy on land acquisition for grazing reserve and stock route in order to align it with the realities of the moment. The areas that used to accommodate large numbers of livestock in the dry season are no longer sparsely populated and are heavily cultivated. Thus, grazing reserves cannot be sited in populated regions without dislocation of indigenous population and consequent ill will. Thus, reserves should be sited in areas not suitable for crop farming, but with little improvement could support livestock and eventually achieve sedentarization and improve human capital development through provision of education, health and other services to pastoralists and their children.

While land issues remain critical to the achievements of the goal of settlement of pastoralists, ranching as being advocated recently cannot replace grazing reserves. Both require land and maintenance of animals under range conditions. Both require that land titles be issued to allottees under the land use act mentioned above. However, it would be much easier to administer grazing reserves that are allocated to families in an extensive area that would enable provision of services to herders thereby increasing the productivity of livestock generally, rather than scattered expensive services, as it would happen if ranches were to be the main focus of the settlement of pastoralists.

Dr Muhammad L. Yahuza (Marafan Nguru) wrote via [email protected]

  1. These areas can be identified using satellite imagery. Nigeria occupies a land mass of about 91 million hectares, out of which 82 million could be cultivated and put under crop farming. However, only 42 percent of the 82 million hectares or 34.44 million hectares are cultivated. Therefore, 47.56 hectares of arable land remains uncultivated. 18 million hectares out of these are classified as permanent pasture that could support crops. The balance of 29.56 million hectares is covered by forests and woodlands but has agricultural potential. Accordingly, it is our belief that Nigeria has more than enough land to accommodate the needs of both farmers and pastoralists if properly managed.

11) In view of the forgoing, Your Excellency may wish to kindly consider the following recommendations as a first step in finding sustainable solutions to the pastoralist/farmer conflict and eventual restoration of harmony between the two symbiotic groups:-

The immediate constitution of a Presidential Sanitization Committee that would visit the concerned states to discuss and interact with various states and other stakeholders on some sensitive issues particularly land acquisition and adjudicating it for grazing reserve development.  The Committee would propose an equitable and acceptable land acquisition system in close collaboration with the states and local governments and the recognized customary and constitutional authorities;

  1. i) Verify the location and sizes of some of the 313 grazing reserves and their connecting stock routes in close collaboration with states. This has become necessary because over the years, the grazing reserves have been heavily encroached and stock routes may not exist due to infrastructural development, population explosion, and expansion of farm lands;
  2. ii) Identify marginal land through satellite imagery in order to take stock of available non-controversial land that can be used to establish grazing reserves and necessary connecting stock routes;

iii) Strengthen institutional capacity in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture that would result in the establishment of a semi autonomous unit that would be solely responsible for the identification, planning and implementation of grazing reserve development program in close collaboration with States and Local Governments, similar to what obtained during the implementation of the closed World Bank-assisted Second Livestock Development Project.

  1. iv) Direct the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to study the above and come up with a strategy for implementation.

12) Your Excellency, the recommendations made above are by no means exhaustive. They would require further clarification and discussion by various stakeholders. We are therefore willing to sit with the relevant stakeholders under the auspices of a suitable government agency to do just that.

13)   Please sir, accept the assurances of my highest regards.

Dr. Muhammad L. Yahuza (Marafan Nguru) wrote via [email protected]

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