Inside Nigeria’s great land and water conflict
Clashes between farmers and herders vying for land and water are getting deadlier. More than 1,300 have died – many in large-scale planned attacks – this year, making it Nigeria’s most serious security crisis. It is dividing communities along ethnic and religious lines.
Mainly in the north-central states of Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa and north-east states of Taraba and Adamawa. Banditry and cattle rustling are spreading across other northern states.
In the short term, the causes are competition for land and water, blocking of traditional migration routes, cattle theft and crop damage. But the deeper causes are that drought and desertification dried up water supplies in the far north, pushing herders to migrate to more-populated areas in the south.
Political and economic consequences
Herder-farmer clashes are a key issue for northern states in national elections in February 2019. Opportunistic politicians could deepen the community divides. More than 70% of Nigerians earn their living in agriculture; some 300,000 farmers have been driven from their land, disrupting production and pushing up food prices.
The government has sent more soldiers and police to the region in Operation Cat Race and Operation Whirl Stroke, as President Muhammadu Buhari and his officials met with herder and farmer leaders to encourage local settlements. The government has launched the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which includes establishment of ‘cattle colonies’, reserving land and water for herders.