In­side Nige­ria’s great land and water con­flict

The Africa Report - - POLITICS - P.S.


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.

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