The destruction of crops and becoming a source of

The recurring
issue of clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in some parts of Nigeria remains
one of the major threats to food security.

In the country.Fulani
herdsmen or Fulani pastoralists are nomadic or semi nomadic Fulani herders whose
primary occupation is raising livestock. The pure Fulani pastoralist engages in
random movement of cattle while the semi-nomadic makes transhumance migration
and return to their camps or homes. In Nigeria. the livestock supplied by the
herdsmen provide a bulk of the beef consumption in the country.

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Fulani herdsmen’s
engage in both random and planned transhumance movements.

Fulani
pastroalists started migrating into Northern Nigeria from the Senegambia region
around the thirteenth or fourteenth century.. After the Uthman dan Fodio jihad,
the Fulani became integrated into the Hausa culture of Northern Nigeria .
Thereafter, during the dry season when tsetse fly population is reduced, Fulani
pastoralists began to drive their cattle into the middle belt zone dominated by
non Hausa groups returning to the north at the onset of the rainy season.

But while managing
the herd and driving cattle, cattle grazing on farmlands sometimes occur
leading to destruction of crops and becoming a source of conflict.

 

 The Nigeria government designed some areas as
grazing routes but this has not reduced clashes. These attacks have gone on for
some decades but are

now becoming more
frequent with occurrences in different parts of Nigeria in

the year 2016
alone. The numbers of casualties arising from these attacks have

been on the rise,
as witnessed from the Agatu killings in Benue state, to the killings in Enugu
State. These Fulani herdsmen seem to be taking up the position of a new face of
terror to be reckoned with in Nigeria as they leave in their wake wanton

destruction of
lives, houses and farmlands. They are thereby, competing with the

acknowledged
Boko-haram terror group in causing fear and unrest in our

communities.

 

Everyday, we are
assailed with ill reports of how Fulani herdsmen are launching ferocious
attacks, sometimes unprovoked, on theindigenes of communities where they graze
their cattle. And this is across board.

Until now, the
herdsmen we knew merely carried short sticks with which they hit and directed
the movement of the cows. At other times, they had bows and arrows and catapults
with which they warded off wild animals wanting to prey on their cattle. Not anymore.
The Fulani herdsmen of today are sometimes more armed than soldiers.

 

The point is
straight and simple. Some people in pursuit of their own private endeavours,
shepherd their flock to other people’s land to
graze. The cows do not know the difference between grass and crops. As long as
they are all green, they are good for a sweet crush. Their owners who should
know the difference between grasses and crops pretend not to know and indeed
lead the cows to crush down on all grasses and plants and crops.

 

These same plants
and crops are the only source of livelihood of the local farmers. When the cows
destroy them, the farmers will suffer pangs of hunger and starvation for a full
farming season which can lead to death. The importance of vegetables and crops
can not be quantified in human life.

 

The activities of the
Fulani herdsmen will not only pose a threat to national security but a great
challenge to food security especially when people are calling for the
diversification of the economy while agriculture remains the main focus. Just
imagine, after cultivation, planting, harvesting etc the

fulani herdsmen
sent their cows to devour our farms eating our crops.

 

In time past,
herdsmen and their farmers used to have a reasonably symbiotic relationship.
While the cattle served as means of transportation for

daily goods as
well as manure to fertilize the fields for farmers; the herdsmen in turn
obtained grains and other farm produce from the farmers.

But later, as the
expansion of farming activities, which invariably led to a huge demand for farmlands,
drastically reduced supply of grazing land, flocks of cattle frequently
encroached upon already cultivated fields to the chagrin of farmers. This,
indeed, is a major source of unending friction between the two. Unfortunately, the
friction, if not properly checked could have adverse effect on food security in
the country.

 

In Benue State,
referred to as the Food Basket of the Nation, farmers and residents have
expressed apprehension over imminent famine and starvation if urgent measures
were not taken by both the federal and state governments to end the intractable
attacks on farmers by suspected Fulani herdsmen..

Vice Chairman, All
Farmers Association of Nigeria, (AFAN), controlling Benue and North East, Mr. Terfa
Yalu, stated that 80 per cent of the Benue population depends largely on
agriculture, which is mostly done at a subsistence level, and noted that if
urgent measures are not initiated with a

view to ending the
feud, the country will be confronted with serious food scarcity. “I am foreseeing a situation in Benue State
where famine and starvation are likely to strike due to the incessant attacks
on farmers. You can see that the farmers who are producing the food and even
exporting to other countries are being massacred like animals by the Fulani
insurgents and when these farmers are not there, then it means there will be
hunger in the land”. “Let me
tell you, Benue State is widely known as the food basket of the nation and when
the farmers are killed or their crops destroyed, it will definitely give rise
to famine, hunger and starvation”, Yalu
predicted.

 

The growing
activities of some rampaging Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country,
particularly in the North Central Nigeria’s region of Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states,
could pose potential threat to sectors’
development, including agriculture, mining, industries, among others.

If not nipped in
the bud, the nation’s economy could witness another long- drawn
shock, that may be worse than the recession the country just exited.

 

Adesola Afolabi
notes that “Most of the communities in the Middle-Belt where the attacks
have taken place are in the much vaunted ‘food basket’ of the
country. The Middle-Belt has traditionally been one of Nigeria’s most agriculturally productive regions.
Crops such as yam, cassava, rice, soy beans and guinea corn, amongst others
which are grown in the rich soils hold the key to Nigeria’s quest for self- sustainability in food
production. It will therefore not be an exaggeration

to note that the
current pastoral conflict raging across key Middle-Belt states probably has
more economic implications to the country than the conflict in North Eastern
Nigeria. Many have not planted or harvested for as much as seven years since
2011 due to the ongoing violence.. A lot of the produce from the north that
goes to the densely populated south such as pepper, tomatoes and grains pass
through this region as well. As more and more communities abandon farming and
take up arms, the impact on supply of these foods and meat to the south will
reflect even more on the price and food inflation will continue to rise.

 

On the contrary,
the authorities have done little or nothing to arrest the farmers and herdsmen standoffs.
Once more, the standoffs have infused fears into the women and men farmers in
the areas to attend to their farms, thereby causing a setback to their
agricultural productivities.

 

Other countries
have disarmed groups in the past, and it is time for Nigeria

to do so, and also
to take really seriously, the challenge of climate change which is squeezing
various groups into limited land. Nigeria’s green wall project appears to have stalled. Waiting
until the herdsmen are capable of taking on entire military formations like
Boko Haram have been doing, or worse, until other groups get their own access to
military grade weapons, is not a solution.