Search for Common Ground, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), yesterday urged the federal and state governments to facilitate the resolution of the protracted farmers-herdsmen crisis through dialogue.
The Conflict Analyst of the organisation, Mrs Bukola Ademola-Adelehin, made the call in an interview in Abuja on the sidelines of the Forum on Farmers-Herdsmen Relations in Nigeria.
Ademola-Adelehin said that the recurring conflict between the two groups was largely due to environmental issues, rather than ethno-religious issues, as claimed by many observers.
She said that dwindling resources, climate and desertification were the major factors fuelling the crisis between the herdsmen and farmers, noting that the country’s land mass had remained static while its population had increased significantly.
She said that the consequences of the current climate change had also contributed to the conflict over resources, recalling that in the past, farmers and herdsmen lived together in peace.
“There is need to avoid any ethnic, religious and political coloration of the farmers-herdsmen crisis so as to enable us to get to the root of the matter and address it head-on.
“The issue is more about resource control from both ends; on one side are farmers who need land for their cultivation while herdsmen, on the other hand, need grazing fields.
“We have issues today because any matter that is not addressed today will become a crisis tomorrow.
“So, let us resolve this crisis by bringing farmers and herdsmen together to dialogue about all the contentious issues and state the ways they can work together to achieve lasting peace,’’ she said.
Ademola-Adelehin rejected the notion that the farmers-herdsmen conflict was borne out of ethnic, political and religious differences, saying that environmental issues were the main factor behind the crisis.
She urged the federal and state governments to create avenues for dialogue between the two parties, as part of pragmatic efforts to address the issue.
Also speaking, Mr Saleh Momale, Permanent Commissioner, Kaduna State Peace Commission, said that the farmers-herdsmen crisis should not viewed from religious and ethnic perspectives.
Momale said that a recent research carried out in Kaduna State showed that the two parties were armed, while they usually clashed over resources.
“There is no just one armed party; I say this because as there are killer herdsmen, there are also killer farmers.
“The good thing about this is that both parties believe that the solution to the crisis lies with the government; so the onus is on the government to wake up and address the issue,” he said.
Momale called for the initiation of measures that would help to resolve the crisis and spur harmonious relations between farmers and herdsmen.