The National Economic Council on Thursday recommended a ban on the movement of herdsmen as solution to incessant clashes between herdsmen and farmers. ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, suggests that government’s effort should also be directed at mitigating effects of Climate Change
Although, Climate Change is a global phenomenon, its effects are peculiar to geographical locations and dependent on adequacy of the responses.
One major difference between the western world and Africa is that the west possesses the resources and adaptation strategy to deal with the challenge while Africans and Nigeria in particular do not.
It has been established that depletion of natural habitat due to climate change is a major cause of communal conflict in Nigeria.
Therefore, climate change already has a damaging effect on the lives and properties of the people living in some parts of the country. For instance, climate change has contributed to massive migration of herdsmen to the middle belt and southeast regions.
The change in climate such as depletion in the ozone layer has led to heat waves, dryness of the rivers and lack of pasture for cattle to graze amongst others and has made life uncomfortable for the people.
In addition, the relative lack of adequate rainfall has made the land to dry up, leading to inadequate pasture for the cattle and thus making the people to migrate to safe areas of the eastern and middle-belt.
This has consistently put the cattle breeders against crop farmers in the middle belt region.
President Muhammadu Buhari, while responding to the incessant attacks in January 2018, stated that these conflicts are more often than not, caused by major demographic changes in Nigeria.
Since 2015 when the Buhari administration came into power, over 50 per cent of the casualties were recorded among farming communities in Benue, Kogi, Taraba and Nassarawa in north central.
Buhari, in a statement signed by his senior special assistant on Media and Public Affairs, Garba Shehu, observed that Nigeria’s population has increased in geometric proportion from about 63 million, at independence in 1960, to 200 million people, while the demography has not changed. Adding that rather, climate change effects have compelled cattle breeders to seek greener pastures.
“Today, the population is estimated at close to 200 million, while the land size has not changed and will not change. Urban sprawl and development have simply reduced land area, both for peasant farming and cattle grazing.
Some states in the middle belt region of Nigeria, such as Plateau, Benue and Taraba have not known peace in recent times due to farmer – cattle breeders’ clashes. The case of Benue and Plateau remains worrisome, as it has lasted for over a decade, without a practical solution.
In most cases, the herdsmen, allegedly of Fulani descent, are more sophisticated with arms and ammunition and easily displace the owners of the land and occupy the place.
However, government’s inability to deploy adequate security and other resources to stem the scourge of the clashes to checkmate the effects of the climate change has not helped matters. Had there been adequate rainfall in the northeast and west, the herdsmen may have remained in their traditional abode and not migrated to other areas for their cattle to graze.
Ironically, climate change is not ranked among the five top causes of conflict in Nigeria, namely, Tribalism, Resource Control, Religion, Land and Trade. But that reality has been altered. The past 36 months have been fiercely violent for several Nigerian states that experienced rampaging herdsmen killing many subsistent farmers, who defend their farms from grazing herds.
Variants of causative factors have been proffered for the visceral violence, but not the nexus between herdsmen migration southwards and the effects of climate change.
Herdsmen are nomadic and habitually migratory. They move from north to south annually with their cattle, in search of grazing fields. The movement is seasonal. Now with climate change, the movement pattern has been markedly altered. Due to expansive desertification, drought and unchecked deforestation in northern Nigeria, the herdsmen naturally seek greener pasture southward.
As the resultant migration has intensified, violent clashes over grazing lands between local farmers in the south and pastoral herdsmen erupt in different areas.
Farmers accuse herdsmen of wanton destruction of their crops and forceful appropriation of their lands continue unabated, while herdsmen in most cases, would rather kill humans than risk losing their cattle to hunger.
The shrinking of Lake Chad from 45,000km2 to 3000km2 in less than three decades, compounds the emerging conflict further. The consequence, according to the United Nations, is the displacement of about 10.5 million people. It’s a combination of these factors that have pushed herders from northeastern Nigeria, the region closest to Lake Chad, to the southern parts of the country.
In the wake of the rising attacks, two states of Benue and Taraba have enacted anti-grazing laws that make grazing in open field or farms a punishable offense.
Although the federal government’s response to the anti open grazing law was at the initial stage lethargic, eventually, the National Economic Council, last week recommended a ban on the movement of herdsmen across the country as a way of stopping the killings being witnessed in parts of Nigeria. This is expected to start in the five states where the killings are most pronounced -Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kaduna and Plateau.
Irrespective of these efforts, it is surprising that government, in its responses, has ignored climate change, as the source of conflict exacerbating the herdsmen-grazing crisis.
Government strategies are not precautionary but reactive; it is usually deployment of security operatives to troubled spots. There has been no serious effort by the government to tackle the effects of climate change as ancillary to the crisis.
Historically, since the existence of Nigeria, the herdsmen have grazed their herds customarily in the north and intermittently in other areas; but incremental drought with resultant desert encroachment forced them to regularly look southwards for greener grazing areas.
In developed and some developing countries, cattle herds are ranched with provisions made on growing their choice species of grasses. Ranching has been widely recognised as a solution, but entrepreneurs are reluctant to take advantage. The onus is on the government to take the first step and introduce policies that will make ranching attractive such as effective ban on open grazing, easy access to land, improved species of grasses and compulsory inter-state transportation of cows by trucks.
Nigeria also needs to quicken her adaptation measures on climate change (plans to tackle the effects of climate change) from vision to actions. It is distressing that Nigeria is not yet a member of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF)- a 43 nation group of most vulnerable countries that negotiate as a bloc at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Nigeria can’t escape or ignore the impact of the climate change cause-and-effect connection to the herdsmen crisis without risking a worse situation.