Integrated Regional Information Networks | January 25, 2010
Hame Saidu is a pastoralist in Nigeria’s Plateau State. He speaks passionately about his livelihood. He says: “Our herd is our life, because to every nomad life is worthless without his cattle.”
Mr. Saidu also explains how this passion can lead to violence. With each passing year, desertification and rising seas engulf more and more land. The amount of fertile land is shrinking. Pasture disappears as farmers seek land to grow crops. This is when conflict occurs.
“What do you expect from us when our source of existence is threatened?” Mr. Saidu asks. He calls the encroachment of farmers onto traditional grazing fields “a call to war.”
Violence between farmers and pastoralists has been on the rise in Nigeria. In mid-December, 32 people were killed during a clash in Nasarawa State. Scores of homes were burned to the ground. Disputed farmlands went up in flames.
But in another part of Nigeria, a hopeful trend is emerging. Yobe State has found a way to reduce conflict between pastoralists and farmers. By establishing livestock grazing routes, the state has controlled conflict throughout the cropping season.
Mustapha Gaidam is manager of the Yobe State Livestock Development Project. He says fighting between farmers and herders used to be incessant. This is the first year that designated livestock routes were used. Herders had land to graze their livestock and did not travel beyond it. There was peace between pastoralists and farmers.
Mr. Gaidam sees this as a step towards maintaining pastoralism. In turn, he believes that local cattle, sheep, and goat species will be preserved. Meat and milk will continue to enter the market, boosting the local economy.
Gambia recently inaugurated its livestock routes with similar goals: to reduce conflict, keep pastoralists employed, and bolster food security. Designated grazing areas were established in three states: Nianija, Kang West, and Niamina East.
Gambia’s livestock routes were created as part of a regional initiative called the Regional Project for Sustainable Management of Endemic Livestock in West Africa, or PROGEBE. PROGEBE aims to enhance local productivity in the face of pressures such as drought, deforestation, and farming. PROGEBE also works in Guinea, Mali, and Senegal.