How Climate Change Impacts Farmer-Herder Conflicts in Northern Nigeria

Northern Nigeria is grappling with a persistent crisis that threatens its food security and socioeconomic stability: the escalating conflicts between farmers and herders, compounded largely by the devastating effects of climate change. 

WikkiTimes observed that these intertwined issues have led to widespread destruction of farmlands, reduced agricultural productivity, and displacement of entire farming communities.

On Wednesday (June 26, 2024), Amnesty International (AI) revealed that clashes between farmers and semi-nomadic herders in Benue State have led to the deaths of over 2,800 people from January 2023 to February 2024. 

During a press conference in Makurdi, AI’s Programmes Director, Barbara Mogaji, said more than 50 communities in Benue experienced 235 violent attacks in 18 out of 23 local councils. 

She explained that in 2024 alone, 12,369 individuals from 1,025 households were displaced, with 150 deaths and 149 injuries recorded so far this year.

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Potential Causes of the Conflicts

Many believed that the roots of the farmer-herder conflicts in Northern Nigeria lie in competition over land and water resources.

WikkiTimes earlier reported that a dispute over grazing land in Kalai village, near Barabda forest in Jigawa State’s Kiyawa LGA, erupted into violence, leaving three people wounded.

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According to Police in the state, the herders, acting on misleading information that the state government had revoked farmland allocations, released their cattle onto growing farms, sparking a confrontation with farmers.

Historically, herders have migrated across regions with their cattle, following traditional grazing routes. 

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However, climate change has exacerbated the situation; causing desertification and reducing available grazing land. This has pushed herders further south into fertile farming areas, leading to clashes with local farmers who rely on the same land for crop cultivation.

This medium also reported that various stakeholders on the environment have advocated for sustainable actions to tackle the impact of climate change in communities by planting of trees to combat the adverse effects of climate change.

The experts outlined the severe impact of climate change on global food security, advocating for afforestation.

Climate change has also altered rainfall patterns, leading to prolonged droughts in some areas and flooding in others. 

These weather conditions have made farming more challenging and have forced herders to encroach on farmland in search of pasture for their livestock. 

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The competition for dwindling resources has ignited violent clashes, often resulting in the loss of lives and property.

Impact on Agriculture and Communities

The consequences of these conflicts are profound. Farmlands are frequently destroyed during clashes, leading to significant reductions in agricultural productivity, posing a devastating effect on food security. 

Northern Nigeria, often referred to as the “food basket” of the country, plays a critical role in feeding the nation. Reduced agricultural output in this region translates to higher food prices and increased food scarcity across Nigeria.

The World Food Programme has warned that millions could face food insecurity if the situation is not addressed urgently.

Furthermore, the displacement of farming communities is becoming increasingly common. These internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in precarious conditions, with limited access to basic necessities such as food, water, and healthcare.

Recent Developments: Clashes and Casualties

Recent developments in regions like Benue and Plateau have brought the farmer-herder conflicts into sharper focus. In Benue State, often labelled the “epicenter” of these clashes, there have been numerous reports of violent incidents. 

For example, in March 2024, suspected herders attacked a farming village in Akpa Local Government Area, resulting in the deaths of 15 villagers and the destruction of several hectares of farmland.

Herders were not exempted from the persistent attacks in the state. Scores of herders were reported to have been killed while grazing, and hundreds of their livestock slaughtered.

In Plateau State, the situation is similarly dire. There has been a series of attacks and counter-attack between the farmers and the herders throughout Since mid-2023. 

The recent clashes hit Mangu, Barkin Ladi and Bokkos Local governments leaving hundreds of people dead and property worth millions destroyed. 

Casualties are not limited to human lives. Livestock, which represents the livelihoods of many herders, are often killed during these clashes. This loss further fuels the cycle of violence, as herders seek revenge for their slaughtered cattle.

Public Reaction

The public reaction to the farmer-herder conflicts has been a call for action. 

Local leaders have also been vocal. The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has repeatedly called for peaceful coexistence and dialogue between farmers and herders, stressing on government laxity to address the menace.

Government intervention is seen as crucial. However, many feel that the response has been inadequate. 

Solutions and the Way Forward

Several people suggest that to address these challenges, a multi-faceted approach is needed. 

This involves not only enhancing security measures to prevent violent clashes but also promoting dialogue and understanding between the two groups. 

Traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, supported by local leaders, as well as media organisations can play a significant role in this regard.

Addressing the underlying issue of climate change is crucial, Emir Sanusi said in the conversation. He said efforts must be made to combat desertification and restore degraded lands. 

The government must invest in infrastructure and support systems for both farmers and herders. This includes the development of grazing reserves and water points for herders, as well as the provision of modern farming tools and technologies for farmers. 

The Emir also called on state governments to utilise the ecological funds transparently to address the desertification trend in the region.


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