Since 2018, more than 2,000 people have been reported killed and thousands displaced in Africa due to pastoralist-farmers clashes. The African Union is searching for an end to the crises.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are today languishing in displaced persons’ camps scattered across the country because of clashes between pastoralists and herders. This crises have claimed thousands of lives and changed the social dynamics of the country.
Unfortunately, this is not limited to Nigeria but quite widespread across the continent.
Numerous interventions have been organized to address the situation, one of them was the recent validation workshop on guidelines to secure pastoralism and prevent conflict in Africa, which held in Lusaka, Zambia Organized by the African Union Commission (AUC) in partnership with Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
At the workshop, experts reviewed a draft policy framework to address the incessant conflict, considering that both groups have coexisted for centuries.
“To this end, they have both generated enormous wealth and economic independence needed to promote socio-economic development,” Dr Janet Edeme, Head of Division, Rural Economy of AUC, said.
However, resource scarcity, adverse effects of climate change, among other factors have seen conflicts between these groups intensify.
“Since 2018, over 2,000 people were reported dead and thousands displaced in African especially in the Sahel Region and the Horn of Africa and these figures are alarming,” Edeme said.
While the causes, nature, patterns, and trends of farmers-herders conflicts vary from country to country, its consequences on lives and livelihoods are similar to resultant insecurity in member states of the African Union with increasing regional and continental implications on peace and stability.
Pastoralism has enormous economic impact
Experts at the workshop noted that the role of pastoralism in the economic development of the continent should not be downplayed. They said despite considerable progress towards supporting policies, pastoralists continue to suffer from cultural and spatial isolation, and political marginalization in many Africa countries.
“Pastoral communities in Africa are the most fragile, conflict prone and food insecure areas. These areas are associated with high levels of poverty, high incidence of diseases, famine and civil strife,” Dr Ahmed Elmekass, Coordinator of Africa Union SAFGRAD, said.
“Considering the arid and semiarid nature of rural area, livestock productions are still the most sustainable livelihood means of the pastoralists,” he said.
Assistant Secretary General of COMESA Secretariat, Ambassador Dr. Kipyego Cheluget said it is estimated that the arid and semiarid areas of the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA) is home to over 25 million pastoralists of which 72 per cent reside within the COMESA region.
“Under the current situation, pastoralism offers the best land use system in drylands. Pastoral system in the Horn of Africa accounts for 23 per cent of the livestock population in COMESA region and 10 per cent of the continent,” he said.
“Without appropriate investment and development intervention in the drylands it is difficult to achieve the set poverty reduction goal. In order to reduce poverty level in pastoral areas it requires policy support and investment in mobile livestock system as the most viable and sustainable system,” he added.
He however said, it is predicted that Africa’s growth in the consumption and production of meat and milk will exceed other developing regions.
In the statistics of West and Central African countries, livestock accounts for an average 5 per cent of GDP. This figure is however highly variable from country to country.
In typically pastoral countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad, the contribution of the livestock sector to the GDP may be as high as 10 to 15per cent. In terms of agricultural GDP, the breeding sector accounts for an average 25 per cent in West Africa.
It has a far bigger share in Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso (35%), Chad (32%), Niger (30%) and Mali (28%).
In countries with a tradition of pastoralism, more than 90 per cent of meat comes from pastoral stock rearing. This situation shows the level of resilience of this productive sector which actually contributes to enhancing the trade balance of States, without significant support from public policymakers.
In case pastoralism happens to be sustainably disrupted for any reason, most African states would find themselves compelled to import meat of lesser quality in order to cover the needs of fast growing and urbanizing populations.
On the global level, leather and hide constitute the main raw materials for very high profit-making processing industries. Numerous animal species are even reared in certain regions around the world, more for their hide than for their meat. Africa has a tremendous livestock population and yet the value-adding sector of leather and hide still remains low.
African states, according to the experts, have very early become aware of the tremendous economic and social loss resulting from the slow and relentless disruption in the pastoralism sector. And indeed, disrupting farmers from their fields amount to endangering the livelihood of the population of the continent and all that depends on their toil.
As it relates to Nigeria
A representative of the Confederation of Traditional Stock breeders Organization in Nigeria, Alhassan Attahiru, who was in Lusaka, traced the rising conflict in Nigeria and West Africa to the negligence of governments at the state level, especially the abandonment of the pre-independence arrangement of grazing reserves.
He said the colonialists “foresaw the pressure we are facing now” and created grazing and habitation spaces for seasonal migrating pastoralists but traditional rulers and governments went on approval spree for the land meant for pastoralists.
With the impact of climate change, herders pushed further into Nigeria’s heartland, thereby increasing farmer-herders clashes.
Existing reserves have not been developed so have been avoided by herders. Calling for the proscription of herding, he said, will not solve the problem.
“Some people will say no, we will go for ranching let them go with their animals because this is what the Nigerian government is convinced to do,” he said.
He however said the federal government has limitations and the states selectively implementing the law.
How to address the herders/ farmers crisis
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Zambia, Dr Benson Mwenya said there is a need for practical solutions to the conflict.
“It is our hope that this will be a good step in designing a continental plan of action to sustain the pastoralist activities and end these conflicts. We recognize that dealing with these challenges will require a comprehensive approach, which would allow a wide range of responses by national, regional and continental actors at social, economic and political levels.
Meanwhile, Dr Edeme said the AUC has also, over the years adopted several normative instruments to facilitate the structural prevention of conflicts.
“It will need building the capacity of both parties to be able to sit on the table and have a discussion and it will also need that both parties will be able to lay on table the challenges and the perceptions they have on both sides from the member states and also pastoralist communities,” she said.
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