The Crisis Between Herdsmen And Farmers; A Case Study Of Benue State

Project and Seminar Material Under Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution

The Crisis Between Herdsmen And Farmers; A Case Study Of Benue State 2015-2017


The study investigated the nature of the farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria and examined the major
factors responsible for the crisis in Nigeria. Also, it assessed the role of government in addressing the crisis and identified gaps in government responses to the farmers-herdsmen crisis. These were with a view to finding out the reasons why conflict management strategies employed by the government in response to the farmers-herdsmen crisis have not resulted in the end of the crisis.

The study made use of solely secondary method of data collection. Secondary data was sourced from textbooks, journal articles, the internet, magazines, commission reports and newspapers.

The result showed that climate change, encroachment on areas of land reserved for grazing by farmers and encroachment on farms by breeders, the proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas etc. are triggers of the farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria. It also showed that the federal government and the state government in states where cases of the conflict have been recorded have unilaterally and in collaboration come up with different statements, policies and actions such as; the deployment of security operatives to communities where clashes have occurred, the inauguration of several committees with the aim of coming up with recommendations to end the conflict and the formulation of policies intended to end the conflict such as the outlawing of open grazing in some states. Finally, findings reveal that the failure of the government to come up with preventive measures to curb the conflict; poor implementation of formulated policies; absence of religious tolerance and political exclusion are gaps in government management strategies of the farmers-herdsmen conflict in Nigeria.

The study concluded that the management structures, processes and strategies of government in addressing the farmers-herdsmen crisis are inadequate to the extent that they are more reactionary than preventive or proactive, have implementation lapses and are be devilled by political exclusion.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Grazing reserves in Nigeria started during the pre-colonial era (Bako and Ingawa 1988). Although, formally introduced by the British, grazing reserves were demarcated by the Fulani who conquered and ruled Northern Nigeria. The attempt by the British in 1940 to separate the grazing land from the farm land, however, faltered because the Europeans imposed land use controls divorced from economic and demographic dynamics in the pastoral system (Frantz 1981).

The Nigerian Grazing Reserve Act of 1964 was passed for the purpose of providing grazing lands for the Pastoralists, thereby encouraging sedentarisation and addressing conflict with a plan to improve productivity and social amenities (Awogbade, 1978; Ibrahim, 2012). The Nigerian Grazing Reserve Act of 1964, in broader sense was expected to address constraints facing the cattle market and disease control (Ingawa et al., 1989). However, even though this law was passed, very little implementation was observed (CIEL, 2006). Looking at the impending farmer-pastoralist conflict and a reduced cattle production in which Nigeria imports about 23% of cattle from the neighbouring Sahel countries, the government again enacted the National Agricultural Policy of 1988. The law stipulates that a minimum of 10% of the national territory that is 9.8 million acres, be allocated to grazing reserves (Ibrahim, 2012). However, only 2.82 % was acquired out of 313 reserves (CIEL, 2006; Ibrahim, 2012).

Grazing reserves in Nigeria in the 1950s can be linked to Hamisu Kano. When working with pastoralists on livestock vaccination, he foresaw the shortages of grazing land in Northern Nigeria. Supported by the government, he initiated the grazing reserve scheme from the abandoned government resettlement schemes (Fulani Settlement Scheme). The resettlement schemes collapsed because the government had neither the financial nor the managerial ability to continue with the financially burdensome scheme, and the best alternative use of the land, the government thought, was to convert it into grazing reserves which had less financial burden. Grazing reserve hatched in 1954 after a study of the Fulani production system contained in the “Fulani Amenities Proposal.” The proposal suggested the creation of grazing reserves, the improvement of Fulani welfare, and the transformation of the herd management system. By 1964, the government had gazetted about 6.4 million hectares of the forest reserve, ninety-eight per cent in the savannah (Awogbade, 1982). Sokoto Province had twenty-one per cent of the land, followed by Kabba, Bauchi, Zaria, Ilorin, and Katsina, with 11-15 per cent each (Awogbade 1982). The Wase, Zamfara, and Udubo reserves followed in succession.

Conflict between arable crop farmers and cattle herdsmen over the use of agricultural land is still pervasive in Nigeria and portends grave consequences for rural development. Past conflicts were solely due to overlap of farmlands with cattle routes, where farmers grow crops on the routes. But recently, the conflict has escalated, taking another dimension of ethnic and religious differences with little effort from government or community leaders aimed at addressing them.

The rainy season has been identified as the intense period of clashes between nomadic herdsmen and farmers over arable land. Some researchers have related the causes of conflict to the global climate change and the contending desertification and aridity that has reduced arable and grazing lands, forcing pastoralists to move southwards in search of pasture for their livestock (Okoli, Enyinnia, Elijah and Okoli, 2014; Odoh and Chigozie, 2012; and Abbass, 2012). However, there appears to be no consensus among both groups as to the causes of their mutual conflict. According to De Haan (2002), ‘destruction of crops by cattle and other properties (irrigation equipment and infrastructure) by the pastoralists themselves, are the main direct causes of conflicts cited by the farmers, whereas burning of rangelands and fadama and blockage of stock routes and water points by crop encroachment are important direct reasons cited by the pastoralists’. This conflict between herdsmen and farmers is still on-going till date with reports of killings and destruction of properties being recorded frequently by the media in Nigeria.
The crisis has resulted in the reduction in output and income of crop farmers as a result of destruction of crops by cattle and indiscriminate bush burning. A lot of farmers lost part or the whole of their crops. This spelt reduced yield which translated into low income on the part of the farmers who take farming as major occupation. Also, there were reports of displaced farmers and herdsmen alike. In the host communities, Nomadic herdsmen relocate as a result of conflict, host farmers especially women farmers who remain behind stop going to the distant farms for fear attack by the nomads in the bush. Such displaced farmers have become a source of liability to other farmers since they have to beg for food for themselves and their families. A lot of killings by the nomads took place as a result of the conflicts and this led to the reprisal killings of nomads by the host communities, the herds of cattle belonging to the nomads were also killed. Also some of the victims (young and old) were badly injured and others were maimed. This has reduced some women farmers to the status of widows. All these have drastically reduced agricultural labour force in the area. In the process there were reported cases of proliferation of small arms and ammunitions. This was due to the fact that host farming communities and headsmen saw others as arch enemies and this is inimical to the spirit of integration of Nigerian tribes or ethnic groups and peaceful co-existence.

Governmental efforts towards the resolution of the farmers-herdsmen conflict have not been as effective. Every attack and clash between the two land users is often accompanied with the deployment of government security personnel to affected communities who are shortly withdrawn after the conflict wanes creating avenue for launching of fresh attack more severe than initial ones. Also, various policies and programmes of government targeted at bringing lasting solution to the crisis have either not been implemented or followed-up. This study investigates government’s strategies engaged in addressing the farmer-herdsmen conflict. It paid attention to unravelling the content and suitability of these strategies and mechanisms.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Farmers-Herdsmen conflict in Nigeria is a crisis that has been on-going for the last two decades but increased in intensity from 2014. These conflicts have exerted a heavy humanitarian toll, with thousands killed and tens of thousands displaced (ACAPS, 2017). Some estimates suggest that about 2,500 were killed countrywide in 2016 – a toll higher than that caused by the Boko Haram insurgency over the same period (ACAPS, 2017). In Benue, one of the hardest-hit states, Governor Samuel Ortom reports more than 1,878 people were killed between 2014 and 2016 (Premium Times, 2017).

In addition, the economic toll has also been huge. According to a 2015 study, the federal government was losing $13.7 billion in revenue annually because of herder-farmer conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau states (Mercy Corps, 2015). The study found that on average these four states lost 47 per cent of their internally-generated revenues (Mercy Corps, 2015). In March 2017, Benue state Governor Samuel Ortom claimed that attacks by herders coming from more northerly states, and possibly also from Cameroon and Niger, had cost his state N95 billion (about $634 million at that time) between 2012 and 2014 (The Nation, 2017).

Various government strategies have been implemented to address the conflict such as the establishment of grazing reserves and grazing laws. But these conflict management strategies of the government appear not to have yielded positive results as killings and destruction of properties seem to be on the rise. This study therefore examined the various strategies employed by government in addressing the conflict so far.

1.3 Research Questions

The following research questions will guide this study.

  1. What is the nature of the conflict between farmers and herdsmen in Nigeria?
  2. What are the causes of the conflict between farmers and herdsmen in Nigeria?
  3. What has been the role of the government in addressing the crisis in Nigeria?
  4. What gaps exist in government’s response in effectively addressing the crisis in Nigeria?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The aim of the study is the examination of government strategies in addressing the farmers herdsmen crisis. The specific objectives of the study were to;

  1. Find out the nature of the farmers and herdsmen conflict in Nigeria;
  2. Ascertain the various causes of the conflict as provided by both groups in the conflict;
  3. Assess government role in addressing the farmers-herdsmen conflict in Nigeria; and
  4. Find out what gaps exist in government’s responses in the crisis.

1.5 Working Assumption

  1. The management strategies engaged by the government in the Farmers-herdsmen crisis have been largely reactionary rather than preventive.
  2. Processes and structures driving strategies for resolving the farmer-herdsmen conflict are ridden with political exclusion.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The study examined government’s management strategies in the farmers-herdsmen conflict
from year 2012 to 2019. Although, there have been cases of this conflict before 2012, but 2012 is the year the crisis became rather severe. Government interventions in the period 2012 to 2019 were examined. The cases of clashes covered include those that happened in Plateau, Benin, Taraba, Kaduna, Kwara, Kogi, Adamawa, Ogun, Delta, Taraba and Ebonyi states of Nigeria.

1.7 Significance of the Study

Scholars have tried to determine the causes of the conflict and provide solutions to address the conflict. However, there remains a dearth of studies in relation to government’s responses. Moreover, the findings of this study unravelled the gaps in government’s management strategies and made recommendations on how lasting solutions to the crisis can be formulated and implemented. This would be beneficial to both farmers and herdsmen. Additionally, if the conflict is stemmed, food production would be stabilized and income of both parties in the conflict would be guaranteed. Also, the federal government would benefit from this as peace and security would be restored in the areas affected and economic activities would return to normal.

1.8 Research Methodology

The study relied on secondary data. Secondary data was gathered from relevant journal articles, official publications, internet-based materials, magazines, texts and commission reports.

1.9 Limitations of the Study

The limitation of this study was the inability of the researcher to conduct on-site interviews in the communities affected by the conflict. This limitation would however not compromise the effectiveness of the study as an in-depth exploration of secondary data was resorted to by the researcher.

1.10 Definition of Major Terms

Grazing Reserves

A grazing reserve is a piece of land that the government acquires, develops, and releases to the pastoral Fulani. The aims of grazing reserves include getting and protecting pasture-space for the national herds, and removing discord between agronomists and pastoralists living in the same geographic area. By separating the herders from the cultivators, the government hopes to foster peaceful coexistence between them by making the grazing reserve a zone of no-conflict. Improving land use and herd management, providing social welfare amenities to the Fulani and increasing national income are pivotal in grazing reserve development in Nigeria (Laven 1991).

Conflict Management

Conflict management is the process of limiting the negative aspects of conflict while increasing
its positive aspects (Rahim, 2011). It is the principle that all conflicts cannot necessarily be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can decrease the odds of non-productive escalation. Dalung (2013) asserts that conflict management entails the long term management of intractable conflicts. He further explained that it is the variety of ways by which people handle grievances standing up for what they consider to be right and against what they consider to be wrong. Conflict management therefore involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, self-awareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills, and establishing a structure for resolving conflict in the environment. It is a process that embraces all articulated strategies, interventions and institutional mechanisms in controlling the escalation of conflict (Usoro, Ekpenyong and Effiong, 2014).


Pastoralism is a social organization based on livestock raising as the primary economic activity. Pastoralism is a livestock farming method usually carried out in places with low to medium human population densities and the presence of extensive grasslands, usually in semiarid regions.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. Committed group members attempt to resolve group conflicts by actively communicating information about their conflicting motives or ideologies to the rest of the group (e.g., intentions; reasons for holding certain beliefs) and by engaging in collective negotiation. The term conflict resolution may also be used interchangeably with dispute resolution, where arbitration and litigation processes are critically involved. The concept of conflict resolution can be thought to encompass the use of nonviolent resistance measures by conflicted parties in an attempt to promote effective resolution.


Insecurity is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as the feeling and state of uncertainty or anxiety about oneself because of lack of confidence; being open to danger or a threat and there is lack of protection.

1.11 Organization of the Study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is the general introduction of the study and it contains the background to the study, statement of the problem, research assumptions, scope of study, significance of the study, limitations to the study and definitions of terms. Chapter two is a review of existing literatures on the subject matter. It consists of the conceptual review, the empirical review and the theoretical framework. Chapter three focused on the cases of clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Nigeria. Chapter four is on the interpretation and discussion of findings. Finally, chapter five consists of summary, conclusion and recommendation.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

The study examined the Farmers-herdsmen Crisis in Nigeria with focus on the conflict management strategies by government. The nature of the farmers-herdsmen conflict, the causes of the conflict, and role of government in addressing the conflict constituted the objectives of the study.

A review of literature was extensively carried out using both conceptual and empirical approaches in chapter two. This was done in order to place the study in its proper context and to create a link between it and related studies by updating and contributing to the existing body of knowledge in the field. The review gave insight into concepts such as arable cropping, conflict and crisis etc. Also, in the chapter, a theoretical framework was introduced in order to relate the study to theories. The theories examined were the conflict theory and the frustration-aggression theory.
The study made use of solely secondary method of data collection. Secondary data was sourced from textbooks, journal articles, the internet, magazines, commission reports and newspapers.

Chapter three examined the various cases of farmers-herdsmen clashes all over the country as reported by news agencies, online blogs and articles in several journals. This examination revealed the extent to which the farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria has caused a lot of damage and led to the death and displacement of thousands of Nigeria. It also showed the inadequacy of government management strategies in curbing the crisis.

Findings of the research reveal that climate change, encroachment on areas of land reserved for grazing by farmers and consequent encroachment on farms by breeders, the breakdown in traditional conflict resolution mechanisms of land and water disputes and the proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas are factors that have contributed to the clashes that occur between herdsmen and farmers. The chapter also pointed out the various gaps that are found in the government management strategies implemented to curb the conflict. Chapter five made a summary of the chapters in the study.

5.2 Conclusion

Findings from the study revealed that factors that contributed to the farmers-herdsmen crisis can be attributed to both herdsmen and farmers. Findings revealed that climate change, encroachment on areas of land reserved for grazing by farmers and consequent encroachment on farms by breeders, the proliferation of small arms and crime in rural areas etc. are determining factors for the crisis.

Findings further revealed that although government have employed various management strategies in an attempt to curb the conflict, but all has been to no avail as cases of clashes are still reported on a regular basis with no end in sight. The gaps found in the government strategies have been outlined which include the absence of preventive measures as regards the conflict, non implementation of policies, non-promotion of religious tolerant strategies and the absence of grass root outreach in finding out and implementing solutions to the conflict.

The study concluded that the management structures, processes and strategies of government in addressing the farmers-herdsmen crisis are inadequate to the extent that they are more reactionary than preventive or proactive, have implementation lapses and are bedevilled by political exclusion.

5.3 Recommendation

Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations were made as solutions to the gaps identified in the management strategies of the government as regards the farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria. First, traditional and local leaders should be well involved in finding solutions to herdsmen-farmer conflict. There is need for the government in the establishment of conflict management mechanism with community, local, state and federal government levels to incorporate occupational unions, traditional and local leaders.

Second, government should include implementation mechanisms in the drafting of it plans and policies to tackle the farmers-herdsmen crisis in Nigeria. The government should ensure effective policy implementation after a policy or plan is introduced.

Third, the government should factor in the place of religious differences in drafting strategies attempted at addressing the crisis. Forums, groups or associations aimed at promoting religious tolerance among farmers and herdsmen should be formed in locations of the crisis. This will go a long way in bringing an end to the farmers-herdsmen crisis.

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