5 april 2018

[4C Note: For an extensive analysis of the climate change - driven conflict in northern Nigeria, see the September 2017 report of the International group in our Documents rubric. ]

‘Killer herdsmen’ blamed for wave of deadly Nigeria clashes

Climate change and population pressures are blamed for triggering clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria

David Pilling in Lagos yesterday, Financial Times, April 5, 2018

Some Nigerians call them the “killer herdsmen”. Newspapers are full of tales of Fulani pastoralists, armed with AK47s, entering villages across the country, leaving death in their wake.

“The herdsmen come with machine guns,” Rimamsikwe Karma, the chairman of a local council told reporters last week after an attack in Taraba state in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt. “They are killers. They are not the herdsmen we know.”

For centuries, herders and sedentary farmers have existed in relative harmony. Pastoralists, mainly from the Fulani ethnic group, are concentrated in the Sahel, a semi-arid strip below the Sahara desert running across west Africa. During the long dry season, they would traditionally head south where, in return for being allowed to graze their animals, the herders’ cattle would fertilise the farmers’ land.

Those dry seasons are getting longer. A combination of changing weather patterns, desertification and population pressure has brought the symbiosis to an abrupt halt, throwing herders into conflict with farmers, and adding to the problems of the embattled government.

The resulting clashes have claimed more lives each year than those killed by Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group, according to independent surveys based on media accounts.


In Nigeria, in northern states such as Bauchi, Kano, Katsina and Sokoto, 50-75 per cent of land is becoming desert, according to the International Crisis Group. That has forced herders further south, often armed with weapons, including arms from Libya’s looted stockpiles.

There they have encountered settled farmers, often blocking old migratory routes, who are occupying more land as the pressure to feed Nigeria’s 180m people mounts. By 2050, Nigeria’s population is expected to near 400m, overtaking the US to become the world’s third most-populous country.


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