The Observers

Violence between farmers and herders in Nigeria's Middle Belt escalates

Climate-induced desertification in recent years has escalated tensions between farmers and herders in Nigeria's Middle Belt.
Climate-induced desertification in recent years has escalated tensions between farmers and herders in Nigeria's Middle Belt. © Observers

Nigeria's Middle Belt has been struck by a spike in violence between farmers and herders. The FRANCE 24 Observers spoke to Salihu Musa Umar, a member of one of the biggest pastoralists’ associations in Africa and the founder of The Farmers and Herders Initiative for Peace and Development. He says that climate change and religious tensions are exacerbating these conflicts.

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Climate-induced desertification in recent years has forced northern herders further south into farmers' territory, creating one of the world’s deadliest conflicts, as both sides compete for scarce resources. As killings persist, the violence has increasingly been framed as a religious problem, since the majority of herders are Muslim and most of the farmers are Christian.

According to Umar, these tensions have severe consequences:

The herders have to move from point A to point B in search of greener pasture. But their cattle route is often blocked by farmers, who get angry and attack the herders. When these attacks take place, there is no justice, and so the herders feel cheated and begin reprisal attacks. It is an endless spiral.

So many people have been killed. Communities have been wiped out. Places of worship have been destroyed. Animals have been rustled and, in some cases, shot outright and killed. 

In 2018, Nigeria's farmer-herder conflict was six times deadlier than the Boko Haram insurgency, killing more than 2,000 people according to the International Crisis Group.