Farmer-Herder Violence and The Unspoken Historical Marginalisation of Fulani Herdsmen

Farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria occurs as a result of resource scarcity; there exists a growing scarcity of arable land and water sources that are equally essential to sustain crop cultivation and cattle herds. Farmers encroach on grazing routes, and have expropriated land designated to grazing reserves, while herders often destroy crops, pollute water sources and trespass on farms to feed their cattle. This is further exacerbated by the growing population of farmers, herders and their herds, increasing scarcity of arable land due to droughts, impending desertification of the Sahel-Savannah, land degradation, and cultural differences among ethnic groups that predominantly farm or graze cattle.

Many Nigerians tend to attribute the violence to ethnic incompatibility. Nigerians have become accustomed to headlines that read, “Fulani herdsmen attack  [insert town]; [insert number] dead” or something of the sort. Nigerians are also familiar with reports of incessant “clashes between the majority Muslim north and Christian south.” Although these narratives are not completely false, as evidenced by the fact that a majority of clashes occur in the most diverse middle belt states, Plateau and Benue, they are oversimplified narratives of deeper issues, such as increased insecurity following the emergence of Boko Haram, increased access to arms and automatic weapons, and also the exploitation of farmer-herder violence by Boko Haram terrorists.