Farmer-Herders crisis are disputes over land resources between herders and farmers across Nigeria but more devastating in the Middle Belt region since the return of democracy in 1999. Often misrepresented as ethnic/religious conflicts, they are the result of economic, political and environmental tensions in many parts of Nigeria.
Thousands of people have died since the conflict began and thousands more displaced. Farmers in rural communities are often target of attacks because of their vulnerability. Nasarawa state is one of the states in the middle belt where this crisis has predominantly affected the economic wellbeing and livelihood of the people because of its reoccurrence.
Keana local government area is one of the local governments in Nasarawa where the conflict happens mostly between the Fulani herders and Farmers.
The crisis often experienced in Keana however comes with devastating impact on the people. Because of the crises young people lose their means of livelihood and consequently become jobless.
Speaking with Emmanuel Otaki who said he runs his brother’s provision store and also farms rice and maize said that most of the most of the herders are not from KEANA and when there’s crisis he no longer go to the farm for fear of attack and people hardly come out.
“Most Most of the Fulani herders are not from here. They come from other parts of the country. They come mostly during the rainy season and leave during dry season. When their cattle destroy peoples farm it normally results to fights if not well handled. Some of the issues we have here are resolved especially when reported to the community heads or the police but when it gets out of hand we all suffer”
Also Faith Oseweya Robert a teenager in Keana said that they are scared to go out during conflict and markets do not open too. We just want to live in peace. She said.
Between 2016 – 2018 large number of farmer were displaced due to crisis including women and children, however the peace enjoyed in Keana since 2019 according to community members is as a result of community efforts and government intervention. However peace building has been slow as there are also reports of farm destruction.
Speaking with Mr Joseph Ogoshi a district head in Keana local government who receives reports and help in brokering peace in the community, he said that conflict in the community has reduced in the last two years, reasons is the fact that government deployed security agencies to the community.
“We the Alagos accommodate visitors we do not have problems here. We have FULANIS who are cattle herders and TIVs who are mainly farmers they live here they are part of us now. The conflicts are mainly between TIV farmers and Fulani Cattle herders, when cattle destroy farmers crops if not resolved results to big crisis and fights especially when it is not resolved. We resolve issues that are reported to us and hand over to the government through the security agenciesthe ones that we cannot handle.”
During conflicts the TIVs who mainly settle around their farms are displaced because they are mainly attacked in their farms which makes them come into the town to look for shelter.
Despite the conflicts Mr Ogoshi said that during political events both Alagos ,TIVs and Fulanis in the community come together.
“During elections or political activities we all come together to vote because both TIVs and Fulanis vote here.”
In ensuring peace the Fulani community in Keana are not left out. The Fulani chief who oversees the affairs of Fulanis Ardo Abubakar Zakari said that they cooperate with other community members to maintain peace.
“We We seat with Alagos, TIVs and others in the community here to settle issues when they arise. We cooperate with them. We do not have problems here anymore. Our people who are mainly cattle herders sometimes their cows trespass especially during rainy season, you know we can have 50 cows all together one or two may leave the routes and enter peoples farm and when reported we make sure
damages are paid, he said .”
A Tiv farmer who didn’t want his name mentioned said that most of the Tiv farmers cannot go back to Benue even during conflict because they are born in Keana and cannot go back because their forefathers settled in keana and he said that farming is their only source of livelihood .
“Here is our home we live and farm here we are part of the community. We just want to go to our farms and feel safe.”
The economic impact of the crisis cannot be over emphasized as traders and artisans are adversely affected during crisis. Ibrahim Musa a welder in Keana complained that the crisis makes him loose customers .
“I do not like crisis because during fights my customers who are mainly TIV farmers will not patronize me as they do after harvest.”
Traders in the community who are mainly market women who sell grains like rice, corn, soya beans,bene seed etc. at Keana Market complained that during conflict getting their stocks and even buyers is a very big problem because farmers no longer go to farm and there no harvest making it difficult for them to get stocks.
Speaking with Hadiza Mohammed a trader in Keana market she said that the conflicts are not good for their market as they cannot get things to sell during crisis.
“Some people are lazy and when they see other people’s farm doing well the try to cause problem. We hardly get things to sell during conflict and the money i make here is what i use to train my children in school.”
Keana community looks calm and everyone goes about their business however all the conversation from the community members points to the fact that security agent intervene in most cases to ensure peace.
The Nigerian Police divisional HQ KEANA Nasarawa State occupies a large span of land in the community centre but however lacks basic provision to help in its role of maintaining law and order.
Speaking with DPO SP Joshua Audu, he said that all report and cases in the end comes back to the police station. He however said that there is military intervention in the community.
“The military are here, they do aggressive patrol between 9pm and 5am. We also have the Civil Defense (NSCDC).”
“Our major problem in this station is the fact that we cannot answer distress calls right now because we do not have patrol vehicles. We are supposed to have 3(three) we only have one that has mechanical fault though we have written to the office.” Audu concluded.
KEANA is a local government in Nasarawa state Nigeria with history of Farmer Herders Clashes .