Wednesday 12 February 2020


The ECOWAS-UNOWAS-ISS Workshop on 'Best practices for resolving farmer-herder conflicts in West Africa' was held in Abuja, 11th - 12th February 2020. The parley brought together academics. practitioners, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Crop farmers, Pastoralists, NGOs, CBOs, etc. I was a major stakeholder at the workshop. Some of the sub-themes are:

*Identification of the structural causes & dynamics of conflict between farmers and herders - local level & think tank perspectives.
*Towards peaceful co-existence based on the causes of farmer-herder crises.
*Additional tools and support needed to better prevent farmer-herder conflicts.
*Extant technologies for the prevention of farmer-herder conflicts: Experiences from Nigeria, Ghana, Mali & Senegal.
*Sensitising about regulations on transhumance at regional, national & local levels.
*Way forward: Road-map for resolving farmer-herder conflicts in West Africa.

Photo L-R: Khadija Ardido (Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders' Association - Women's Wing, Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa & Lara Gruben (Political Affairs Officer, UNOWAS)

Some of the participants are:

*Jesper Kamp - Ambassador of Denmark to Nigeria
*Dr. Remi Ajibewa - Director, Political Affairs, ECOWAS
*Ms. Ngozi Amu - Head Research, UNOWAS
*Dr. Dayo Oluyemi-Kusa - Conflict Transformation Expert/Member Forum on Farmer-Herder Relations in Nigeria (FFARN)
*Nnamdi Obasi - Senior Adviser, International Crisis Group (ICG)
*Sher Ali Nawaz - Country Director, Search for Common Ground (SFCG)
*Nathaniel Awuapila - Executive Facilitator, Civil Organisations Research Advocacy & Funding Initiatives Development (CORAFID)
*Ms. Julie Sanda - National Defence College (NDC)
*Ngizan Chahul - Nigeria Association of Women in Agriculture
*Kade Dabas Keita - Regional Director, Elevage de Boke, Guinea
*Mamadou Moustapha Cisse - Service depatrtemental de l'elevage de Linguere, Senegal
*Blamah Jalloh - RBM
*Bakary Tienta - ONG Y-G-TU, Mali
*Osman bin Ahmed - Regional Chief of Fulani of Ashanti, Ghana
*Aissatou Lamarana Diallo - Pastoral Association, Guinea
*Abdoulaye Garba Maiga - Counseil Regional de Mopti, Mali
*Cherif Lanceny - Secretaire General Chambre d'Agriculture, Guinea
*Safietou Balde - ONG CERFLA, Senegal

In my intervention, I said I was more inclined towards 'good practices' rather than 'best practices'. For me, we are constantly striving to be better. Therefore, we may never achieve our best while we are on mother earth. Some traditional methods of conflict transformation were highlighted. It was pointed out that these could assuage the farmer-herder conflict if 'resurrected' and deployed. Women should organise themselves into pressure groups to seek protection before, during and after farmer-herder crises.

In some areas, there is rotational use of land by farmers and herders. The terms for such rotation are mutually agreed. It was recommended that farmers should stop farming on grazing routes. Most of the time, the herder is not heard. We need to listen more to the yearning of herders. Many herders are under-age. The ECOWAS Proocol on Transhumance which stipulates that no herder should be below 18 years should be respected. There is the need to place more emphasis on prevention of farmer-herder crisis rather than mitigation of same. Prevention is always better than cure!

There should be more evidence-based research on the farmer-herder crisis. Platforms should be created for responding to the farmer-herder crisis. We should always bear in mind that cattle-rearing is also part of agriculture. There should be an integrated approach to mitigating the crisis. Mining activities further complicate the crisis (e.g. Zamfara State, Nigeria).

Some of the identified causes of the farmer-herder crisis are:

*Climate change.
*Proliferation of Small Arms & Light Weapons (SALWs).
*Poor governance.
*Lack of awareness about policy documents.
*Unequal distribution of resources.
*Extremist influence.
*Lack of protection for women & children.
*Social media & false narratives.
*Rapid population growth.
*Absence of dialogue platforms.
*Need for evidence-based research.

Some strategies for the prevention of farmer-herder crisis are:

*Transition from pastoralism to ranching
*Setting up of peace-building committees.
*Establishment of open communication channels.
*Payment of compensation.
*Creation of awareness about climate change.
*Tree-planting campaigns.
*Use of technology/artificial intelligence/robotics/drones/block chain etc.
*Streamlining citizenship criteria.

The following are the 'next steps' agreed upon:

*Take a 'census' of extant academic documents on the farmer-herder crisis.
*Publish books, policy papers, pamphlets, occasional papers, bulletins, magazines etc on good practices in the prevention and management of the crisis across West Africa and the Sahel.
*Strengthen traditional institutions with a view to making them more effective in their role as Mediators in the farmer-herder crisis.
*Synergise the numerous initiatives aimed at mitigating the crisis.
*Leverage on the fact that the youth are adept at the use of technological devices. Their technological know-how could be employed for system-relevant artificial intelligence innovations. If the youth are kept busy in this positive manner, the youth bulge could cease to be a liability!
*Focus more on conflict prevention.
*There should be a link between local, national and regional effort at conflict transformation as regards the farmer-herder crisis.
*Constitute pressure groups to extract 'political will' from leaders &
commitment to financing conflict transformation initiatives.

The discussion continues on the corridors, between individuals, in groups, at the level of government, at public fora, etc

Related Links

*France & allies establish new task force in the Sahel
*The warning signs are flashing red: The interplay between climate change and violent extremism in Western Sahel
*ECOWAS, UNOWAS 7 ISS chat path to resolving farmer-herder conflicts in West Africa   https://www.ecowas-unowas-iss-chart-path-to-resolving-farmer-herder-conflicts-in-west-africa/
*ECOWAS & the dynamics of conflict/peace-building by Consortium for Development Partnerships   (CDP)
*Farmer-herder clashes: The new normal?
*Nasarawa state government & CDD in moves to end farmer-herder crisis
*Nigeria: Kebbi state empowers 2,778 women, men with livestock
*Reviving cattle grazing routes in Nigeria

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