The unending conflicts between herders and farmers are driven by purely economic interests, Dr Obodo Ijie and Dr Isaac Otegwu, both of the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy, Veritas University, Abuja have said.
Reviewing a book, ‘The Root Cause of Farmers-Herders Crisis in North Central Nigeria’, written by Plangshak Suchi and Sallek Musa, Dr Obodo noted that the conflicts which have reduced access to farms, spiked theft, destruction of farms, killing of animals and reduction in sales of farm produce negatively impacted on the economic activities and livelihood of women especially.
He explained: “Women have a weak capacity for economic resilience as women and children who they depend on for labour are forced to find alternative means of livelihood like begging for alms, domestic help while children are made to hawk or work as labourers on farms with others doing menial jobs.
“This in turn has increased the level of vulnerability of children as some are maltreated, and some are used for transactional sex and drug abuse. This results in some of these women and children incurring sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, women and children were badly affected. Women also involved themselves in prostitution to feed themselves and their children.”
He added that the research showed that violent clashes between farmers and herders are largely viewed as attacks perpetrated by male aggressors while women and children are categorized as vulnerable groups who are caught up in a vicious web of violence.
He was quick to observe that while there are clear indications that show that women are mostly visualized as victims who bear the brunt of the violence, it failed to recognise that there are some women who are stakeholders in the agriculture sector and are likely to share the grievances and concerns of male farmers and herders.
Dr Obodo revealed that the loss of family members and relations represents one of the most traumatic experiences for women in farmer-herder conflicts as it disrupts the family structure.
He stated: “It is also largely believed that displacement and dislocation of families occur when the conflict between farmers and herders occurs. As a result, people are forced to leave their homes to seek refuge with friends and families or in the worst cases move to temporary camps for internally displaced persons.”
He added that forced displacements in a way create other problems like destruction of normal patterns of living, increase poverty and worsened economic status.
He disclosed that herdsmen also have bruises to nurse, saying milk and butter that are always given to women and children for sale to meet their daily needs have been affected as the persistent crisis has reduced the quantity of dairy products thereby affecting their income.
“The cattle are not producing milk adequately because of less food consumption, they are chased by farmers because they encroach into farmlands and some are inflicted with diseases. This has made the women associated with the herder have less milk to sell resulting in some begging or staying at home idle,” he said.
He further maintained that the conflict has resulted in a reduced visitation to markets that are far from the affected communities as markets are described as ‘bush markets’ where things are bought at cheaper rates.
Dr Obodo insisted that the raging conflicts increase the prices of food and beef.
On his part, Dr Isaac Otegwu said the research effort is useful as veritable reference material for further research by scholars.
He added: “It is a must-read for policymakers in their search for lasting solutions to the recurrent clashes between farming communities and herders. Security agencies will also find the book informative as useful intelligence can be garnered therefrom to assist in arresting the situation and preventing further crises. Traditional institutions across affected states who are interested in fostering peaceful coexistence between the aggrieved groups will also benefit from the findings of the research.”