Nigeria’s herder-farmer conflict could escalate if NLTP fails – ICG

Nigeria’s herder-farmer conflict could escalate to wider violence if federal and state governments fail to implement the National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned.

In a 26-page report published on its website on Tuesday, titled ‘Ending Nigeria’s Herder-Farmer Crisis: The Livestock Reform Plan’, the Brussels-based global conflict research and prevention organization described the NLTP as the “most comprehensive strategy yet” towards ending herder-farmer violence which has claimed thousands of lives in the country in recent years.

Launched in January 2019 and designed to run till 2028, the plan was initiated by the federal government, following consultations with states governments, under the National Economic Council which is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The ICG said the NLTP seeks to encourage pastoralists to switch to sedentary livestock production systems, boost livestock production and end herder-farmer violence. It says the plan is facing several challenges that are hindering its implementation.

The challenges identified in the report include inadequate political leadership in promoting the plan, low awareness among herders, distrust among farming communities, uncertainties in the funding of activities and projects.

Others are lack of expertise in federal and state agriculture ministries to establish and manage ranches and grazing reserves, as well as widespread insecurity, a situation limiting access to some designated project sites.

The report warned that if the governments failed to address these obstacles urgently, they could delay or scuttle the plan, “leaving the country vulnerable to an escalation of herder-farmer conflict, which could degenerate into wider ethnic, regional and religious violence”.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed implementation in 2020 and affected revenues, the ICG appealed for stronger political leadership and heightened public communication to improve awareness, dispel misgivings and increase buy-in to the plan.

The group argued that “addressing insecurity, curbing impunity and rehabilitating communities adversely affected by earlier violence in participating states” are vital to creating a secure environment for progress on the plan.

ICG urged the authorities to improve on budgetary commitments, expedite the release of funds for projects, and liaise with international development partners for donor funding and capacity building.

In preparation for the two million new jobs the NLTP expects to be created in the livestock value chain, the ICG called on the government to avail pastoralists’ children training programs that would enable them key into the anticipated job opportunities.

The group urged federal and state administrations to give the plan firm legal and funding bases, by establishing livestock sector transformation agencies, noting that the Plateau government has initiated steps in this regard.