Written by Godfrey AKON

We have settled over 600 herder-farmer disputes - USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, has disclosed that it has settled over 600 disputes between herders and farmers in the Middle Belt of Nigeria.

It further estimated that over 7,000 Nigerians have been killed in herders-farmers conflicts as well as as economic loss in the region of $13 billion annually.

This was disclosed during the closing ceremony of the Engaging Communities for Peace in Nigeria, ECPN, of the Mercy Corps to promote peaceful coexistence between farmers and herders in Nigeria’s Middle Belt states.

“Peace and reconciliation lies at the heart of USAID’s global approach to promoting stability and security in conflict-affected areas,” Dr. Beatrice Reaud, USAID’s Democracy Officer, said at the closing event.

“The United States and Nigeria share the objective of reducing violence in the Middle Belt states by peacefully preventing and resolving farmer-pastoralist conflicts.”

Also speaking at the event, Prof. James Ayatse, Tor Tiv V, and Chairman of the Benue State Council of Chiefs, told the gathering that times have changed since he grew up in a farming community, where herders and farmers were known to one another and never experienced crises between the communities. 

“We must look beyond the help that Mercy Corps through USAID has given us,” he said.

“We are grateful for the assistance, but [its ideas] must be repackaged an implemented under another name.

“If we don’t change our ways, these problems will continue to hurt us, and it is the poor and downtrodden who suffer most.  . . .  If you engage in fighting, even if you win, you lose something,” he stressed.

The project has helped rural communities in Nassawara and Benue states that have recently found themselves at odds due to climate change, rising populations, and competition for dwindling resources. 

Since 2015, ECPN has worked to provide farmers and pastoralists the tools to peacefully manage disputes – by building community trust, economic interdependence and conflict monitoring through trainings on conflict management and interest-based negotiation, conflict prevention forums, and creation of community-led peace committees.

 

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