A Brief Report From A Farmer-Herder Dialogue

We just got an uplifting report from our colleague Imam Sani Isah, who is a core team member of our Protecting Our Communities initiative in Nigeria!

After months of preparation, including training for new facilitators, the project team led a pilot dialogue between farmer and herder community members. Violent clashes between herders and farmers in Nigeria claim hundreds of lives each year and displace whole villages. Local dialogue groups provide one way for community members to de-escalate conflicts, and help prevent the spread of violence.

In this dialogue, facilitators created a space for “connected conversations” where people asked and answered some difficult questions with admirable openness and honesty. Here is one excerpt from the brief report:

An indigenous [farmer] man asked a Fulani [herder] man, “why do you deliberately allow your cows to enter our farms and destroy our crops?”

The Fulani man responded, “We don’t allow our cattle to deliberately enter your farms, it only happens mistakenly.” But the indigenous person insisted on his claim. 

Then the Fulani man said, “yes, if you find such an instance, it must be by some of us who are under the influence of drugs, because, to say the truth, some of us are taking hard drugs, and so, people like them can do what you are talking about.” Here, the indigenous man agreed, and the remaining tribesmen and women also showed a sign of agreement. And then the Fulani man added, “if we do destroy crops unintentionally, we stop at the farm and look for the owners, so that we can make restitution.”

Without this kind of dialogue, stereotypes and rumors can spread quickly—and communities can be more easily swept into larger conflicts. Dialogue clubs and other community-based peacebuilding activities build relationships and open lines of communication that can save lives when tensions are high.

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