Co-Hosting a National Conference on Farmer-Herder Relations in Nigeria

 

On Wednesday, August 10, we co-hosted a National Conference on Farmer-Herder Relations with Neem Foundation and the Nigerian government’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) in Abuja. The conference grew out of the ongoing Protecting Our Communities Initiative, which we lead jointly with the Nigeria-based Neem Foundation. The project has established innovative community-based peacebuilding systems throughout Nigeria’s rural North.

As climate change shrinks the amount of arable land—contributing to cycles of violence and putting additional strain on relationships among farmers and herders—this conference sought to strengthen strategies for peace. Presenters included civil society leaders alongside officials such as the Deputy General of Nasawara State, a Major General of Defense Headquarters, a representative of the police inspector general, and His Royal Highness Alh. Aliyu Ogah Onawo, the Andoma (traditional ruler) of Doma Kingdom.

Neem Foundation, our primary partner in Nigeria, was lead organizer of the conference and produced this brief video with highlights of the day.

At the conference, the leader of a statewide herders’ association stood side by side with his counterpart in a farmers’ association to speak jointly about their work for peace. The two organizations, Miyetta Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) developed a groundbreaking partnership in Benue state through the Protecting Our Communities project. “The only way forward to maintain peace and harmony is, whenever there is an occasion for dialogue, every tribe needs to be involved—not to pick some, and neglect some,” the MACBAN representative remarked.

The conference repeatedly underlined the value of “bottom-up” peacework. “When you work directly with the communities affected by conflict, to repair trust, heal trauma, rebuild social cohesion and resilience, and create inclusive platforms, you can prevent and mitigate conflict on a broader scale,” Karuna Center’s Executive Director, Polly Byers, said in her opening remarks. Later in the program, an interfaith peacebuilding expert with Karuna Center, Imam Muhammad Sani Isah, remarked that “There is nothing you can do without dialogue.”

The day’s discussions brought to light key factors driving the continued crisis—including climate change, ethnic stereotyping, weakness of local governance, and a lack of synergy among different actors working to improve farmer-herder relations. Participants recommended that IPCR continue to serve as a hub for coordinating governmental and non-governmental efforts to address conflict drivers and promote solutions. Neem Foundation is working closely with IPCR to follow up with a report and policy recommendations synthesized from the conference.

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