Inspiration from our National Conference on the Management of Farmer-Herder Relations in Nigeria

Polly Byers, Executive Director

I just returned from Abuja, Nigeria—where our Protecting Our Communities Initiative held the Second Annual National Conference on the Management of Farmer-Herder Relations on December 12. We lead the project jointly with Neem Foundation and we co-hosted the conference with the Nigerian government’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and Office for Strategic Preparedness and Resilience.  

Under the theme “Creating a Path to Sustainable Peace,” the conference emphasized practical collaborations among government, security, civil society, and the communities directly impacted by climate change and farmer-herder conflict. A highlight was our panel discussion with the directors of three community-based organizations—Elohim Youth Development Foundation, Voluntary Aid Initiative, and Hope for the Village Child—who you see in the picture above and are key partners in building and sustaining the project’scommunity-based dialogue and early warning-early response systems.

The conference sent the message loud and clear that our approach to community-based peacebuilding is working—and national news outlets picked up the story. The day was a powerful testament to the central role of local peacebuilding organizations, and we are proud to have partnered with them to ensure the sustainability of the work. Here are a few initial highlights from the conference:

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

The day highlighted the successes and challenges of our Protecting Our Communities Initiative—and brought government and security representatives, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders together to collaborate and share knowledge.

This segment from the Nigerian Television Authority—including a brief interview with Executive Director Polly Byers—highlights the importance of the conference.

UNITY BETWEEN FARMERS AND HERDERS:

In Benue state, when we are talking of peace, we cannot start without appreciating Neem Foundation, Karuna Center, and their partner, Elohim. They are actually practical organizations. It was even difficult for crop farmers and livestock farmers to start to come together, because we were apprehensive of everybody.

We came together, started dialoguing, to the extent that we have now become partners, a movement. Whatever happens, we discuss it. Any single thing noticed by MACBAN [cattle herders’ association], they call me, and any single thing noticed by the crop farmers, we call MACBAN to discuss it together. It’s discussion and dialogue that is moving us now, with the help of these organizations.

Comrade Aondongu Saaku, Chairman

All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Benue state (above left)

INSIGHTS FROM COMMUNITY-BASED PEACEBUILDING: 

Panel Discussion: Fostering Peace through Community Dialogues and Sustainable Early Warning-Early Response Structures—moderated by Karuna Center consultants Seth Karamage and Imam Muhammad Sani Isah

There are issues that, if care is not taken, it will escalate to a conflict which might consume the entire community. But with the presence of EWERs [early warning-early response] and community dialogue in our various communities, the number of cases has been drastically reduced. To date, in Zamfara state, almost 70 conflicts have been resolved between parties since the commencement of this project.

Musa Umar, Executive Director

Voluntary Aid Initiative (above, with mic)

Before now, when you called for peacebuilding meetings or anything that has to do mediation or peacebuilding, women were not there. But in this project, we insisted that there must be a particular percentage of women—not just married women or older women, but youth representation too, of young women.
Dr. Victoria Daor, Executive Director

Elohim Development Foundation (above left)

If you have early warning-early response without dialogue, it can become punitive. And so when these structures are set up, dialogue is very, very important—because without that, it can easily become about who gets punished, who is wrong.
Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger, Executive Director

Hope for the Village Child (above with mic)

UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF CLIMATE CHANGE:

Panel Discussion: Understanding the Effects of Climate Change in the Context of Emerging Conflict—moderated by Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution

Many grazing routes have been affected by the issue of climate change. Most of them cannot be seen anymore. The climate change issue has also affected the farmers, because they are also going deeper, looking for more arable land for their crops, and encroaching on those existing grazing routes. There is a direct and indirect link between climate change and conflict.

Insecurity and crime are an indirect effect of climate change. If your livelihoods are being impacted, and you cannot survive, you will do all manner of things. Youth are being recruited into some of these insurgent groups because that is survival.

Chikaodili Orakwue

Senior Researcher on Environment, Climate Change, Conflict and Peacebuilding, Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (above with mic)

Karuna Center Executive Director Polly Byers delivers opening remarks at the conference, along with Dr. Fatima Akilu of Neem Foundation.

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You can support these initiatives to develop peace in communities impacted by conflict, with a gift to Karuna Center today. Thank you!

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