Conflicts and crises are features of human lives. They have been there since the beginning of creation. Conflicts existed between darkness and light and even among the first set of human beings that were created on earth. So, conflicts and crises are permanent features of life, which we have come to live with, cope with, and resolve from time to time. The conflicts are threats to the peace and stability of any community. Conflict is the competition for limited resources that is essential for livelihood. It is very difficult for any social system to experience a perfect and peaceful environment.
Bibi (2015) observed that the population growth rate of Nigeria per year is 3.2%, according to the National Population Commission (NPC). Therefore, more and more people are likely to be competing for land. There have been frequent clashes between crop farmers and herdsmen, which have claimed many lives and properties, reduced agricultural activities, and instilled fear in the mind of prospective farmers and farming communities. It has been observed that activities of herdsmen and their everywhere grazing system have considerable affected food production, most especially, in the South-West part of Nigeria. According to Pasquale (2007), pastoralist-crop farmers’ conflict is the most predominant type of resource-use conflict. The major cause of conflict between crop farmers and herdsmen is competition over viable land.
Other causes of the conflict include damage to crops by cattle during grazing for some crops are withered off due to frequent stepping by the cattle. Community water or streams are serious disturbed by the herdsmen while leading their cattle there; sometime contaminate the stream with cattle dung. Severally cases have been reported bordering on sexual harassment of crop farmers’ daughters when older males are not on the farm by creating enmity between people. Herder-farmer clashes tend to lead to disagreements over the use of land and water, livestock theft or the obstruction of traditional migration routes. Beyond these, the conflict lies in the forced migration of herders south from their traditional grazing grounds in the northern Nigeria. As drought and desertification have dried up springs and streams across Nigerian far northern Sahelian belt, as large numbers of herders have had to search for alternative pastures and sources of water for their cattle, although climate change has also contributed to this problem.
Insecurity in many states, due to Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, under-reported rural banditry and cattle rustling, have also driven herders southward. In addition is the encroachment of settlements, farms and ranches on lands designated as grazing reserves by the post-independence government of the former Northern region (later broken into 19 states). As herders migrate into the Savannah and rainforest area of the central and southern states, they entered regions where high population growth over the last four decades had increased pressure on land. On their part, herdsmen do accuse crop farmers of cattle rustling. A crop farmer with irrigation-equipped facilities was unable to count losses while narrating his ordeal when his farm was recently invaded by herdsmen.
A herdsman once said to have boasted that “My cattle are hungry and I am obliged to feed them irrespective of where I am able to get the feed”. Hence, the farmer that incurred loss was the only one on the farm and within few minutes, the invading cattle ate about 75% of his cowpea plantation, which was close to the harvesting period. He went further and reported the case to the village head, but all efforts to get compensation proved abortive. This largely led to why the man eventually quit agricultural activities. Another discouraging case was narrated by a crop farmer based in Ekiti State, who alleged that was a herder once claimed that land was a common government belonging that is principally-owned by the ‘Fulanis’. The statement was said to have led to a fight, between the farmer and the herder. The matter further led to communal clash within the community, which was later resolved. Unfortunately, the injured farmers did not recover from the alleged injuries sustained from the attacks.
Likewise, some Fulani herdsmen at the rural areas were said to have suffered material damage when local farmers retaliate by inflicting physical injuries on their cattle using cutlasses, spears or guns and at times, by poisoning their animals. Furthermore, the consequence of open grazing has led to high rate of desertification due to the fact that this makes it possible to convert arable or pasture land into unproductive land, which reduces the soil nutrients and making it unfit for agricultural purposes because most of the essential nutrients would have been eroded away by wind or water. The loss of land productivity results in the decline of crop food available for ingestion. This reduces food supply and if population growth vestiges remain unchecked, it could cause hunger and economic problems. The long-term consequence of this is food scarcity, which could make man and cattle die of famine and starvation. If this situation persists, it could affect the sustainability of human beings as a result of inadequate food supply for consumption by causing acute starvation and death of man and livestock.
In a study of conflict management in Nigeria, Fasona and Omajola (2005) revealed that farmer-herdsmen conflict accounted for about 35% of conflicts cases that are reported in the Nigerian media and are on the increase in recent times. Nweze (2005) stated that between 1996 and 2005, 19 people died and 42 were injured in farmers-herders conflicts in Imo State. Another study of 27 communities in North-Central states indicated that over 40% of household surveyed had experienced agricultural land-related conflicts with respondents recalling that the conflicts were dated as far back as 1965 and 2005 (Nyong & Fiki, 2005).
In the guinea Savannah area of Kwara State, scholars reported that out of about 150 households interviewed, 22 experienced losses of livestock while eight household reported loss of human lives (Olabode & Ajibade, 2010; Fiki & Lee, 2004). Further study by Ofuoku and Isife (2009) also revealed that in the South-South region of Nigeria, especially in Delta and Edo states, more than 40 million worth of crops are usually lost annually due to invasion by cattle. Okoli and Atelhe (2014) informed that 13 cases of farmer-herdsmen conflicts occurred across states of the federation, which had claimed 300 lives. In the final analysis, how a person manages his/her inner conflicts has great impact on how he/she lives and relates with others. A person, who manages his/her inner conflict well, tends to transfer emotional strengths to his/her associates. Hence, prompt action must be taken to avert and avoid indiscriminate loss of lives and property. Our agricultural sector must be sustained and preserved by all if we want to live, feed well and prepare an enabling environment for the generation yet unborn.