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Global Sentinel, FFARN Publishes Policy Brief on Solution to Herders-Farmers Conflict

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Jude Johnson 


The Forum on Farmer and Herder Relations in Nigeria (FFARN) has produced and published a policy brief for a sustainable solution to the deadly conflict between the farmers and herdsmen across the country.

Global Sentinel is part of FFARN, which is a network of academics, practitioners from governmental and non-governmental institutions who work on peace and conflict/security issues in Nigeria and who have experience responding to farmer-herder conflict at sub-national, national, and/or regional levels.

The Forum, which is being facilitated by the Search for Common Ground, provides a monthly platform for interdisciplinary exchange and joint identification of areas for additional research and practice to generate strong evidence for multilevel policy influence on farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria.

Speaking on the policy brief entitled: “The Implications of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law on Farmer-Herder Relations in the Middle Belt of Nigeria”, the Senior Programme and Policy Analyst, Search for Common Ground, Mrs. Bukola Ademola-Adelehin described as a landmark achievement.

Ademola-Adelehin expressed satisfaction at the e-copy of the published Policy Brief, saying “this is the first product of FFARN and I am proud of our collective effort”.

She sees the publication “as a way of influencing the current discuss and quest for solutions to the conflict”.

Also read: Forum blames farmer-herder conflict escalation on govt insensitivity 

The brief was co-authored and edited by Mrs. Ademola-Adelehin and Mr. Chris Kwaja, who is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Centre for Peace and Security Studies, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State and currently an Africa Research Conflict Analyst with Search for Common Ground.

There were also contributions from Mr. Adagba Okpaga, Professor and Head of Centre for Peace and Development Studies, Benue State University, Nigeria; Mr. Mafhouz Adedimeji, Head, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, Nigeria; Mr. Nathaniel Msen Awuapila: Executive Director, Civil Organisations Research Advocacy and Funding Initiatives Development (CORAFID), a non-governmental organization based in Benue State; and Rev. Bitrus Dangiwa.

The overall work was however a collation of discussions, deliberations and brainstorming inputs by members of FFARN represent academic and practitioner institutions including: Global Sentinel (Media Partner); Abdulsalami Abubakar Institute for Peace and Sustainable Development (AAIPSD), Niger state, Nigeria; Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies, University of Jos, Nigeria; and Centre for Ethno-Religious and Peace Studies, Federal University Wukari, Taraba State, Nigeria among others.


Download the e-copy of the policy brief herePolicy Brief on Implications of Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law on FarmerHerder Relations in the Middle Belt of Nigeria.




Benue State is located in the heart of the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, which is home to fertile cropland, lush livestock grazing pasture, and active corridors for migrating cattle. Over the past decade, escalating tensions between primarily sedentary farmers and nomadic and semi-nomadic herders in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria have resulted in hundreds of deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands in Benue State alone.

1. In response to these rising tensions and cycles of attacks, the Benue State Government passed legislation that banned open grazing on May 22, 2017. The law prohibited the open grazing of livestock or the practice of allowing cattle to roam freely in search of pasture and water, beginning on November 1, 2017 and called instead for the establishment of ranches within the state. The Open Grazing Prohibition and Establishment of Ranches Law, 2017 was met with both support and opposition. Those that support the legislation have gone so far as to label it the best antidote for farmer-herder conflict in the state.

2. Whereas, those that oppose it claim that the law is discriminatory against herders, does not provide or support the production of alternative livelihoods, and effectively evicts herders from the state.

3. Despite the conflicting responses, the Open Grazing Prohibition Law went into effect on November 1, 2017. This report draws on monitoring and analysis completed by Search for Common Ground and the Forum on Farmer and Herder Relations in Nigeria (FFARN) to track new tensions or potential escalations of conflict emanating from the implementation of the Law. This monitoring revealed that there are key risks to economic, socio-cultural, identity, security, and legal considerations that have the potential to escalate tensions in Benue State and the wider Middle Belt Region. This analysis was presented to and verified by a panel of academic, governmental, and non-governmental experts in December 2017. Based on this assessment of the reactions and the legal considerations, this section will discuss the various implications that the continued implementation may have on farmer-herder relations in Benue and the Middle Belt, especially if similar legislation is enacted in neighboring states.

Economic Implications: The prohibition of open grazing has already led to a significant exodus of livestock owners, particularly herders, from the state. As the number of livestock leaving the state rises, the prices of livestock, and cattle in particular, might increase. For owners of livestock that do decide to ranch their livestock, there are significant economic hurdles to overcome, including the economic capital needed to acquire land for a ranch, pay the necessary leasing fees, put the necessary structures in place, and run it as a profitable and sustainable enterprise. This financial capital might be beyond the economic means for most livestock owners.

The Implications of the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law on Farmer-Herder Relations in the Middle Belt of Nigeria

Identity Implications: From an identity standpoint, the Law prohibits open grazing, which almost exclusively is done by Fulani herders, and places stringent conditions on non-indigenes (but not indigenes) to apply for ranching leases. The discrepancy between the applications of the law to indigenes versus non-indigenes has heightened the perception that the Law is discriminatory to herders. Media responses have stoked this perception, utilizing incendiary and ethno-religiously based rhetoric with strong potential to fuel already high levels of tensions between the two communities.

Socio-Cultural Implications: The transition from open grazing to ranching necessitates a shift in worldview for the herding community away from their traditional social relations and lifestyle. So far, the Benue State Government has not developed incentive structures to entice herders into ranching or provided the veterinary and feed distribution facilities needed to help herders transition from open grazing to running a ranch.


  • Legal Implications: The legal implications of the Open Grazing Prohibition Law are twofold – enforcement of the legal specifications and challenges to the constitutionality of the Law. Throughout November 2017, there was inconsistent enforcement of the law outside of Makurdi, the Benue State capital, and the few herders that were arrested were reportedly released without charges. As the law continues in its implementation, the justice system will need to adapt and respond to the demands of implementation.
    The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore has already brought one lawsuit against the Benue State Government on the grounds that it contradicts the Nigerian Constitution. It is likely that similar lawsuits will emerge that challenge the validity of the legislation (in Benue and in neighboring states) to restrict open grazing.
  • Security Implications: There are two significant security threats to Benue and the Middle Belt beyond escalating clashes between farmers and herders over resources and revenge attacks. First, when enforcement of the law prevents movement of transhumance into the Benue Trough, especially in the busiest months of December-February, there is a risk for violence, if measures to prevent confrontation are not put in place. Secondly, the increasing price of livestock, from high demand coupled with out-flux of livestock from Benue, is a potential source of increased conflict and criminal activity.The key recommendations for state and federal government are listed below:
  • The Benue State Government should review the Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law to amend any actual or potential discriminatory statues.
  • The Benue State Government should organize inclusive multi-stakeholder consultations to build trust and plan for realistic implementation of the law.
  • The Benue State Government should communicate openly about support mechanisms and processes in place for herders to access land for ranching and to obtain grazing permits within the state.
  • The Federal and State Governments must reconcile the designation of corridors for passage of livestock with provisions prohibiting open grazing.
  • States considering legislation on farmer-herder relations should do so with caution and with ample time for consultation and the development of support mechanisms for affected parties.• The Federal, State, and Local Governments should institutionalize and fund mechanisms for peace-building.• The Federal and State Governments should strengthen the administration of the justice system.• The Federal and Benue State Governments should establish and support integrated and sustainable community policing frameworks.

    • The Federal and State Governments should partner with civil society organizations to build trust and raise awareness of the Law’s interpretation.


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