Letter from Africa: Turning Nigerian herders into ranchers

In our series of letters from African journalists, the editor-in-chief of Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper, Mannir Dan Ali, considers whether ranches could solve the deadly conflicts between herders and farmers.

No issue is generating more heat in Nigeria at the moment than the violent clashes between farmers and herders – that are usually over access to land and grazing rights.

Just last week 200 people were killed in central Plateau state after three days of violence, adding to hundreds of lives lost this year alone.

Security services are already stretched by the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east, and are struggling to provide protection and to deter revenge attacks.

My personal experience of this decades-long conflict was about 50 years ago when herders armed with machetes attacked my village in Katsina, north-western Nigeria, leaving many injured.

But these attacks are more deadly and sophisticated than ever before, as the herders are now armed with guns.

This situation is sowing discord and threatening community relations in different parts of the country and putting pressure on the government to act.

The authorities are now proposing to set up ranches.

The plan is to confine the itinerant herders into controlled grazing areas to dissuade them from encroaching onto private farms to look for water and pasture as the seasons change.

Grazing in parliament

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