UNDP is in its first year of implementing a project that is aimed at ending the Herdsmen-Farmers Conflict in Benue and Nasarawa States in Nigeria, a region that has experienced years of conflicts. The conflict area lies largely in the middle belt States and traces its source in the clashes over farmland and/or pasture, which have increasingly taken varying undertones among different groups, religious and community leaders, a development which has further polarized communities and complicated efforts at curbing the spread of violence and subsequent destruction to property and sources of livelihoods.
The conflict in the region continues to undermine food security, encourages the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and infringes on a number of fundamental human rights.
The conflict has resulted into reduced crop productivity from a region that has traditionally been referred to as the country’s food basket. Thousands of lives have been lost, property destroyed, and communities left in disarray, with tens of thousands internally displaced all over many parts of the Middle Belt and other parts of Nigeria. Some estimates indicate that the communal violence between farmers and herders claimed more lives in 2016 alone than the Boko Haram insurgency, hinting at its magnitude nationwide.
UNDP is implementing a project “Transitioning from Humanitarian Relief to Long -Term Development: Addressing the Herdsmen -Farmers Conflict in Nigeria” alongside UNHCR and FAO to the tune of USD5,000,000 to be utilized over a period of three years. To secure community ownership and participation, UNDP undertook several visits to communities across Benue State, with specific focus on areas that have been adversely and disproportionately affected by the crisis.
The visits conducted in Logo, Guma, Kwande, Buruku and Agatu Local Government Areas were useful in gaining insights in the local conflict dynamics which are unique to communities based on several factors among them such as the location, the response of security operatives to the conflicts, etc. During the visits, community leaders who interacted with UNDP officials disclosed that they are happy with the intervention to support the reduction of conflicts between the farmers and herdsmen and will cooperate with the team. They also requested that UNDP pays attention to the filing up the security gaps to ensure that project implementation can progress seamlessly during project implementation cycle.
It was also noted that communities were ready to host and participate in project activities as they felt this will be useful in promoting co-existence, restoring peace and facilitating development activities to take place in the areas that have suffered from destruction of property, loss of lives and disruption of economic activities which have exposed hundreds of thousands, especially women and children, to untold suffering.
The project is aimed at “transitioning communities from humanitarian relief to long-term development by addressing the herdsmen-farmers conflict” and it will run over a period of three years.