By Michael Olugbode
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has waded into the ongoing farmers-herders crisis in the country.
The US agency, in order to make sure Nigeria is check, had in partnership with a coalition of international and local partners, successfully concluded a community-driven conflict mitigation intervention to restore peaceful coexistence among farmers and herders in vulnerable communities of the country.
One of the programmes organised by the USAID tagged: ‘Engaging Local Actors to Promote Peaceful Coexistence among Farmers and Herders in Taraba State (ELAPC)’, focused on ten communities across four local government areas in Taraba State, where violent conflict has damaged relationships along ethnic, political and religious backgrounds.
A statement issued by USAID noted that over the last two years, ELAPC brought together more than 3,600 representatives of farmers and herders, Muslims and Christians, women and youths, as well as people living with disability to identify and address the drivers of the conflict and adopt inclusive strategies to reduce a culture of violence in the communities.
The statement quoted USAID Mission Director, Anne Patterson, to have told participants at the ceremony that: “This activity has made a real difference for peaceful coexistence in communities, demonstrating that even a modest initiative with communities and local officials can promote more robust collaboration between the government and civil society, and be real catalysts for positive change.”
He noted that ELAPC engaged 600 members of Christian and Muslim women’s groups to mediate on divisive issues between farmers and herders such as encroachment onto farmland and the destruction of crops, to help reach amicable, non-violent resolutions and settlements. Women, men, and youths acted as community peace observers, and women served in other critical roles like providing psycho-social support to other women traumatised by conflict.
According to the statement, “Culturally familiar mediation tents in partner communities helped strengthen parameters of justice at the local level, giving farmers and herders renewed confidence in fair and swift resolution to their grievances at no cost, and successfully de-escalating tension and conflict in dozens of cases between farmers and herders.
“This intervention resulted in an overall reduction in the reported frequency of violence in the 10 partner communities, peaceful planting and harvest seasons, and the introduction of cultural activities shared between herder and farmer youths.
At the event, the Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, who was represented by the state Commissioner of Humanitarian Affairs and Special Duties, Hon.Taninga Paninga Binga, was quoted to have said: “I want to thank the American people for choosing Taraba State for this pilot project. We have new capacity to address land issues and promote peaceful co-existence in our communities. The state government will ensure that the gains of the project are sustained by providing support to continue these practices.”