Nigerian farmers and agricultural scientists have expressed optimism that food production will receive a boost as the southern governors have declared a ban on open cattle grazing in the regions.
For decades, open grazing of cattle has led to violent clashes between farmers and herders as the system encourages destruction of crops despite intense labour and resources invested on farms. Harvest-Plus Nigeria describes open grazing as 18th Century agriculture which cannot work in the 21st Century Nigeria.
The escalation of such clashes in Benue State in the second half of the last decade forced the state lawmakers to ban open grazing of cattle with a law taking effect from November 1, 2018.
Oyo State government, among others, was also forced to enact a law in 2019 following frequent clashes between farmers and herders, which led to loss of lives and properties in the state.
From the north central zone to other zones in the south, clashes emanating from herders and farmers have escalated, and joined to the clashes are kidnapping, banditry and killings.
Cumulatively, the clashes and other vices attributed to herders have depleted food production and availability. International Crisis Group (ICG), in its May 4, 2021 report, said violence between herders and farmers in Nigeria had grown deadlier over the past decade.
It attributed the intensity of clashes to climatic change, high population growth, environmental degradation, Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and organised crime (including massive cattle rustling) in the North West.
It said the situation had forced large numbers of pastoralists in the north to migrate south in search of pasture and water, and this, in turn, had triggered disputes with sedentary crop farmers, leading to loss of lives and properties.
In another report, more than 8,000 people were killed in the last decade, with over 200,000 internally displaced and about 60,000 fleeing into Niger Republic.
With the ban, however, stakeholders are optimistic that farmers will go back to farm and this will increase food production, especially in the southern parts of the country.