Of all resources available, land resource remains an essential asset to various land users. It is perceived as a source of wealth and an important economic asset but there is more to it which makes it very important. Out of all land users, agricultural users consider land resources as being much more than an asset due to its enormous resources that aids their agricultural production ranging from crop to animal production and considering its significant effect on world’s landscape.
It is often assumed that “The more a country is able to exploit and use its land resources, the more industrialized the country will be”. For a developing country like Nigeria where majority of the farmers practice subsistence form of arable farming, land resources remain an indispensable asset to them. Land resources ranges from surface and underground water, cropland, grazing land, mineral resources, forests, and wetlands which are all useful for the survival and sustainability of the main agricultural land user which are mainly farmers and herdsmen.
In Nigeria, conflict between farmers and nomadic herdsmen over agricultural land is rapidly becoming a critical issue which needs rapid attention as it is considered as being most responsible for the unsustainable utilization of land and water resources. With both groups considered as ardent land users conjoined with existing ineffective farming/grazing laws, conflicts between both agricultural land users appears inevitable. Many farming communities in the country have either had or are currently having disputes with herdsmen. Apart from human factors identified as the major source of conflict, natural factors, that is, changing climate and its ensuing depletion of land resources are acknowledged as causes as well.
Farmers lay blame on cattle rearers for destroying their farm lands while the cattle rearers also accuse the farmers and their host communities for stealing their livestock leading to clashes between both parties. Aggressions are ultimately stirred up whenever cattle, on their feeding quest eat up cultivated farmlands destroy them in process or even trample and compact the soil with their hoofs rendering the soil unproductive for planting. Considering the loss incurred to the farmers as a result of this act, they often retaliate by stealing, poisoning or even killing cows. Likewise the herdsmen are also ready to go as far as harming anyone who tampers with his cattle. Overtime, these herdsmen have been perceived as being the aggressor, justified with the verity that they often go about with arms.
It will be impossible not to remark the overwhelming number of lives and properties lost to these incessant clashes which is evident and persistent in states such as Oyo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi states but even more persistent in the Tiv and Berom communities of Benue and Plateau states respectively. These are just few of many unreported clashes that are currently being experienced all over farming villages in the country.
Gestures towards resolving the recurrent land resource conflicts between both parties are fundamental to creating sustainable land resource peace. It is worth mentioning that several attempts made by the government, NGOs and other concerned bodies to negotiate peace deals only end up hitting a brick wall. Reasons remain unknown. To the affected locals, the fact remains that since the respective authorities have none of their family members caught in the clash, their anguish might remain unfelt with little or no succor from anyone.
If the government at all levels and other concerned bodies are really bent towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal number One, Seven and Eight as initiated by the United Nations, it is necessary that it establish an effective and well-defined master plan for an efficient and sustainable land use, constitute an holistic and interactive stakeholders forum that will involve both aggrieved parties, implement deterrent measures, establish cattle-grazing routes and grazing reserves as well as modify the existing itinerant method of cattle rearing to the ranching system which limits the movements of cattle rearers.