By Shuaib Sadiq
A Non Governmental Organization (NGO), Synergos Nigeria, has begun a pilot program to integrate farming and pastoralist communities in parts of Kaduna, Benue and Kogi States.
Ms Victoria Fajemilehin, a Policy Advisor at Synergos Institute, Abuja, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of a workshop organised to develop an action plan for the pilot program in Kaduna.
Fajemilehin said the integrated communities would be set up simultaneously in the three states between now and December 2018.
NAN reports that the NGO, working under the Federal Government’s State Partnership for Agriculture (SPA), in 2017, recommended for a National Policy on Grazing Reserves and Development to address farmers/herders clashes.
It also recommended for the development of integrated crop/livestock settlement schemes in areas prone to clashes between farmers and herders to encourage them to live together.
She said: “we are starting the pilot for the integrated crop/livestock settlements as a follow up on the control grazing research that we did last year in Synergos across Kogi, Benue, and Kaduna states.
“What we are basically doing in terms of this pilot phase is to test run some of the recommendations we gave on the first phase.
“Part of the recommendation was not just how to manage the conflict between pastoralists and farmers, but also to empower youth and women in the community to engage in small businesses while living peacefully.
“That will prevent most of these conflicts from happening in those areas and other areas too.
“We shall use the program to measure the impact of the intervention and see how it would expanded over time to other areas,“ Fajemilehin said.
She also said, “We have quite a number of pastoralists and farmers in the selected communities and we are actually giving them training on conflict resolution, peace building, and pasture production for them to increase productivity.“
NAN also reports that the plan also recommended setting up of livestock farms to restrict the movement of pastoralists.
“If fully implemented, it would improve the livelihood and lifestyle of youth and women in the selected pastoralists and farming communities across those states.
“The program would also address the incessant conflicts between the communities as well as increase crop and livestock production to enhance the nation’s food security,“ she said.
It would be recalled that the Farmers/Herders clashes in the three states had left hundreds of people dead and thousands of animals killed or rustled.
According to her both farming and herding are businesses, as such those engage in them should be able to make profit and live a better live.
She said there would training for organized market system for the settlements to encourage entrepreneurship among women in the areas.
“We are working within these three months to address some of these issues with the intention to scale up to other areas over time.
“That is the baseline of the program, so that in few years, no child from these states and other areas would be affected or be subsumed in similar crises,“ she said.
According to her, there would be package to address the challenges of basic education for the youth and women in those communities.
“Attending schools would assist them with capacities to organize their businesses and lifestyle in ways that would be better for the communities and the States.”
She said the program would be executed without disrupting the lifestyle of members of the communities.
Also, a resources person and Consultant on the program, Dr Saleh Momale, told NAN, that the program would promote integrated crop and livestock production in those areas
“The objective is to try to work with farmers and pastoralists to increase the per unit productivity of crops and livestock and create more harmonious relationship between the groups.
“It also aims to enlighten the communities and provide them with skills that are needed to ensure more effective use of resources particularly land water and pasture.
“This is to enable youth and women contribute more and get more output from the activity they perform such as processing of crops, marketing of crops, processing and marketing of livestock products.
“The pilot program would build a capacity of grassroots extension workers and capacitate them to work more effectively with farmers and pastoralists within those communities where the pilot intervention will take place.
“The expectation is working with pastoralists and farmers together to share the same resources in a friendly and cordial manner and to improve the quality of those resources within their own domain.