By Murtala Abdullahi
In September 2019, a group of displaced farmers sitting on a large mat in front of a house, recall their individual traumatic experience with herder allied bandits.
One of the farmers had a gunshot scar and a bullet lodged in his hand, a few houses away, a middle-aged man was recovering after undergoing a medical procedure to save his badly injured leg from an attack for daring to visit his farm.
Dusty earth roads with random neem trees led to this neighborhood in Batagara local government of Katsina state, Northwest Nigeria. Where displaced farmers and their families were being sheltered by the community and relatives.
Conflict, Environment, and Underdevelopment Nexus
Nigeria is battling rural security challenges, with roots in decades of poor governance, education deficit, deteriorating livelihood, weak law enforcement, and other grievances such as ungoverned spaces, arms proliferation, drug abuse, and competition for control of water, land, and livestock.
The country is also vulnerable to environmental degradation and the growing impact of climate change on intergenerational livelihoods such as farming, fishing, and pastoralism.
In the Northwest, armed bandits on motorcycles continue to threaten farming communities and displace villagers in Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Katsina states. By March 2020, the UNHCR reported that more than 210,000 people have been internally displaced.
These recurring violence by criminals and conflict between farming and pastoralists communities are becoming more intense in communities around lush savannah grassland, the Shiroro lake and forest areas such as the Ruma and Kukar Jangarai and Kamuku.
The decade-long conflict with Boko Haram in the Northeast and the Lake Chad region has left an estimated 30,000 people dead and displaced more than 2 million people. The conflict, deeply rooted in socioeconomic stressors and extremist ideology continues to pose a significant threat to communities and humanitarian activities.
Education, Environmental Management and Peacebuilding
Access to quality education is inextricably linked to sustainable livelihood opportunities and environmental management, which in turn reduces the risks of armed conflicts.
Rejuvenating the schools, curriculum and nomadic education are vital for sustainable use of natural resources by rural communities and migrant farmers, fisherfolks, pastoralists like the Fulani, Shuwa Arab, Koyam, and Buduma.
Education could encourage the transition of nomadic pastoralists towards cattle ranching, dryland pastoralism, and the development of value-adding innovations for livestock and byproducts. This will in the long run ease tensions with farmers, improve livelihoods and reduce the impact of overgrazing.
New farming skills and innovations are essential to help farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions and growing population, produce more crops for income and domestic purposes without requiring more land and water.
Sustainable crop production and processing techniques will lead to positive relationships between farmers and the environment.
Fisherfolk and traders in Northern Nigeria are affected by the seasonality of inland water bodies and growing insecurity, education would provide the community with skills for Aquafarming and processing of products for better income and resilience.
Also, Humanities and ethics could lead to behavioral change, intercultural tolerance, and coexistence between different communities while STEM would lead to the modernization of indigenous agro technologies, new jobs, and small-scale business farm waste recycling and agro-processing.