Cattle Grazing Becomes Problematic in Nigeria (Tragedy of the Commons)


The total land mass of the inhabited world is about 30% while the rest is water. It is on this piece of land that mankind live, grow and develop. We share together a pool of common natural resources like water, land, clean air, sea and ocean; and other environmental elements that human kind relate with.

With human population of over 7 billion, there is an increasing strain on the ‘commons’ and this endangers sustainability. In Nigeria, for the past two decades, there had been conflicts between the Fulanis herdsmen who are from the Northern part of Nigeria and the farming communities in the Southern Nigeria. This conflicts have claimed thousands of lives according to Global Terrorism Index. The Fulanis spend most of their life times in the busy following forage and waterways

The effect of Climate Change on grazing lands coupled with increase in numbers of cattle owned by the Fulanis over many years and human population have pushed the herdsmen  further South in search of grazing land. The disagreement between herders and Southern farmers frequently happen over the use of natural common resources such as water, farmland and grazing areas. The farmers always complained about the activities of the herders, damaging their crops, polluting the water and letting loose their  herd of cattle which threaten their lives in their own land. the Fulani herders usually carry weapons like guns, matches, knives, bow and arrows, swords and so on, to protect themselves, and they are very mindful of their livestock, they are ready to kill if the lives of their livestock are in danger.

Furthermore, increase in population in the South (Urbanisation) has left the farmers with a limited space to cultivate their crops. The typical climate of the Southern part of Nigeria is tropical with rain forest and green pastures in about nine (9) months of the year while the Northern part is arid, that is, desert with less than 26centimeters of rainfall in a year, the reason why irrigation system is commonly used in the Northern Nigeria for farming. More people settle in the South which makes it densely populated. As farming has become a major occupation of many in Nigeria, both small and large scales make land space more competitive in terms of usage. Hence, Southern Nigeria witness more social development than the North.

The carrying capacity of the available land has now reduced in the South, creating a tension between the Fulani herdsmen from the North and the farming communities in the South. The clash usually result in loss of lives in thousands and destruction of properties and valuables at a time, and this may continue in different areas in a period of time. The major concern is about security of lives and properties, this makes the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari who is also a Fulani to detail the Armed Forces to be on guard 24/7 but he has not come up with any tangible solution, neither for the sustainability of the commons nor the conflict. The question is ‘how can we govern and sustain the commons?’ for the future generations and defeat the myth that “private property is the only means of protecting finite resources from ruin and depletion” (Walljasper, 2013).


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