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A Tightening of Nigeria’s Middle Belt: How Farmer Casualties Affect Nigeria’s Food Supply

Matthew Mullman | Country Analyst

In the past week, groundTruth Global has been monitoring a number of disruptions involving farmers from the Tiv ethnic group being killed by herdsmen, largely Fulani, in Nasarawa state. These attacks often occur when the farmers are headed to the fields. The federal government of Nigeria faces challenges not only in its inability to control this violence but in the second level effects that this conflict will have on the agriculture of the Middle Belt and the domestic economy.

Local governments in Nasarawa state lack the manpower and resources to deter the violence and have little political incentive to engage with the migrating herdsmen. Local governments, so far, have only proposed restrictive land-use laws to attempt to track and monitor herdsmen movements, which has only led to fiercer reprisals. Without engagement with the herders, or a massive deployment of security forces to manage the violence, both of which can only come from the federal government, violence will likely continue.

This conflict will have deep economic impacts on Nigeria’s economy, as violence is a contributing factor to Nigeria’s agricultural sector recently recording its lowest growth rate since 2013. Agriculture is a main source of employment in Nigeria and a main contributor to the country’s economy. The Middle Belt, where the herdsmen violence has been playing out, is considered the agricultural heartland of the country. Most cash crops for export, such as peanuts, cocoa, rubber, and cotton, are produced either in the north or tropical south, while the Middle Belt savannahs produce rice, cassava, millet, yam, soya, and tomatoes, the staple foods of the Nigerian diet.

The economic and agricultural impact of herdsmen violence on farmers will likely burden domestic Nigerian markets. Should violence continue to rise and agriculture growth continue to fall, it can be expected that domestic prices for rice, cassava, millet, and yam will increase. Social unrest directed at the government, both due to its inability to stem the violence and because of inflated food prices, could rise. groundTruth Global is unrivaled in its ability to monitor these situations, and we will continue to analyze the violence and its broader effects on the Nigerian agro-economic sector in the coming weeks and months.