Transforming traditions in central Nigeria

Conflict often arises when communities are forced to compete for the same resources. In central Nigeria, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is supporting farmers and herders to move towards a more sustainable – and harmonious – future.

Plateau State, in central Nigeria, has borne the brunt of a prolonged and devastating conflict that has left indelible scars on its people. Characterised by clashes between distinct ethnic and religious groups, this conflict has bitterly torn communities apart.

Amidst this turmoil, families find themselves compelled to flee their homes in a desperate bid to escape the surrounding violence. Displacement renders them vulnerable, leaving them grappling to secure necessities such as shelter, food, water, and essential services. The unity once shared by communities is now shattered, supplanted by long-standing hostilities.

Yusuf learned how to make silage at the National Veterinary Research Institute. Photo: Samuel Jegede/NRC.

From nomads to ranchers

In 2022, NRC with the support of GIZ initiated an intervention in Plateau State to empower and create sustainable livelihoods for displaced communities. An important part of the project involves training cattle herders in the production of silage – a blend of plant material used to feed cattle, particularly dairy cows.

Aliyu Yusuf, a herder from one of the communities, says: “This is a great opportunity for us, and if we can do this well it may help to reduce the conflict we have faced in our community.” The skill of silage-making has the potential to encourage a ranching system, rather than the traditional nomadic cattle rearing.

This innovation addresses a significant conflict trigger tied to competition over land resources. NRC is partnering with the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) to impart the art of silage production to master trainers.

Dr Jaafar Abdullahi, a researcher at NVRI, emphasises the transformative potential: “The conflict can be eliminated if the government starts to think of better ways such as ranching to engage cattle herders. When [the herders] produce silage, they do not have to take their cattle around and destroy the crops of farmers. They can produce high-quality feed themselves for their cattle in one place.”

Dr. Jaafar Abdullahi is a researcher with the National Veterinary Research Institute. Photo: Samuel Jegede/NRC.

Cleaner, more sustainable living

The project’s impact goes beyond silage production. We also offer training in various skills, including briquette production and extending the value of selected crops. The approach includes the training of trainers, who are then responsible for cascading the training down to community members. The aim is to build resilience and support communities that have been impacted by the conflict on the plateau.

Emmanuel, a farmer, is now able to add value to his tomato crop by processing some of the harvest into tomato paste or powder. This eliminates potential losses and the challenges of storing fresh crops with a limited shelf life. Processing crops into different forms allows them to be stored for a longer period of time and ensures their availability during off-seasons.

“I have farmed for a long time. I farm mostly tomatoes and fonio [a native grain]. It was so bad at one point that we would harvest almost 50 baskets of tomatoes, but lose 40 baskets since we could not sell them all and they would go bad. Now, with this training I have received, the tomatoes we process can last for up to four years and there is no fear that they will go bad,” he says.

Emmanuel shows off the tomato paste he has produced from fresh tomatoes. Photo: Samuel Jegede/NRC.

Labi, formerly a firewood vendor, now crafts briquettes from organic waste, generating income and contributing to a cleaner environment.

“This is how we have been able to get our needs,” she says. “I used to go into the bushes to get firewood which I would in turn sell to make some money. I did not know that what I was doing had bad effects.”

Encouraging communities to adopt renewable energy sources helps mitigate emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, ultimately contributing to cleaner, more sustainable living.

Labi is now equipped with the skills to turn organic waste into briquettes. Photo: Samuel Jegede/NRC.

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