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Keep Off the Grass: Grassland Scarcity and the Security Implications of Cross-Border Transhumance Between Niger and Nigeria

Camille Laville ()
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Camille Laville: CERDI - Centre d'Études et de Recherches sur le Développement International - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UCA - Université Clermont Auvergne

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Abstract: In 2018, 1,300 people were killed and 300,000 displaced as a result of herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria. These tensions threaten the already weakened security, economic development and food security in Western Africa. Indeed, cross-border transhumance of herders during the dry season is an important economic activity recognized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This practice is also an important adaptation strategy to climate change for Sahelian States that have developed a comparative advantage in producing and exporting livestock. However, the establishment of a harmonized legal framework surrounding this practice is hampered by coordination failures between Coastal States (primary receivers of livestock flows) and the Sahelian States (primary providers of livestock flows). The growth of the Nigerian agricultural sector through the expansion of agricultural land threatens the last open pastures and transhumance corridors. Indeed, Nigeria faces a scarcity of arable land for a growing rural population. Is competition for the remaining Nigerian grassland a factor of violence between nomadic herders from Niger and Nigerian farmers? Recent empirical evidence suggests that climate-induced migration of herders to nearby agricultural areas (short transhumance) is associated with a higher risk of herder-farmer conflict for the remaining pastoral resources. However, no analysis has been made on the case of lengthy and costly transhumance. This article analyses the security implications of cross-border transhumance between Niger and Nigeria at the scale of 0.5x0.5 degree cells between 2006 and 2016. Using spatial panel techniques and satellite data on land cover, it questions the importance of grassland grabbing strategies as a cause of the recent herder-farmer conflicts in Nigeria. The obtained results hardly coincide with the idea that transhumant herders from Niger enter into conflict with Nigerian farmers over the grabbing of the last grazing resources. Ultimately, the economy of Sahelian countries, which depends on livestock trade, is threatened by a political instrumentalization of herder-farmer conflicts through the rhetoric of "invaders against farmers."

Keywords: Niger; Nigeria; Climate change; Agriculture; Migration (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-env and nep-int
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