04/06/2023 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – The mass destruction of farms has become the new normal in many communities of Plateau State, located in the North Central region of Nigeria. In the region, many Christians continue to be targeted by militants, including some of Fulani origin, for what locals describe as ethnic cleansing. The attackers use various strategies ranging from killing, burning houses and food barns, and destroying crops.
One of the hardest-hit communities is Miango, a community in Bassa Local Government Area, Plateau State. The community is inhabited by the Rigwe people, a minority tribe who are predominantly Christians. ICC has written many times about attacks in this community. Since 2017, hundreds of men, women, and children have been killed, while many houses and food barns have been burned along with thousands of hectares of crops.
Crops are the main source of livelihood in the Bassa area, making up the economic backbone of the community. Approximately 96% of the populace are farmers, many of whom have seen their crops either grazed on or mowed down just short of harvest. Militants have weaponized farm destruction to cause hunger and malnutrition. Sadly, there has been no serious intervention by the government at any level, whether federal, state, or local, and officials have failed for years to protect the farms or render humanitarian support to the farmers.
The farmers’ pleas for assistance have, largely, fallen on deaf ears. The governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong, promised the farmers last year that he was deploying “agro rangers” to protect farms, but to no avail. The consequence of the government’s inaction is that many families have been rendered homeless, displaced, and victims of severe hunger and malnutrition.
Sadly, despite efforts at entrenching peace, herders continue to graze on farms in Miango. In one recent attack, aggressors grazed their herds and destroyed a dry-season farm on March 25. The farm belonged to the pastor of a church in the Evangelical Church Winning All denomination. He is also a leader in the local branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
According to this pastor, farming is his main source of livelihood as his salary as a pastor is very small and has been delayed for months due to the poor economic well-being of his church members. It is from the farm that he feeds his family and supports his children in school. Now that it has been destroyed, he is left wondering how he will survive until the next farming season.
Confirming the incident, the special task force of the Nigerian Army stationed in Miango stated that the report has been received, and personnel of the task force have gone to assess the destruction. One herder has been arrested so far. The pastor prays and hopes that a lasting solution be found as he counts his losses and calls on spirited individuals and organizations to come to his aid.
The spokesman of the Miango Youth Development Association also confirmed the incident, noting that there have been too many farms destroyed by herdsmen whom the community has tolerated. He calls on security agencies to carry out their responsibility of protecting lives and properties. He is also calling on individuals and humanitarian organizations to support the victims to ameliorate the impending hunger and suffering.
Another pastor recently suffered similar destruction of his yam farm when herds of cows stampeded on the farm, breaking the tender yam stems.
A local opinion leader condemned the recklessness of the herders and thinks that the government should quickly implement a new ranching policy where herders can be confined to ranches rather than roam about on peoples’ farms. This ranching approach, he said, is simply a best practice and is obtainable in civilized societies. “If the archaic livestock farming we practice today continues,” he said, “the future is bleak.”
For interviews, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.