Pathway to Peace: Striving toward solutions for herders and farmers in Northern Nigeria | Climate change and the media | DW | 13.03.2024
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Climate change and the media

Pathway to Peace: Striving toward solutions for herders and farmers in Northern Nigeria

Conflicts between herders and farmers are increasing as climate change leads to a greater scarcity of vital resources in N. Nigeria. A DW Akademie project used local radio and podcasts to explore solutions.

Nigeria | DW-Lab zum Bauern-Herder-Konflikt

Participants of the Climate Journalism Lab in Abuja, Nigeria in June 2023

Through ten planned podcast episodes (and two additional bonus episodes), journalists in Northern Nigeria explored both problems and potential solutions for nomadic herders and resident farmers. Water scarcity, access to grazing land and the effects of climate change have led to violent conflict between the two groups. 

"The persistent conflict between traditional herders and farmers is old," said Usman Shehu, a journalist for DW Hausa and a project coordinator. "But what is new is that climate change is affecting the conditions for both groups, making the situation much worse."

The podcast, called Hanyar Zaman Lafiya (Pathway to Peace), was produced by six community radio stations (Koode and Platinum FM in Abuja, Freedom FM in Kaduna, Bauchi Radio in Bauchi and Progress FM in Gombe) in cooperation with DW's Hausa desk. Each episode explores how generations of distrust between farmers and shepherds can be overcome so that the two groups can coexist peacefully. The episodes were produced in Hausa, but one is in the Fulfulde language.

In one episode, academics and activists in the northeastern town of Gombe call for Nigeria's government to create a ministry of animal welfare, a move they say might raise awareness of rural concerns.

Nigeria | DW-Lab zum Bauern-Herder-Konflikt

Attendees learned learned how to use storytelling to encourage dialogue and empathy

"Us journalists have always covered such conflicts by reporting who was fighting who and where," added Shehu. "But by introducing possible solutions into our work, we hope to create some dialogue around these difficult issues."

From idea into practice

The podcast series is the product of the Climate Journalism Lab Nigeria, a DW Akademie project that trained local journalists on how they can defuse land disputes using conflict-sensitive reporting on climate change. Funding for the project came from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Our project aimed at breaking up these common narratives and old patterns of distrust, not least through training journalists and exploring little-known local solutions," said Werner Nowak, Coordinator Africa, DW Akademie.

In June 2023, DW Akademie and local radio station managers held an "idea lab" in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss innovative and solution-oriented approaches to covering ongoing herder-farmer disputes. This included new radio formats like discussion programs with expert representatives of both sides of a conflict that also engage the radio audience.

A training program was later held with 12 local journalists on how to do conflict-sensitive reporting. They learned how to use storytelling to encourage dialogue and empathy. As part of the training, they continued their research in the home region of their radio stations and wove the results into explanatory reports. The reports were included in the podcast and published in a Spotify playlist.

Nigeria | DW-Lab zum Bauern-Herder-Konflikt

Local radio representatives discuss innovative approaches to covering ongoing herder-farmer disputes

For Aisha'a Adams Jalo, who works for Progress FM in Gombe and participated in the training, it was interesting to learn how by just changing a few words in a report, you can change people's thinking, leading to solutions instead of spreading conflict.

"[In my work] I will try and focus more on finding a solution to a problem and not just spreading the problem," said Jalo, "I think journalists can help end the crisis because they are the mirror to the community."

Reaching young and old

For the final part of the project, representatives of DW Akademie and partner stations, DW Hausa desk reporters, experts and other stakeholders visited schools – including a nomadic school – in the Gombe region to sensitize students, teachers and school administrators on the connection between climate change and the herder-farmer conflicts. To produce new podcast episodes, they participated in events, attended classes and held town hall-style meetings with students and stakeholders.

"Many of the students already knew about climate change and learned about it at school and many knew about the herder-farmer conflicts," said Umar Ahmad Abubakar, a local journalist from Progress Radio and the Gombe project coordinator for DW Akademie, "but few knew about the connection between the two."

Nigeria | DW-Lab zum Bauern-Herder-Konflikt

Participants of the Climate Idea Lab Nigeria, June 2023

At the end of the five-day visit, five students were invited to join the experts from the team for a live call-in radio show about climate change, a format originally developed in the "idea lab" months earlier. According to Abubakar, the show was a huge success.

"Just the look of joy in the faces of the students and the praise we got from the callers for discussing these issues made it all worth it," said Abubakar.

"I think we are on the right path," he added.

This project was supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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