AFRICA/NIGERIA – Nomadic herdsmen in Taraba force settled farmers to flee
Jalingo – Many ethnic groups live in the state of Taraba, one of Nigeria’s 36 States situated in the eastern part of the Country, bordering Cameroon. Tribes are divided into settled farmers, mostly Catholics, who cultivate cereals, tea, coffee, and nomadic populations of Muslim origin.
What happens more and more often is that when farmers need new grazing land to feed their herds, they forcefully confiscate farmland. Tribes of nomadic herdsmen confiscate, with violence, the fields of settled farmers, forcing them to flee. Clashes begin, entire villages are destroyed, houses are severely damaged, and residents, including newborns, women and the elderly, are forced to flee.
Thousands of people from rural areas are thus pouring into the outskirts of the city of Jalingo seeking help. Tired of everything, they find themselves living in refugee camps where hygiene conditions are bad: many children are bitten by snakes and insects, they get malaria and infections related to dirt and malnutrition.
The situation worsens, and the Augustinian Fathers , present in the Country for more than 50 years, are working to help refugees with a support project in co-operation with the local diocese. “Our plan involves two phases”, explains Father Michael Walsh, OSA, in a note sent to Fides, “the first regarding emergency support, in particular aimed at children, to provide food and basic necessities; the second regarding development, aimed at making households economically autonomous, allowing them to start a productive, agricultural or commercial activity on the outskirts of the city”, concludes Father Michael, who has been in Nigeria for over 20 years.
The Augustinian Irish brothers arrived in the country in 1938 and founded the first community in 1966. Although in Nigeria there is an important mining sector, it is also the most populous Country on the continent, with about 177 millions of inhabitants, and life expectancy is about 52 years and 70% of the population lives below the poverty line . In addition, the presence of the Boko Haram terrorist group and ongoing inter-ethnic clashes make the Country one of the most dangerous on the African continent. Despite this, the Augustinian Friars continue their work in fields such as education, health care, work formation for women and the youth, and peace building.