Climate Change and the Demand for Meat: The catalysts for Insecurity in Nigeria

in StemSocial5 months ago


Despite the amplified negative reviews about Nigeria and Nigerians in the international media, the tons of domestic problems plaguing the country, and a large percentage of the population living below the poverty level, Nigerians remain one of the happiest people in the world. In 2017, Nigerians were ranked as the 95th happiest people in the world and the 6th happiest people in Africa according to the World's Happiness Report. source The country ranked higher in 2018 and 2019, before dropping off significantly this year. Whatever the case may be, one would ordinarily expect Nigerians to be at the bottom of the happiness ranking in lieu of the country's numerous problems. The reason is not far-fetched - Nigerians love partying, especially those parties where cow meats are involved.

Fulani herder. By Brendertogo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Nigerians can throw parties for the slightest of reasons. This year alone, despite the lockdown and social restrictions that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had reasons to attend numerous parties ranging from weddings, birthdays, naming, to burial ceremonies. The last party I attended was a burial ceremony where, at least, 6 cows were slaughtered in celebration. It is quite unfortunate that many Nigerians do not see a connection between the level of insecurity in the country and their demand for cow meat, especially issues of the Fulani herdsmen. Since the return to the democratic ruling in 1999, nothing less than 19,000 lives have been lost to different clashes relating to the insurgency of the Fulani herders and another hundred of thousands displaced.source According to a more specific and recent report, over 650 attacks culminating to the loss of 2539 lives and 253 kidnappings have been carried out by Fulani herders between 2017 and May 2020.source

Climate Change and Insurgency

A steady increase in the global annual average temperatures over the years has brought a level of unpredictability to the climates of the world. As the world's population continues to increase, the rate of emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere keeps on increasing in a rather unequally greater proportion; thanks to technology and continuous search for improvement in the lifestyles of humans. Of course, we all know that without the greenhouse gases, the planet would not have left the ice age. The gases trap some of the radiations of the sun that hit and are reflected back by the earth and prevent them from escaping back to the stratosphere.

The problem started when more and more of these greenhouse gases were being emitted into the atmosphere. The more their concentrations, the more the radiation they trap and the more the global average annual temperature increases. The increase in temperature has many profound effects on the earth's ecosystem, including a reduction in glacier level, melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea level, desertification of lands, and the drying-up of lakes and water bodies.

One of the prominent effects of this climate change is the reduction in the water level of the Lake Chad Basin. The Basin which borders the Northeastern region of Nigeria and Chad use to be one of Africa's largest freshwater bodies and supports livelihood for more than 30 million people. As of today, the water level in the Lake Chad Basin has gone down to as low as 10% of its original volume. This means that the source of livelihood of over 30 million people has been disrupted.source

Lake Chad. By Hans Braxmeier -, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The drying up of the lake was one of the reasons that drove Fulani herders whose livelihood revolves around cattle rearing further inland into Nigeria. The lake that use to support farming, water, and grazing lands for their animals can no longer sustain them. They moved inland into farms and villages, leaving only distractions in their paths. The more climate change bites, the further the herders travel down South in search of sustenance for themselves and their herds. The destruction of farms by the Fulanis and their herds has led to several clashes between farmers and herders and the rest, as they say, is now stories.

Meat Demand

The normal economic model agrees that as the demand for a product increases, the manufacturer of that product will seek to increase its supply in order to maximize profit. This is applicable to the current situation of the country as the government seeks to end the menace of the Fulani herders. As parties keep emanating from the nooks and crannies of the country in addition to an increase in the population, the demand for cow meat keeps increasing. This, in some ways, continuously puts pressure on the Fulani herders, the manufacturer, in this case, to meet the demand and rake-in more profits.

The pressure to meet demand encourages herders to incur further into the heart of the country, employing all available means along the way; including killing, destruction of properties, and kidnappings. I happen to live in the Southwestern part of the country and the menace constituted by cattle herds from Fulani herders is not in anyway small. All over the streets, cow dungs litter; farmers cannot plant in peace but to wake up to the destruction of their farms by cattle and any attempt to confront the perpetrators often end up in violent conflicts.

Way Forward

It is quite obvious that the demand for cow meat is one of the reasons the business of cattle herding is flourishing. While I might not be able to say for other countries plaqued by insurgency, I strongly believe that cutting down on meat consumption will make the business less profitable and reduce the aggresiveness of the Fulani herders. But the big question is, would Nigerians listen?

In addition to the above, there is an urgent need to mitigate the effects created by climate change. On one hand, humans should cut down on activities that leads to emission of greenhouse gases and on the other hand, efforts should be made to reverse the negative trends created by climate change.

A stitch in time, definitely, saves nine.

Thank you all for reading.


It's a domino effect. If you decrease the consumption of meat you also decrease the demand for plant sources to feed these cattle. Growing food sources for these cattle takes up land and due to global warming, fertile lands become fewer, and cattle also competes with space for the production.

The possible solutions will probably come from verticle farming, discovering a viable plant food source that's fast to grow and takes up less space. Its unlikely the demand for meat would curve down with population growth as a constant problem. The only alternative I see is finding a viable efficient way to grow food faster with less space and costs so that even a common household could use to gain income from.

Perhaps an integrated approach would be better. The amount of degraded lands due to overgrazing is massive to remove meat demand out of the equation.

Needs a strong political will and a sense of responsibility at the individual level to see how great the problem is long term. The problem with seeing things in the broader perspective is that the vision can be difficult to communicate to someone that struggles to live within the day. These cattles serve as someone's livelihood and that someone can be struggling economically. They may see the problem but are powerless to do anything if there is no financial backing for the initiative and that's another can of worms most developing countries struggle with.

I totally agree with you. There's a time the senate debated the establishment of grazing areas for cattle but the masses kicked against it due to lack of trust in the government.

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