Dr Festus Kofi Aubyn, a Security Analyst, has urged the Government to enact a Cattle Ranching Law, as part of measures to address the perennial nomads-farmers’ conflict in the country.
He said such a Cattle Ranching Law or Pastoral Code would outline the mechanisms for cattle rearing, guarantee the rights of pastoralists to mobility of their livestock and other procedures to ensure the safety and protection of lives and properties for both herders and farmers.
He recalled that three years ago, following the eruption of the herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts in some areas of the country, there was an attempt to enact the Cattle Ranching Law, however, the issue had since fizzled out.
“We need to have the Ranching Law and implement it, and domesticate also the ECOWAS Protocol on Transhuman to make sure that there is peaceful coexistence between the farmers and the herdsmen in the areas where we have these herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts,” Dr Aubyn said in an interview.
The ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residence, and Establishment calls on members states to ensure by stages the abolition of the obstacles to free movement of persons, services and capital within the sub-region.
Dr Aubyn said the issue of herdsmen-farmers’ conflict had regional dimension, saying “while Ghana is putting measures in place to address it, we need to also tackle it from the regional perspectives through ECOWAS”.
“ECOWAS also has a role to play because there is an ECOWAS Protocol on Transhuman that regulates the activities of these herdsmen,” he said.
“And the fact that it is not only a Ghanaian problem means that you cannot deal with it only within Ghana, you need to also look at the regional perspectives and bring ECOWAS in to help deal with the regional dimension of the problem.”
He said countries like Niger and Mauritania had Ranching Laws, which regulated the herdsmen-farmers’ usage of natural resources such as water and grazing lands, thereby ensuring peaceful coexistence between them.
He informed that pastoralists from neigbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, usually move their cattle into the country during the dry seasons in search of water and fresh grazing grounds.
He said the movement of the livestock was generally poorly controlled, leading to the destruction of crops of farmers, which sometimes resulted in. conflicts. He however, reiterated that some of the cattle were owned by Ghanaians.
“I think this is a perennial problem and we need to find an amicable solution to it once and for all. We may not be able to deal with it entirely within a year or two, it is a long-term process,” Dr Aubyn said.
He said areas like the Afram Plains in the Eastern Region, the Agogo Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region and some parts of the north were usually affected by the herdsmen-farmers’ conflict.
He indicated that the conflict had human security implications, as well as socioeconomic implications.
He said it also had the probability of leading to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons both in the country and the subregion.
This, he said, was because all the groups (the local communities and herdsmen), a lot of the time had to amass arms in order to protect themselves against each other.
“And so, by doing that it leads also to the proliferation of weapons across the areas where these problems are happening.”
Dr Aubyn said the herdsmen-farmers’ conflict also had the capability of becoming a recruitment ground for armed groups.
He gave examples that in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, most of the people who were involved in the herdsmen-farmers’ conflicts had become a more or less a recruitment ground for some of the armed groups operating in the region.
He said this was because the armed groups exploited the perceived discrimination against these herdsmen, with the promise to give them more or less the idea that they would be able to protect their interests.
“And looking at what is happening in Ghana’s neighbouring countries, if we don’t deal with this problem, and looking at also the presences of these herdsmen not only in Ghana but also in other places in West Africa, it has the capability of also leading to influx of armed groups who will exploit the situation for their own benefit,” he said.
He said the effects of such conflict include the destruction of properties, the death of people who were involved in the crises and also the impact on agricultural productivity and food security.
Dr Aubyn called for the intensification of education and sensitization for both herdsmen and crop farmers in order to ensure their peaceful coexistence.