Two of the basic components involved in the discussion of Sustainable National Development are optimal crop and animal production levels and the effective management of the two components continues to challenge the entire West African sub region.
Issues at stake
For decades or over some centuries, the perennial issue of migration and herder-farmers conflicts across the West African sub region seems to be the main obstacle hindering efforts at food security.
The conflicts, which often occur between crop farmers and herders/pastoralists is basically due to competition over scarce natural resources such as water and grazing fields.
Also, the increasing effects of climate change in the sub-region, has also exacerbated the concern.
Across the West African sub region, the conflicts have led to the displacement of people, the destruction of lives, property and established settlements.
And besides the loss of lives and the destruction of properties, such conflicts greatly affect food security and agricultural productivity in the sub region.
Furthermore, because the West African sub region is saddled with other conflicts such as religious extremism and terrorism and if the issue of herdsmen-farmers conflicts is not given the attention, extremists and emerging terrorists groups could use them to their advantage.
Prolonged droughts due to climate change affecting the West Africa sub region, has led to increasing migration and changing pastoral mobility patterns.
But Kaderi Noagah Bukari (2017) noted that from 2001 to 2016, a total of 68 people were killed in Ghana during violent farmer-herder conflicts; with other consequences such as the destruction (burning) of farms, killing of cattle, with scores of people sustaining various degrees of injuries.
Whereas within the same period in neigbouring Nigeria, 302 persons were killed, with other consequences such as the destruction of 7,000 hectares of farms, 1,300 cattle lost, and the destruction of seven communities.
As a result of prolonged droughts, nomadic herdsmen in Burkina Faso and other neighbouring countries in their effort to find water and fresh grazing grounds for their herds in the dry season, usually migrate down south to Ghana.
The movement of their livestock, some of which are actually owned by Ghanaians, is poorly controlled, leading to the destruction of crops resulting in needless conflicts.
They are known for proceeding to areas with abundant grazing fields and fresh water and some notable areas often frequented by such herdsmen include; the Afram Plains in the Eastern Region; the Agogo Traditional Area in the Ashanti Region; the Accra Plains of the Greater Accra Region and some portions of the Volta, Oti and Northern regions.
Another issue of concern is that the herdsmen in their effort to get reliable and a continuous supply of pastures for their livestock, sometimes end up setting the available vegetation on fire with the belief that the new shoots would eventually sprout to meet their needs.
And such fires it is often reported in the media also destroy field crops such as rice and maize; leading to the consequent reprisal attacks from the affected crop farmers.
The recent conflict in the Yendi Municipality between crop farmers and herders, which led to the death of seven people and the loss of several property is an instance of such a situation.
The perennial regional Migration and Herder-Farmer conflicts and interactions highlight the role and need for regional bodies like Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).
Indeed ECOWAS has passed the ECOWAS Protocol on Transhuman to make sure that there is peaceful coexistence between the farmers and the herdsmen in the areas where such conflicts exist.
The Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residents, and Establishment calls on member-states to ensure the abolition of the obstacles to free movement of persons, services and capital within the sub-region.
This calls for a national action plan by the Government of Ghana as part of efforts to address the issue of Migration and Herders-Farmers Conflicts.
There is the need for all countries in the sub region to accelerate the full implementation of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Residents and Establishment. And in this regard, there is the need to create corridors for the migration of herders and their livestock.
These migration corridors should be fully equipped with veterinary stations to ensure that the animals are taken care of and that those suffering from contagious diseases are either treated or prevented from entering the country.
Abubakari Ahmed, a Lecturer at the University for Development Studies, has said the Government of Ghana has over the years used a mixture of policies to deal with the herders-farmers conflict.
He said some of the measures were “hard” such as Operation Cow Leg, which involved expelling the migrant herdsmen from the country and even shooting and killing their cattle.
And there was also the “soft” approaches such as dispute resolution and negotiations, he said, adding that these measures mostly failed to address the root cause of the conflict.
Cattle Ranching Law
The Government of Ghana, Ahmed said, in 2017 adopted a national ranching project as part efforts to resolve the herder-farmer’ conflict, which led to the establishment of some fenced grazing fields in the Afram Plains of the Eastern Region.
Despite this measure in the Afram Plains, some of the herdsmen went outside their domain to feed their livestock, which eventually led to the destruction of crops of farmers.
Dr Festus Kofi Aubyn, a Security Analyst, said there was an urgent need for the Government of Ghana 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 property for both herders and farmers.
The contributions of herders and crop farmers to Ghana’s socio-economic development cannot be overemphasized, hence the need to ensure peaceful co-existence between them for a Sustainable National Development.
A GNA feature by Iddi Yire