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Dialogue may resolve Ivory Coast’s farmer, herder clashes

Problems are being aired but anger remains and the pathway to enduring peace may be long.

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A livestock farmer guides cattle in a transhumance corridor near the Danoa dam in northeastern Ivory Coast - AFP

Gathered under the spreading baobab tree in Danoa town square, farmers and herders in a remote corner of Ivory Coast are finally talking about a dispute that has poisoned relations and destroyed lives.

Nearly three years ago, the northeast region of Bouna plunged into violence between crop growers and nomadic cattle raisers from the Fulani community, leaving 33 people dead and prompting 2,500 to flee their homes.

The scenario is tragically familiar in many parts of Africa, where sedentary farmers and herders share water and land — and tensions at times of stress may swiftly spiral into ethnic violence.

Livestock farmers guide cattle to graze in a millet field after the harvest near Bouna, in northeastern Ivory Coast, on January 21, 2019. – Nearly three years ago, the northeast region of Bouna plunged into violence between crop growers and nomadic cattle raisers from the Fulani community, leaving 33 people dead and prompting 2,500 to flee their homes. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Thousands have died in clashes in Chad, the Central African Republic, Mali and Nigeria in recent years.

But in Bouna, a pilot project — part of a scheme to protect the coveted Comoe National Park — has nurtured hopes of a dialogue that will head off future bloodshed.

“After what happened, I was frightened. Everyone was frightened,” said Awa Ouattara, who heads a women’s group of smallholders.

“I hope the plan will work. When everyone is in agreement, it’s better for all of us.”

Supported by German sustainable development agency GIZ, village chiefs, farmers and cattle breeders are creating designated cattle routes to prevent herds from grazing in the park and on to farming land.

GIZ is investing 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) over four years to support communities around the park.

The forum in Danoa brought together Koulango, mostly landowners, and the Lobi, mostly tenants, as well as Fulani.

“Just getting people around a table and having a discussion is already an achievement,” said Sanogo Issoufou from GIZ.

“Everyone will benefit economically from sharing management of resources between community members. We hope to create a virtuous circle.

Comoe national park is a world heritage site and one of West Africa’s largest protected areas, known for its plant and animal diversity.

A sign in the Comoe National Park in Bouna, in northeastern Ivory Coast, (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

Fed by the Comoe river, it is home to shrub savannas and thick rainforest usually found much farther south.

“Our mission is to protect the park,” said D’Angouss Kissi from the Ivorian Parks and Reserves Authority.

“We realised that surveillance alone wasn’t enough to stop cattle entering it illegally. We needed to find grazing land and water outside the park, whilst also easing tensions and avoiding new conflict.”

The project also aims to share management of water points between local committees including herders, landowners, renting crop farmers and local businesses or teachers.

Travelling herders pay a higher rate for water access — 15,000 CFA (23 euros) per month per herd, compared to locals, who are charged 2,000 CFA francs (three euros).

Landowners say they are happy to provide land for crossing routes.

“We explained to the community that it was for the common good,” said chief landowner Amadou Ouattara.

“It’s better for everyone if we avoid conflict.”

Herder Barry Bounangui agrees. “Before, there were arguments every day about water, grass or routes for the animals, so to avoid any conflict, we went to the park,” he said.

Park rangers enter the Comoe National Park in Bouna, in northeastern Ivory Coast, on January 22, 2019. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

“Now, farmers and herders are talking. It’s a good thing. The crossing routes help us a lot, but we need the (leaking) dam to be repaired too.”

Crop farmers are happier too. “There’s less damage now,” said Kambou Tchourite.

Problems are being aired but anger remains and the pathway to enduring peace may be long.

“The cows come on to our fields and destroy everything,” a farmer said at the Danoa meeting.

“I told the herder to stop but he just keeps coming back again and again. We can’t go on like this!”

Separately, a herder told AFP: “The crop farmers want everything. They set fire to the fields so that not even a blade of grass is left.”

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Africa News & Updates

Kenyan authorities say Ebola case is a “false alarm”

The Health Ministry has spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya has already taken.

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Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki speaks to the media as travellers at the arrival terminal are screened by port health service, at the Jommo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi

Kenya sought to reassure the public and foreign visitors on Monday after a suspected Ebola case, which turned out to be negative, was detected near the border with Uganda.

Uganda last week reported three cases of Ebola, two of them fatal, among people who had been to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an epidemic has been underway since last August.

Kenyan Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said a 36-year-old woman in the western county of Kericho had fallen ill with headache, fever and vomiting, which can also be symptoms of Ebola.

Further examination found she did not have the disease, Kariuki said at a press conference staged at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“The Rapid Surveillance and Response Team has examined the patient, who is in stable condition, and has confirmed that she does not meet the case definition for Ebola,” she said.

“I wish to reassure all Kenyans and our visitors that we do not have any cases of Ebola.”

The Ugandan cases were confirmed in a town that is more than 600 kilometres from the border with Kenya.

Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken.

They included the installation of thermal cameras at entry points to detect people with high temperatures, as well as isolation units to host suspected cases. More than 250 health ministry workers have been deployed at entry points as part of this strategy.

The minister called on the public to be vigilant, urging anyone with Ebola-like symptoms who had travelled to affected countries to go to the nearest hospital.

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Conservation News & Stories

Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

An agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather

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Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals – including elephants and giraffes – to generate $1.1 million for conservation.

“Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management,” environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the country estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. 

“The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation,” Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.

Namibia’s cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.

They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus — all from national parks.

The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.

The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.

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East Africa News & Stories

Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

The victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo

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Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

Nine civilians were executed by a local militia in Somalia after the killing of a policeman by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, police said Saturday.

The revenge attack on Friday just outside Galkayo – one of the most developed cities in the centre of the country – targeted the Rahanweyn clan, several of whose members are suspected of being Shabaab fighters.

“This was a horrible incident, a gruesome killing against nine unarmed innocent civilians in southern Galkayo. All of the civilians belong to one clan and the gunmen shot them dead in one location a few minutes after suspected Shabaab gunmen killed” a policeman, Mohamed Abdirahman, a local police official said.

“This is an unacceptable act and we will bring those perpetrators to justice,” said Hussein Dini, a traditional elder. 

“Their killing cannot be justified. It seems that the merciless gunmen were retaliating for the security official who they believe was killed by Al-Shabaab gunmen belonging to the clan of the victims.”

Witnesses told local media that the victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo.

Local officials have in the past fingered the Rahanweyn clan for fomenting instability in the region and supplying fighters to the Shabaab.

The local militia which staged the revenge attack are from the Saad Habargidir, a sub-clan of the Hawiye group which is dominant in the southern part of the city. 

Galkayo, situated about 600 kilometres (380 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, straddles the frontier with the self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug. 

The city has been the scene of violent clashes between forces of the two regions in recent years and also witnessed violence between the two rival clans occupying its northern and southern districts.

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