Nelly Bassily | August 26, 2013
Pastoralists and farmers clashed last week in the Sandu District of Gambia’s Upper River Division, according to a report from the District. Five farmers were arrested on the outskirts of Jendeh village after ten herdsmen allowed their cattle to enter farmland and eat growing crops.
The herdsmen drove their cattle into farms, destroying maize and other crops. A woman who saw the cows in the fields told villagers that cattle were invading their farms. They rushed to rescue their crops and drove the cattle away. But they met resistance from the herders, and a fight ensued.
The cattle were eventually driven into a nearby forest. The herdsmen were advised to continue their journey, but refused. The Paramilitary Intervention Unit from the town of Basse arrived later and arrested the farmers, as well as the woman who reported the matter to the villagers.
This incident is just one of many across the continent. In June of this year, conflicts led to deaths in the Rufiji valley of southeastern Tanzania. Farmers clashed with pastoralists forced into the area by drought and seeking land and water for their animals.
Josia Mwakitwanga is a farmer in Rufiji. He said: “[Pastoralists] come here to cause chaos on our land. We are fed up, and this problem must come to an end. We have often reported these incidents to the authorities, but not a single action has been taken.”
In Burkina Faso, the Ministry of Animal Resources estimates that some 600 conflicts occur each year in the country. They often involve deaths of pastoralists, farmers or government workers, the destruction of farms or houses, and injured or dead animals. According to the Ministry’s Director of Pastoralist Affairs, 55 people were killed in 4000 recorded clashes over the last four years, with the number of cases rising every year.
Across Africa, the proliferation of arms and ammunition has led to a marked increase in cattle rustling. Jérémie Ouedraogo is the Minister of Animal Resources in Burkina Faso. He says: “It is very serious. How can we come to a place where we can use our natural resources together without resorting to conflict? This is the goal we hope to reach.”