Tanzania: Farmers detain cattle in clashes with pastoralists

| July 31, 2017

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In the Bagamoyo district on Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast, it’s common to see Maasai herders leading flocks of cattle, sheep, and goats. Many Maasai are pastoralists. Traditionally from the northern parts of the country, they also live in villages in southern Tanzania, and lead thousands of cows, goats, and sheep in search of pasture and water.

The influx of herders had led to several clashes with local farmers, many of whom also keep livestock. To protect their farmland, people in Milo, Chamakweza, and Pingo villages have established cattle detention centres.

The village authorities and farmers detain any livestock caught roaming without the oversight of a herder until their owners pay a financial penalty.

Said Ngopilo is a Maasai pastoralist. He says the authorities fined him 30,000 Tanzanian shillings ($14 US) for each head of cattle last year—a cost he refused to pay. He explains: “Early in 2016, some youths detained 172 head of my cattle, alleging that they were feeding on their farmland and trying to get me to pay 750,000 shillings ($330 US). I resisted, and later my cows were released.”

Mr. Ngopilo says the fines are divided between the village authorities who run the detention centres and those who watch over the detained animals.

He adds that the process of detaining animals is sometimes complicated. For example, sometimes villagers drive the cattle into their own fields, and later demand compensation.

The head of Pingo village council says they had no choice but to detain the cows. Miradji Dimbe says, “This [the detention centres] is a way of curbing the clashes between farmers and pastoralists.”

Mr. Dimbe adds that, in Pingo village, the fine is 50,000 shillings ($22 US) for any animal. He says the farmers set the fines on their own; they did not discuss it with the pastoralists. He explains, “It was an idea from the farmers designed to instill discipline among the herders.”

Gidufan Gafufen is the Bagamoyo representative in the Tanzania Livestock Owners Association. He says the cattle detention centres are an oppressive measure against herders, and that the government appears to disregard herders and favour farmers. He adds, “It is an illegal [action]…. Most of the fines are paid without issuing receipts.”

Clashes between pastoralists and farmers have resulted in deaths of people and livestock and destruction of fields, crops, and homes.

William Ole Nasha is the deputy minister for Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, and responsible for livestock development. He says conflicts are common because of worsening climate stresses and a growing population, which has led to tough competition for scarce land, water, and pasture.

Mr. Ngopilo agrees it’s difficult to end conflicts between herders and farmers because the problem is mainly a result of climate change and diminishing land for both groups. He adds that there is a need for laws that protect farmers and herders, and that the government should support community leaders to arrange mediation when clashes arise.

Mr. Ole Nasha adds: “One measure we have taken is to revisit … livestock management policies. We are thinking about increasing rangelands by reducing wildlife management areas and allocating them to herders.”

Photo: Maasai herder Said Ngopilo