By Kamal Tayo Oropo
An NGO, Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), has linked the incessant conflicts between farmers and herders in Ghana to corruption and governance.
Michael Okai said this while representing the group at the fifth Conference on Land Policy in Africa, holding in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday.
He spoke during a sub-session titled: “Land Corruption and Regional Trade: Promoting Transparent Land Governance for the Accelerated Realisation of AfCFTA”.
Okai noted that, the group, during one of its researches, discovered that the farmers and herders conflicts remained persistent in some areas in Ghana due to corruption involving most of the parties to the conflicts as well as inadequate governance.
According to him, there are conflicting claims resulting from access to water and grazing, especially during the months of November, December and January; which are the driest months in the areas affected in Ghana.
“These mobile or nomadic herders try to move around looking for grazing lands.
And in doing so, they come to Ghana in these months, and where they can get greener pastures and some water.
“There are rivers in these areas that do not dry in those months.
These are where there are greener pastures.
But these are also the farm baskets in Ghana.
“So, definitely once they are in those places, they will definitely be interrupting farm produce on the land as a result of grazing by their cattles.
There’s no coordination between the herders and the farmers.
“Usually the herders go to the farm for grazing when the farmers have produce on the farm.
You cannot control a large batch of animals not to touch what do not belong them.
“So, this generates a lot of conflicts.
But the challenge is, how did these herders get access to those areas?
“So, when you talk to the community members, they will tell you that the herders have middlemen within the communities who take monies from the herders and they allow them to come,” he said.
Okai explained that the farmers in the affected areas were called the migrant farmers and did not actually hold traditional allegiance or claims to the farmland, adding that the farmers were also there just to make a living.
“Unfortunately, these are the food baskets in Ghana.
They produce yam, cassava, plantain, maize, groundnuts and so on.
“So, you have middlemen taking money.
Already, they have taken money and given the land to farmers to farm and then they are also taking money from the herders to come and graze.
“There has been several conflicts in these areas.
Conflicts that have resulted in killing of animals, destruction of farmlands and killing of human beings — people have lost their lives because of this conflicts,” Okai said.
He said that there was mistrust between the herders and the farmers, in the sense that the herders felt that when they complained to the police, the police were complicit.
“The herders feel that the police will treat the locals better than them, the herders.
According to him, the farmers, on the other hand, also feel that when they complain to the police, the police will take money or take animals in exchange to favour the herders.
“Government introduced several interventions.
They introduced the expulsion policy where they decided to sack all the herders from the communities; they shouldn’t come there.
“But still you find herders in these areas.
During the expulsion policy, they used a joint police-military operation called ‘Operation Cowleg’, which was not successful.
“Then the government introduced what they called ballot ranching.
But in the process, they did not consult with the farmers, and then, the herders also did not make the ranching process successful.
So we are back to square one in this regard.
“There is also the issue of the ECOWAS protocol, which allows free movement of animals and human beings.
The herders were taking that advantage to come to Ghana, because they are also ECOWAS citizens.
“But underneath this issue, you also have failure issues and corruption, where leaders, chiefs, community leaders, police are being seen as complicit in not taking action, even after giving directive that you do not want herders in these areas.
“What we do in the Ghana Integrity Initiative is what we call multi stakeholder platforms; bringing the farmers, the chiefs, herders, and the security services together for dialogue.
“This is something that is ongoing.
It is not ending.
It is causing havoc.
It is killing people and destroying food crops, which will definitely is affecting the food security in these areas,” Okai said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the 2023 CLPA has the theme “Promoting sustainable land governance in Africa for accelerated implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”.
Edited by Vivian Ihechu