Cattle keepers and farmers in Bahr el Ghazal agree on peaceful coexistence during tense dry season
Disarming cattle keepers before they enter farming areas and making sure that compensation is paid to landowners whose crops have been destroyed by roaming animals are two of the measures that communities in the Tonj, Gogrial and Wau areas have been discussing at a conference this week. The aim of the talks was to minimize the annual conflicts that cattle movements during the dry season tend to generate.
With South Sudan’s rainy season coming to an end, the challenges of finding water points and grazing land for cows and goats are soon set to dominate relations between farmers and pastoralists with their livestock.
To prevent potential conflicts, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan organized the meeting to find common ground.
‘’We hope to identify all the areas that require heightened security measures,’’ said Abdulbaqi Ibishomi, a civil affairs officer serving with the peacekeeping mission. “Only then can the seasonal cattle movements proceed peacefully.”
Guiding the dialogue are the ‘’Marial Bai’’ accords on seasonal cattle movement, which represent one of the most successful attempts at resolving issues related to a scarcity of grazing land and water. The resolutions agreed on are now set to be reviewed every three years.
“Our greatest focus is to put an end to all hostilities, including looting, killing, and sexual violence,’’ said Mr. Ibshomi.
Participants’ ideas on how to achieve such harmonious relations diverged, however.
‘’I expect herders to come to Kuejana without guns,’’ said Elario Deng, representing farmers from that county. ‘’Only then will they be shown where their cattle may graze without destroying farmers’ crops.’’
Herders, on the other hand, maintained that they needed guns to protect their cattle from raiders.
“We are ready to compensate farmers if our cattle destroy their crops because we understand that crops are just as important as cattle,’’ said Deng Akec Achuil, head of a cattle ranch. ‘If we don’t compensate a farmer, he won’t be happy, and we fear that he may do anything to our animals.”
Although a conclusive decision was not reached on the issue of weapons, it was agreed that farmers whose harvests are destroyed by cattle will be compensated according to a committee formed to asses the quantity of crops that has vanished.
“This conference has served as a step towards learning how to co-exist peacefully as cattle keepers and farmers,’’ said Achuil.