Ministers from eight of Africa's Sahel region countries are meeting in Cameroon to try to end conflicts between farmers and nomadic herders. The ministers say seasonal movement of livestock north from the Sahel is fueling clashes between the communities and say a peacekeeping effort is needed.
African ministers of Transboundary Transhumance, or seasonal movement of livestock, say the practice is threatening resources and fueling farmer-herder conflicts.
Video report by Henry Wilkins
The meeting Wednesday in Yaoundé included ministers from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Sudan.
They say in the past 20 years, clashes between the communities in the Sahel region increased from 30 per year to more than 200 with about 800 deaths in the Central African Republic (CAR) alone.
The African Union says transboundary pastoralism in the CAR, one of the worst affected, is practiced by herders from Cameroon, Chad, South Sudan, and Sudan.
Cameroon’s livestock minister, who goes by only one name — Taiga — hosted the second international conference on the issue.
Taiga said cattle theft, banditry, robbery, farmer-herder conflicts, pressure on natural resources and intercommunal conflicts and many other incidents of transhumance activities are not given adequate attention by African governments, international organizations, and communities.
The ministers said several thousand civilians displaced by the conflicts were yet to be resettled.
Taiga said an immediate task for the eight countries was to establish buffer zones and protect existing corridors to safeguard the livelihoods of 270 million African pastoralists.
Kenyan-born Japheth Kasimbu works with the East African regional blog IGAD.
Kasimbu said IGAD members Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda found ways to reduce clashes.
"Our region came up with a protocol on transhumance to regulate, to facilitate cross border mobility of livestock and herders to access water, to access pasture, even to enable the countries to do joint vaccinations and promote livestock keeping by pastoral communities," said Kasimbu.
The three-day Yaoundé conference, which ended Wednesday, is calling for peace keeping operations to reduce growing conflicts from the pastoralists.
German Christian Ruck attended the conference for the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBPF), one of the founders.
He said Africa’s Sahel region needs to better police farmers and herders to prevent clashes, but also provide more resources to the communities.
"It was a declaration of development and defense because it is also a security issue. We want to transform this declaration to action plans, not only talking. We need water holes, veterinary stations, a lot to do with information for the herders. Where is the rain, where will be the rain. The most important thing is more education for the people to mitigate the effects of transhumance," said Ruck.
The conference was initiated in 2022 with support from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Central African Forest Commission, (COMIFAC).