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CAR's President-elect: Insecurity Blocks Farmers From Their Fields

FILE - Faustin-Archange Touadera (C) is seen speaking to the media in downtown Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan. 5, 2013.

The president-elect of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadera, has said farmers in the country cannot even get to their fields because of insecurity. Central Africans are waiting to see how he will deal with the problem when he takes office next month. VOA spoke to farmers and cattle herders in northern CAR about the problems they face, and a potential solution.

Touadera spoke about the insecurity in the CAR’s rural areas in a televised debate, just three days before he won the presidential election on February 16.

He was responding to a question about his economic policy. He said this would have to take account of realities.

He said currently farmers cannot even get to their fields, so his priority would be to relaunch agriculture, notably in certain sectors, but he hesitated to say which sectors.

The livestock sector in the CAR has been devastated since 2013, with most cattle driven away or slaughtered. But in some parts of the country, farmers complain that armed nomadic herders are still grazing cattle on their fields and turning farmland into no man's land.

FILE - A herder is seen standing with his cattle near the town of Bouar, Central African Republic, March 9, 2014.
FILE - A herder is seen standing with his cattle near the town of Bouar, Central African Republic, March 9, 2014.

Many farmers feel nomads are destroying the fields with their cattle and thought this would stop once Touadera was elected.

Farmers and cattle herders who spoke to VOA agreed that better security, better policing and impartial arbitration of disputes are all needed.

An additional way of avoiding disputes that some cattle herders are talking about would be to fence in their animals.

Some have been discussing the idea of fencing in large parks with barbed wire, where their cattle could be fattened before being driven in trucks to the market.

One herders, Mahmat Abib, told VOA some herders like this idea although others prefer to drive their cattle through the bush to the market in the capital, Bangui.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization recommends reducing cattle movements as one way to avoid conflicts and improve productivity.