A drop in the levels of rainfall around Lake Chad in Cameroon has caused waterways to dry up and worsened the conflict between farmers and herders over scarce resources.
Gadaf Mahamat is busy rebuilding his property, which was torched during a recent clash between farmers and herders in his community.
He says he lost nearly everything, including millet, rice, goats and chickens. At the time, he had money, 400,000 Central African francs that he put under the mattress; he says the money was burned, as well as his medicine.
The cause of the conflict? The scarcity of water in the Far North region of Cameroon.
Gadaf says members of the Mousgoum community dug a reservoir to water their farms and raise fish but that Arab herders wanted the reservoir closed, describing it as a death trap for their livestock.
The two sides failed to compromise, and the situation escalated.
Moussa Yeni, a member of the Arab herders’ community, says the fight started at his place. He says the Mousgoums came to attack them. He says when the Mousgoums saw that the herders outnumbered them, they fled. Then the herders pursued them and burned their village.
VOA requested interviews with officials of Cameroon’s Far North Region, but they said they were not available to comment.
According to the United Nations, over the last decades, the surface of Lake Chad, which feeds the far north of Cameroon, has decreased by 95%. Communities living along the lake, most of which are water dependent, are fighting for control of the dwindling resources, resulting in deaths, displacement and destruction of property.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and Cameroonian authorities recently organized a reconciliation ceremony in which community representatives committed to ending the violence. The U.N. organization also donated wells.
But it was not enough to resolve the conflict, and new violence broke out a few days after the ceremony.
Jean Bosco Rushatsi of UNHCR Cameroon says this is the beginning. He also says the restoration of peace is a long process, but UNHCR has just committed itself resolutely with all the parties involved in the conflict to the path of reconciliation, of social cohesion through dialogue, and not through violent clashes.
Experts believe that other solutions should be pursued.
Math Mazra of the University of Marouan in Cameroon says the ideal solution would be to find other resources, alternative fishery resources that can, for example, employ modern fish farming methods. He also suggested the creation of artificial ponds.
In the meantime, Gadaf has set to rebuilding his house, in hopes that no one will destroy it again.