Boko Haram militants have not only taken the lives of more than 1,000 civilians and soldiers in Cameroon in the past three years, but the government says the country has lost thousands of cattle, sheep and goats to the terrorist raiders.
The losses are a blow to farmers in the country’s border areas, who are already struggling.
Cattle rancher Moussa Ibrahima settled with his family and 45 cows along the banks of the Vina river in Ngaoundere in the Adamawa region of Cameroon. The 55-year-old rancher says he left his home town of Fotokol, about 650 kilometers away on the border with Nigeria because of the attacks.
Attacks on ranchers
Ibrahima says he will not return to Fotokol because Boko Haram fighters have been attacking and killing cattle ranchers. He says many of ranchers who were forced by Boko Haram militants to take their cattle to Nigeria have never returned.
Kalbassou Daniel, a lawmaker from northern Cameroon, says the attackers sometimes disguise themselves as cattle ranchers transporting their cows to Nigerian markets. He says Boko Haram has been increasingly stealing food and cattle from Cameroonian ranchers and farmers.
Last week, Daniel says Boko Haram militants killed 15 ranchers, and their cattle escaped to the hills near Nigeria. He says people are fearful to try to retrieve the cows.
Boko Haram extended its attacks from Nigeria to Cameroon three years ago, after Cameroonian troops began assisting the Nigerian military in fighting the extremists.
More than 1,000 deaths
Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary says about 1,200 soldiers and civilians have died since then. He says at least 5,000 cows have also been stolen and an unknown number killed.
"In 2014, 1,160 cattle were stolen from our people by the Boko Haram criminal and barbaric group. In 2015, the number of cattle stolen on the Cameroonian territory was about 4,200 excluding small ruminants."
Tchiroma says although the fighters have in recent months targeted farmers and cattle ranchers, the rebels' ability to strike has been drastically reduced by counteroffensives on militant strongholds by Cameroonian and Nigerian troops.