IN SEARCH OF COMMON GROUND” FOR FARMER-GRAZER CONFLICTS IN THE NORTH WEST REGION OF CAMEROON
CONFLICTS OVER LAND AND PASTURE IN NORTH WEST CAMEROON: LISTENING TO THE VOICES OF FARMERS AND GRAZERS
By Valentine Asong T., Juliana Anchang A. and Martin Shu
This is a report of qualitative research on the farmer grazer conflicts in NW Cameroon. It is part of the evaluation over a five year period of the Big Lottery Funded Project ‘In Search of Common Ground’. The project is managed in Cameroon by the Mbororo Cultural and Development Association (MBOSCUDA). The qualitative research was conducted in October and November 2014, in two areas, Akum and Binshua, within Mezam and Donga Mantung respectively. Data was collected using eight focus groups with 14 in-depth interviews.
The causes of conflict
Farmers and grazers have different views about causes. Both agree that there is competition over land. Land ownership is also an issue.
- Grazers claim that farmers encroach on grazing land, they do not adequately fence their farms and they also divert water from the water sources for their crops;
- Farmers claim that grazers frequently drive their cattle into streams and rivers to drink the water, thus polluting water which is also used for human consumption.
The experiences of conflict
- When cattle trample the crops of farmers they retaliate. Farmers spray the grass with chemicals in order to poison the cattle. Cows are sometimes slashed;
- Farmers claim that herdsmen direct cattle into farms to eat up corn tassel and bean flowers (which are said to influence fertility and reproduction in cattle). They claim that at times the grazers in Akum look after cattle from grazers from outside the community. The herdsmen find it difficult to control a large number of cows (sometimes as many as 500) single handed.
The effects of conflict
- Effects on income and livelihood: Grazers say that the conflict prevents their cattle from grazing adequately so the cows grow thin and produce little milk. This reduces the amount of milk the family itself can drink. Farmers sometimes need more than one job in order to make ends meet and life becomes difficult at times;
- Effects on family and schooling of children: Grazers have fears about lost income if cows do not produce enough milk and the lack of money to pay for children’s education. Farmers say that conflict affects their livelihood as a whole and the education of children in particular. Both communities have common difficulties and that the government needs to be solving these problems. This includes increasing employment opportunities;
- Effects of legal and other costs: There are many issues relating to land and government at various levels and this includes the Land Commission. There are also complaints about the Divisional Officers, whose task it is to help resolve disputes but instead take money and enrich themselves. Cases which go to court are very costly. The grazers complained about the punitive cost of judgements made against them. Some farmers have borrowed money to buy potato seedlings, fertilisers and cow dung for manure and destruction of crops means they are unable to pay back what they owe;
- Effects on food security: Both farmers and grazers explained that the conflict led to financial problems and this led in turn to food insecurity in their homes;
- Effects on health: The conflict affected grazers who could not afford to pay for hospital treatment. The female farmers reported high blood pressure and kwashiorkor.
There are a number of routes that can be taken when trying to resolve a conflict. The two parties can reach amicable agreement. This process could involve the traditional leaders including the Fon or the DO. Few people take the legal route because it is expensive and the outcome is uncertain. Payment to officials (bribery/extortion/exploitation) is an issue on both sides. Grazers admit that bribes are sometimes given to law enforcement officials when conflicts are reported (even a whole cow) to try to ensure a successful outcome. On the other hand grazers disliked the fact that farmers report them to law enforcement officers who also receive large sums of money from the farmers. There was considerable disagreement about whether officials, the DOs, the gendarmes, or the Fons, favour farmers or grazers. The suggestion is that this depends on who is paying who.
- The grazers said that they reported some cases to the Fon but he always favoured the indigenous farmers. Grazers said they would now prefer to have a dialogue with the farmers through a Dialogue Platform that would include their leader (the Ardo) and the Fon;
- The farmers said that they went to the houses of the cattle owners to negotiate but that the grazers rarely wanted to cooperate. That is why they went to the Fon and law enforcement agencies, although they said that nine out of ten such cases were never resolved satisfactorily.
The premise of the ‘In Search of Common Ground’ project is that improvements in alliance farming, in grazing practice (improving pastures using better seeds) and in water protection plus the use of biogas will help improve the relationships between farmers and grazers in the area.
- Grazers had limited experience of both alliance farming, pasture improvement methods, watershed management of biogas but had received some training by MBOSCUDA and were very happy to know how land can be managed in this way;
- Farmers said that they do not have any experience of working together on alliance farming. They said that if they practise alliance farming the soil could become hardened and difficult for them to till. At the same they wanted to at least try the technique. Water protection was seen as important. It was noted that farmers have connected pipes that supply potable water from water catchment areas to taps located all over their communities. Existing water management committee addressed issues concerning water supply and protection. Download