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ECOWAS Seeks Lasting Solutions To Farmers/Herders Conflicts

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Proposals and recommendations for peaceful resolution of conflicts between farmers and herders in the Community will be submitted to the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at their next session in Lomé, Togo.

This was stated by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement by his Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, at the opening on Thursday 26 April 2018, in Abuja, Nigeria, of the joint high-level meeting of Ministers of Security and Agriculture/Animal Resources from ECOWAS, Cameroon, Chad, Mauritania and the Central African Republic on pastoralism and cross-border transhumance.

He welcomed the joint initiative of his country and ECOWAS to hold this meeting aimed at finding lasting solutions to the escalating conflicts between herders and farmers in the Community and other African regions.

In the words of Yemi Osinbajo, and Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (Rtd), these conflicts have too often plunged West African peoples into mourning, as was the case just recently in a region of Nigeria.

“It is important to find urgent solutions to these conflicts which are mainly caused by free movement of people, goods and services in the ECOWAS region, climate change and cattle theft,” explained Mr Dambazau.

The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, also highlighted the negative impact of conflicts caused by pastoralism and cross-border transhumance in ECOWAS Member States, Cameroon, Chad, Mauritania and the Central African Republic.

Despite the efforts and achievements with regard to pastoralism and cross-border transhumance, we are witnessing a deterioration in conditions for carrying out the two activities both within countries and between Member States of the Community and neighbouring countries.

“In recent years, we have recorded numerous cases of conflict, which unfortunately claimed human lives, caused forced population displacements, led to erroneous stigmatisation of ethnolinguistic and cultural groups against a backdrop of insecurity and terrorism,” declared Jean-Claude Kassi Brou.

It is in this respect, he welcomed the initiative of Nigeria and ECOWAS to convene this meeting in an effort to identify appropriate responses to address the ongoing challenges and work towards a positive transformation of the sector.

Admittedly, the challenges abound, but the principles of regional integration and solidarity spur us to work together to find sustainable solutions for the security of people, modernisation of animal production systems, respect for the cultural and sociological diversity of people, which are the strength and assets of ECOWAS and its Member States, Mr Brou concluded.

It is clear that pastoralism and transhumance constitute a regional problem, and therefore require a regional approach to effectively address them, suggested the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

“Conflicts between herders and farmers have an impact on national and regional human security, hamper economic development and tear communities apart. Most livestock-related conflicts in the region stem from increased competition between herders and farmers for access to water and pasture,” he said.

To resolve these conflicts in the long term, there is a need to address the underlying causes, including land and water issues, rural land management and climate change, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas warned.

“There are already good initiatives in place to foster peaceful coexistence between herders and farmers throughout the region.

“It is crucial to enhance these programmes and extend them to ECOWAS Member States that are yet to implement them,” he added.

He reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations Office for West Africa to support ECOWAS and its Member States to curb conflicts between herders and farmers.

The joint high-level meeting of Ministers of Security and Agriculture/Animal Resources from ECOWAS, Cameroon, Chad, Mauritania and the Central African Republic on pastoralism and cross-border transhumance will afford participants the opportunity to carefully consider the recommendations of experts who met on 24 and 25 April 2018.

It also aims to discuss appropriate measures to be swiftly implemented in local communities, Member States and the region.

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