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The ‘Fulani herdsmen’ will surely return- Kwame Botchway writes: 

have some piece of good and bad news. The good news is that, the “Fulanis are gone”, and the ‘not so good’ news is that, they shall return perhaps with more trouble!

The headlines for the past few months have beeFulani n dominated by the standoff between Nomadic Herdsmen and sedentary crop farmers in some villages across the country.

A few months ago, residents of Agogo and nearby communities in the Ashanti Region, and Afram Plains in the Eastern Region, accused nomadic Fulani herdsmen of committing atrocities, and made endless calls for government to flush them out of the country. However not much has been heard about it.

In a conversation with the President of the Kwahu Traditional Council of Chiefs, Nana Acheamfour Aseidu Agyemang, he explained that with the onset of the rains, the Fulani herdsmen have withdrawn into the hinterlands. He however lamented that, they will return during the dry season as has been the ritual over the years.

Anyone who understands the lifestyle of nomadic Fulani herdsmen, knows that, they go to wherever they can find fresh foliage and water.

Climate change affecting herdsmen activities The primary cause of the standoff [Climate Change] has been sidelined in the media discourse on the subject. The traditional routes of the Nomads are penetrating further south into areas they hitherto do not venture. This is because the climate is changing and the Nomads are changing the routes with it.

Indeed, the history of the twentieth century is characterized by conflict deriving from a scramble for oil, but later this century and beyond, history will be written with the blood of men and women shed in the struggle for water.

I dare say that water will become the oil of the future over which wars will be fought.

The world’s fresh water reserves are quickly depleting; it is predicted that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. (Water stress causes deterioration of fresh water resources in terms of quantity and quality).

This is according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.

Ghana has been experiencing varying degrees of water stress. The drying up of the Densu River at Nsawam is particularly conspicuous due to the media attention it got but the problem is more widespread.

Within that same period, Winneba recorded acute water shortages. Some parts of the Volta and Northern Regions were also hit by the water crises in recent past.

“Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over”

The quote above “Whisky is for drinking; water is for fighting over” was by an author Mark Twain, and it underscores the concerns about conflicts that are being raised.

Historically, wars have been fought over water, and history is sure to repeat itself if we fail to learn from events of the past.

The root cause of the problem is the dwindling availability of water and pasture to nomadic herdsmen, whose very existence depends on these. Research has shown that climate change is limiting the herdsmen’s options for viable spaces to maintain their herder livelihoods.

Nomadic pastoralists who mostly resided in the semi- arid and arid zones of West Africa, have been forced to abandon their traditional temporary transhumance routes between wet and dry seasons.

When these nomadic herdsmen arrive in the country, they make their way as far the south, which stretches the Accra-Keta plains.But the majority of them are found in the middle belt in the Brong Ahafo, Eastern and parts of the Ashanti Region.

During this voyage down south in search of pasture and water, they encounter many farming communities. In many cases, the interaction is cordial but there have been many instances when these once cordial relationships turn sour. The worst ever to have been recorded was in December, 2011, when a night raid of a Fulani village in Zamashegu, a farming community in the Gushegu district of the Northern region happened.

Native farmers retaliated against alleged atrocities committed by the Fulani herdsmen. Thirty people were reported dead and several injured. The most recent conflicts were in Agogo, a town located in the Ashanti Region. The Fulani Herdsmen were accused of rape, murders and brutalization of farmers who resisted the dominance or destruction of their farm lands.

Are there solutions?

President John Dramani Mahama suggested that we find comprehensive solutions to the problem without necessarily suggesting any himself. Others have suggested the failed tactics of expulsion and some others the creation of ranches for the animals. I also have a few suggestions;We first need to start dealing with Climate Change as the ultimate and long-term solution to the problem.

The lack of grazing reserves, insecurity, lack of dams and blockage of cattle routes are among others the major causes of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes in Ghana.

I will further recommend that, grazing reserves be provided in some parts of the country taking into cognizance the migration routes of the herdsmen, and the variations in vegetative areas across seasons, and making sure that no farmer cultivates around these places. We should also work towards providing reliable dams only for the use of the herdsmen.

Security must be extended to remote areas especially areas where the nomads operate, to avert or perhaps deter people from engaging in violent acts. We must encourage already existing nomads in the country to embrace western education as a way of encouraging the effective commercialization of their activities and encourage innovation.

Until we meet again, when I would have to write or report on another clash between herdsmen and farmers during the next dry season, we must start working out viable solutions.

Humans have a natural inclination to calm and peaceful coexistence, until it bothers on their survival. As for the nomadic herdsman, he is sure to return!

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