Peasant farmers say government must expedite action on passing a ranching law to regulate the activities of alien cattle-herdsmen to help solve the issue of food security and promote mutual co-existence between animal farmers and locals.
Absence of cattle ranching legislation in the country over the years has led to the infiltration of alien (Fulani) herdsmen from neighboring countries into the country, leading to destruction of food crops and farmlands among others.
This is affecting food security situation, and if measures are not put in place to address this problem the food security situation will be aggravated, rural poverty will be heightened and government objectives for commercial agriculture will be undermined, Mohammed Adam Nashiru -- a member of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) -- told a panel of discussants at a programme funded by the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund.
The Business Advocate, a programme organsed in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) was supported by DANIDA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and European Union (EU).
Speaking under the topic ‘Promulgation of a Cattle Ranching Legislation to regulate the activities of Fulani herdsmen in Ghana’. Nashiru said: “For us to be able to effectively cultivate farmlands and produce food, we need to have a cattle ranching law that will regulate the activities of herdsmen, especially those arriving in our country, to make room for food crop producers to also produce and feed this nation”.
A ranching law prescribes that areas which will be utilised for breeding wild animals in captivity or semi-captivity must be fenced. Animals, under such a law, will not be subject to the restrictions established for hunting and are declared to be property of the breeder.
Ranchers would also be required to obtain a licence from local authorities for their business. Ghana’s ranching law was first proposed in 2012 after frequent clashes between locals and foreign cattle-herdsmen in many communities of the country, and local authorities’ inability to contain livestock that stray onto the streets of various towns and villages. This raised conservation, security and safety concerns.
In 2012, a team from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was sent to study the ranching law Burkina Faso successfully implemented, forcing the Fulani herdsmen to migrate down south.
Mr. Nashiru confirmed that the delay in passing a national ranching law, which has been on the table for a very long time, has caused enormous destruction: “The rate at which the destruction has been going on in our farming communities is alarming. Farmers are helpless, communities are helpless. We the Peasant farmers have enquired from the President,” he said, adding that absence of a cattle ranching law in Ghana is a critical problem affecting the country’s food security. This challenge needs to be addressed by government with policy interventions.
He observed that there has been confrontation between food crop producers and alien herdsmen. “If measures are not put in place we will have nothing in our hands. We will not get the peace to cultivate our farms and produce crops to feed the nation.
“As a nation that is itching to be food-secured, we need to put interventions in place in all parts of the country for our security,” he said.
There have been renewed clashes between indigenes and foreign cattle-herdsmen in the Agogo area of the Ashanti Region, which has heightened calls for passage of the ranching law that has been in the works since 2012.
The clashes between alien herdsmen and local communities has even spread over to other parts of the country’s middle-belt including Begoro, Wenchi, Kintampo among others, and has persisted for a very long time. This happens to be one of the biggest challenges facing peasant farmers in the country, especially in the three regions of the north – the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions.
The menace to their farms is left to the mercy of herds of cattle being driven to pastures by herdsmen. Hardly does a year pass by without peasant farmers and even members of the public expressing outrage against the major perpetrators -- nomads, who are mainly aliens.
The aliens are inhabitants of virtually all of Africa’s Sahel region and northern parts of some countries in the southern forest belt of West Africa.
Farmers in areas often visited yearly by the alien herdsmen and their cattle have expressed anguish about the spate of cattle rustling, and the destruction of farms by herds driven especially by aliens.
The phenomenon can sometimes be grievous, especially when it is accompanied by other violent crimes such as killings and rape.
In Burkina Faso, Ghana’s northern neighbour, both game-ranching and breeding are subject to authorisation. Within ranches, wildlife populations are to be monitored either by the rancher or by the wildlife administration, with a view to rational management of captures.
A licence is also required in Cameroon for both game-ranches -- protected areas managed for the purpose of repopulation and possible exploitation for food or other purposes and for game-farming -- and raising of animals taken from the wild in a controlled environment for commercial purposes. In Botswana ‘permission’ is required to farm or ranch game animals. Fencing may be required.
‘Protected’ and ‘partially protected’ game animals can be farmed or ranched only under specific authorisation. If the area is fenced, there is no limit to the number of animals from a specified species that can be taken. Otherwise, culling is subject to a permit. A permit is also required for sale of animals, meat or trophies.
Though government is yet to send a delegation to Burkina Faso to study its law, stakeholders believe that with passage of legislation to govern livestock rearing and breeding, the unfettered activities of Fulani herdsmen and individual livestock owners will be well-regulated.