The politics of grazing in Cameroon
Farmers and cattle herders in West Cameroon are finding new ways to solve long-running conflicts over access to land and water.
‘Grazers’ cattle often break into farmers’ plots, destroying their livelihood,’ explains Giorgia Nicatore from international NGO United Purpose. To build peace between communities, the NGO has partnered with a local association of cattle grazers from the Mbororo-Fulani ethnic group to set up Dialogue Platforms, which are mediated by trained individuals from the farming groups.
‘My neighbour Manou Mbelori’s cows came through my fence for my crops and I had to contact the police,’ says corn farmer Tenyi Mbah Marcus, from Ashong near Bamenda, the capital of one of Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. ‘But when I heard about the programme I was inspired to see if we could make friends.’
The conflict between crop growers and herders is worsened by a lack of inter-group communication.
The violence also has political roots. The Mbororo herders have historically supported the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement. But the majority in this Anglophone region advocate the opposition party, the Social Democratic Front.
Political divisions have worsened in light of perceived discrimination against English speakers by the government and Cameroon’s long-serving president, Paul Biya. Dozens have died and hundreds more were imprisoned after a government crackdown on peaceful protests last year.
‘Farmers consider grazers as supporters of a repressive regime, which deepens mistrust between the two groups,’ says Nicatore.
But for Manou and Tenyi (pictured above) the Dialogue Platforms seem to be working. Under a mutually beneficial ‘alliance farming’ arrangement, Manou’s cattle are allowed access to Tenyi’s field to graze while their manure fertilizes the land.
‘Tenyi helped me build a fence so when my cows are finished grazing inside the paddock he can grow crops in the fertile soil left behind. It’s because of this project that we now live in peace with the farmers,’ says Manou.