Discussants at an agro-pastoralism conference have urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to implement the conventions of the regional body, especially the one on the free movement of animals within the sub-region.
They said when effectively implemented, the convention would help curb the persistent conflicts between farmers and herders, This will also boost trade within West Africa.
The participants, who were speaking at the conference in Tamale, the Northern Regional capital, contended that although ECOWAS had initiated some conventions over the years, they were not being implemented and domesticated by member states.
The situation, they said, had resulted in the prevailing difficulty in regulating the activities of pastoralists and nomadic farmers when herdsmen and their flock moved from one place to another in search of food and water.
The two-day conference is being participated by stakeholders in the agro-pastoralism sector from cross-border countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Togo who are dialoguing on coordinated resource management.
The participants also showcased the work of the existing inter-municipal authority and the possibilities for cross-border consultation on critical issues key to the smooth functioning of the sector.
The conference formed part of a project to support livestock mobility for better access to resources and markets in West Africa (PAMOBARMA) and the reinforce social cohesion in cross-border territories of Ghana and Burkina Faso (SAPSOC) program.
The PAMOBARMA is being co-financed by the European Union and the French Development Agency, while the SAPSOC is being financed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office of the United Kingdom.
Both projects are being implemented by a host of governmental and non-governmental organizations within the West African sub-region.
The Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Livestock, Alhaji Mohammed Hardi Tuferu, expressed concern about the reluctance of some member countries to respect and implement the protocol on the free movement of animals, saying it was not good for effective regional cooperation.
“Some of the countries have decided not to respect the protocol, and this is not the best because we need to work together as sister countries and allow the free movement of animals across the sub-region to boost trade and ensure peace for job creation and a reduction in meat importation,” he said.
According to him, the government had been working to regulate the activities of nomadic herdsmen, as well as establish grazing reserves to ensure the regular availability of pastures for animals to graze.
The Executive Director of the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA), an NGO, Mr Osman Abdel-Rahman, entreated African governments to define policies on natural resources management for the benefit of both herders and farmers.
He also called for the ratification of the ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of animals and its compliance.
For her part, the Programme Manager of Acting for Life, also an NGO, Ms. Annabelle Powell, said “it is important to remind ourselves that the knee-jerk reaction to insecurity is the reduction of obliquity the cornerstone of agro-pastoralism”.
West African governments have engaged in various initiatives to develop a regulatory framework for pastoralists’ transhumance activities.
Most notable among them is the ECOWAS Protocol on Transhumance (1998) and the implementation of regulations on transhumance among ECOWAS member states, Dakar, 2003, the African Union Policy Framework on Pastoralism in Africa (2010), and several national legislation on pastoralism and bilateral agreements.
However, all these frameworks have not been effectively implemented.