News, Western Bahr El Ghazal State

Farmers, herders engage in seasonal migration conference

By Charles K Mark


Over 50 participants, drawn from famers and pastoralist communities in Western Bahr el Ghazal, held deliberations, reaffirming their willingness to abide by the tenets of the Marial Bai Agreement and spreading its key messages.

The mini-conference was hosted in the Western Bahr el Ghazal State capital, Wau, and organized by UNMISS, the UNDP, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

It sought efforts to prevent cyclical violence and promote peaceful resolution of migration-related disputes.

It should be remembered that every year in South Sudan, seasonal cattle migration takes place from January to April—the dry season.

In these months, animal herders from Warrap state begin moving large herds of cattle towards their neighboring state, Western Bahr El Ghazal, to make sure their livestock can graze on green pastures.

The annual occurrence has been the source of fierce conflict between semi-nomadic herders and settled farming communities.

Over the years, the toll of such clashes has been heavy on communities, characterized by death, displacement, and loss of property.

Western Bahr el Ghazal State Acting Governor, Arkangelo Anyar Anyar, stated the importance of the conference as it tackles the means of protection of wealth and resources.

“Cattle are synonymous with wealth for herders just as crops are wealth to farmers; conflict arises when one person thinks their wealth is more important than that of the other,” he stated.

The communities also reviewed the Marial Bai Agreement signed in 2016 when disputes resulting from cattle movement led to violent clashes, loss of life, and the displacement of thousands.

This agreement has since been a key regulator of seasonal cattle movement between communities in both states.

According to Warrap State’s Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement, William Deng Kor, the Marial Bai Agreement has provisions that punish cattle herders whose animals destroy crops and farmers who harm cattle.

“These stringent provisions have been an effective deterrent for violators. Critically, the agreement strengthens collegiate relationships between the people of Warrap and Western Bahr El Ghazal,” he emphasized.

The provisions notwithstanding, seasonal cattle migration has not been void of unpleasant situations.

In the conference, both communities—farmers and herders—spoke up on issues impeding peaceful coexistence.

“Sometimes cattle arrive early, and we have not harvested all our crops. This constitutes a huge loss for farmers,” Joseph Madut, administrator for Udici, one of the host communities for cattle herders, expressed.

“Farmers also do not receive compensation for their crops in time,” he continued. “The other challenge is the dispute over scarce water points and that farming communities are forced to share their only source of water with animals, which creates tensions.”

In the agreement, it was women who remained the most affected by this situation.

Angelina Anthony Uku said women like herself depend solely on crops and urged that once challenges arise as to the destruction of crops, compensation should be done.

“Today we have received valuable information about the Marial Bai Agreement, especially how to get compensation when our crops are destroyed,” she said.

There is a need to observe the interdependency of animal husbandry and farming and the need for peaceful coexistence and unity as both sectors remain major contributors to South Sudan’s economy.

The traditional leader from Warrap, Martin Kuac Muoter, said they are deeply regretful that their animals destroy croplands at times.

He, however, emphasized that farming communities do benefit from cattle movements because they get an abundant supply of manure for their farms.

“We believe that we must unite with our farmer friends in Western Bahr El Ghazal to remove contentious issues and allow this season to be a productive and peaceful one for both sides,” he maintained.

Sam Muhumure, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Wau, said, “Since 2021, each cattle migration season has been better than the previous one, thanks to the willingness of communities to uphold the Marial Bai Agreement.”


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