Agogo farmers gripped with fear over renewed tensions with herdsmen
Residents of Agogo and its environs say they’re living in fear as nomadic herdsmen who were moved from the area have returned.
A joint police and military task force; known as ‘Operation Cow Leg’, was deployed to the area to help resolve recurrent controversies that existed between nomadic herdsmen and local crop farmers.
Some local farmers in the area have disclosed to Citi News that their food crops have been destroyed as a result of the recent activities of the nomadic herdsmen in the area.
Citi News has also gathered that the tensions that existed between the local crop farmers and the herdsmen are reoccurring
On Saturday, a 35-year-old security guard was reportedly shot and butchered to death by persons suspected to be nomadic herdsmen when the security guard allegedly made an attempt to prevent cattle from grazing on a sorghum farm.
The Agogo District Police Commander, ASP Jerry James Amekah has confirmed the death of the security guard to Citi News. He says the police command in recent times has received several complaints from crop farmers on the activities of nomadic herdsmen.
“Actually, we are aware that they (herdsmen and their cattle) are here and this time around, they are coming back in their numbers. They are actually destroying food crops. They are disturbing the farmers a lot,’’ the police commander stated.
Some crop farmers in the area have expressed fears, and do not want to go to their farms.
“With the return of the herdsmen and their cattle, we are very sacred. We are scared because of the kind of treatment that was meted out to us by the herdsmen. We are really disturbed now that they have returned. We never had peace when the herdsmen were here. We are always worried when our husbands and children keep long in the farms because they can be killed by the herdsmen. We were very happy when the herdsmen left. We are scared now that they have returned to this area,’’ a farmer lamented.
Other farmers say they are always frightened when they meet the cattle grazing on their farms. According to them, their exchanges with the herdsmen could cost them their lives.
“The cattle have been destroying my food crops. By the time you wake up and get to your farm, you will meet the cattle grazing on your farmland. We are helpless when that happens, there is nothing you can do except to run away. If you don’t run away, they will kill you.’’
When Citi News visited some of the farms, some cattle were spotted grazing on farmlands.
According to the farmers, they are helpless as several attempts to prevent the herdsmen from letting the cattle from grazing on their farmlands have proven futile.
“The rice farm you see here, has been destroyed by the cattle. Everything here has been destroyed by the cattle. We have always been talking about it. When you come and meet the herdsmen in the farm and you ask them any question, with their posture, you will be scared because they are not unwilling to drive the cattle away from the farm. The cattle appears to be important to the herdsmen more than the life of the farmer. So if one wants to live, you just have to run and leave the farm to them.’’
Some of the nomadic herdsmen have however denied any wrongdoing.
Speaking to Citi News, one of the herdsmen, Abdul Osman, said he tries as much as possible not to destroy people’s farmlands.
He later noted to Citi News that there have been instances where he has been reported to the police over the destruction caused by his cattle.
“My cattle have not been destroying people’s farms. I don’t know the owners of the cattle that have been destroying people’s farms. I have been here for the past 15 years. We are at times invited to the police station to settle issues related to some destruction caused by my cattle but that does not happen on a daily basis. I am reported to the police usually over the destruction of maize plantation by my cattle.’’
The conflict between herders and local farmers over the years; has not only led to the destruction of food crops, but also the loss of human lives.
In some instances, some herdsmen have been accused of sexual assault against women in the communities.
The agitations for the nomadic herdsmen to be moved from the area got to its peak when a traditional priest of Agogo, Okomfo Kwasi Badu, was shot dead in the bush at Kowereso by a 16-year old cowboy, Aliu Baba in 2016. This reportedly happened after Okomfo Kwasi Badu had protested against grazing on his farm by the cattle that were being tended by the teenager, Aliu Baba.
The Ghana National Association of Cattle Farmers wants government to establish grazing reserves in all districts of the country.
This however appears to have started, albeit at a snail pace. Government in 2018 established a cattle ranch at Wawase in the Afram Plains South District of the Eastern Region.
The initiative is to be expanded and replicated across the country to curb the recurring conflict between farmers and herdsmen.
President Akufo-Addo made this known during a familiarization visit to the Wawase cattle ranch, on Saturday, 24th November, 2018.