Village Aid reducing conflict between crop farmers and cattle herders competing over access to vital natural resources in North West Cameroon.
With support from the Edith M Ellis 1985 Charitable Trust, Village Aid have built water catchment protection areas in the communities of Ashong, Mbacam, Bainjong and Bih where conflict over water was rife. Not only have more than 6,000 people been given access to clean water in the last year but, together with their partner MBOSCUDA, Village Aid have been able to promote greater harmoney in those communities where water had been a perennial source of tension. The first four water catchment protection sites were completed in September 2015 with communities coming togethre to lay pipes and provide labour towards the common goal of establishing a shared water source.
Providing clean water is, however, only half the story and the wider project undertaken by Village Aid is helping to promote dialogue between indigneous crop farmers and semi-nomadic cattle herders leading to a greater understanding of, and willingness to collaborate over, the causes of conflict. As a result of the dialogue platforms they have helped to set up, farmers and cattle herders now have shared spaces to come together and resolve their disputes amicably. Village Aid are planning to set up 14 new dialogue platforms bu tthe model has proved so succesful that local government in many of the project areas has asked that they replicate the model in more communities and their partner MBOSCUDA now supports 56 such dialogue platforms. In the last quarter of 2015 alone 59 of the 67 cases of farmer/herder conflict were resolved amicably. In areas where homes, crops, livestock and sometimes even lies have been destroyed when the conflict escalates out of control – this is hugely important.
Providing the space for farmers and herders to come together to understand each other better leads to a greater willingness to work together – sharing resources for mutual benefit. Nowhere is this better exemplified than through the 92 Alliance Farming initiatives that have resulted thanks to the bridges that Village Aid and MBOSCUDA are helping to build. Alliance Farming involves rotating land use between crop farming and cattle grazing. This grants the cattle access to nutritious food (crop residue), enhancing their milk production and improving their health and fertility. Meanwhile the cow manure fertilises the land, thus improving the farmer’s crop yields.
Village Aid is excited about what the future holds for this project and believes the project model could speak to many more situations where communities are competing over increasingly scarce natural resources. Through another of their partners, Concern Universal, Village Aid hopes to build on this work and scale the model to neighbouring Nigeria where farmer/herder conflicts are much more deadly – 6,500 people have been killed in the last five years and such conflicts have cost the country $13.7 billion in macro economic progress (International Business Times; July 2015).
The Edith M Ellis 1985 Charitable Trust support Village Aid in the continuation of their work. Further information about the project can be found at http://www.villageaid.org