UNMISS organized forum on cattle migration to reduce tensions between farmers and pastoralists

unmiss civil affairs cattle migration tensions pastoralists farmers gogrial tonj wau agreement forum january south sudan 2018

UNMISS and the Inter-State Coordinating Committee organized a forum on cattle migration to reduce tensions between farmers and pastoralists on 10 January 2018.

The cattle migration season in South Sudan brings conflicts between pastoralists and farmers. In an attempt to reduce tensions, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and partners gathered 140 stakeholders in Kuac South County in the Gogrial area to inform and remind land owners and cattle keepers of the rules and principles agreed on in November 2016.

The Migration Agreement Dissemination Forum on 10 January was organized by the UNMISS Civil Affairs Division and the Inter-State Coordinating Committee on cattle migration. Landowning farmers, pastoralists, local authorities, youth and some 30 women representatives from the area got together to review what is called the Marial-Bai Agreement on cattle migration. Earlier this month, a similar forum was held in the neighbouring area of Tonj.

At the Gogrial forum, cattle camps leaders and community leaders were urged to persuade the youth of their respective areas to respect the agreement and resolve issues in accordance with the rules and principles set out in the Marial-Bai agreement between the farmers and the pastoralists. 

The agreement between pastoralists and crop farmers in the three bordering areas of Tonj, Gogrial and Wau was reached in November 2016 and subsequently revised in November 2017. It calls for compensations to be paid whenever cattle destroy crops, or if farmers kill cattle threatening their harvests. It also bans pastoralists from carrying guns, and obliges them to inform the local authorities about their movements.

UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer Drici Toruko said that the main objective of the forum was to raise awareness on the need to adopt non-violence approaches to resolve disputes and stressed the need for patience and a systematic way to overcome tensions.

The forum participants raised several points of concern, including the poisoning of fields and wells in Wau, the issue of shared responsibility between cattle keepers and cattle owners and that compensation fees to be paid for destroyed crops were, in some cases,  higher than the market price.

Akol Kuac, a cattle camp leader, called on the cattle keepers to respect the Marial-Bai Agreement and its resolutions.

“We, the youth of Kuac, will make sure that the agreement is fully implemented”, Akol stressed.

David Mangok Mawien, secretary of the Inter-States Coordinating Committee, said that the forum will help to diffuse the tensions that normally arise between the pastoralists and the farming communities by highlighting the negative consequences of violence and the positives of peaceful relations between stakeholders in the different communities.

Cattle migration is a traditional way of life among pastoralists and has an impact on communities in the Gogrial area as a whole and in the Kuac South County in particular. Significant efforts by state authorities have been made to regulate cattle migration within the greater Bahr-el-Ghazal region, but the seasonal cattle movements has continued to be marred by sometimes violent conflicts between pastoralists and farmers.