ECOWAS has urged herdsmen in the region to obtain among other measures, the community’s International Transhumance Certificate (ITC) to prevent clashes with trans-border authorities and farmers during grazing movement.
The measure according to the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tchambakou Ayassor, had become necessary to allow for easy identification by officials, of animals moving from one country to the other including their grazing route and destinations.
According to an ECOWAS communication to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Thursday, aside from being in possession of the ITC, farmers in the region and stakeholders in the transhumance sub-sector were also enjoined to restrain from violence at all cost and instead use the available judiciary machinery in dealing with conflicts that could arise from the practice of their trade.
Similar concerns had earlier been expressed by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel de Souza while giving his report at the First Ordinary Session of the 4th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament in May 2016.
The President had noted then that growing number of incidents linked to transhumance in several Member States including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria which had led to the death of thousands and may constitute a new threat to regional security, given the increased number of clashes between farmers and nomadic cattle breeders.
Transhumance in the ECOWAS region is an essential activity for safeguarding and increasing agricultural production and livelihoods as an integral part of the region’s agriculture, food security, and poverty reduction policy.
It has the potential of sustaining Sahelian herds, contributing to regional integration, as well as the rich supply of livestock products to the ever growing urban centres and the coastal areas.
Despite these benefits, the transhumance livestock production system had challenges of transboundary animal diseases, socio-political upheavals, and in some instances environmental degradation where there is a lack of appropriate regulation.
Consequently, on the 5th of May, 1998, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government adopted a policy for Member States on transhumance in accordance with Article 25 of its Revised Treaty relating to the cooperation between Member States to ensure agricultural development, achieve food security, enhance the environment for livestock breeding in Member States and to formulate, for that purpose, a harmonious regulation on transhumance within the Community.
In this regard, Decision A/DEC.5/10/98 and Regulation C/Reg.3/01/03 led to the emergence of three ECOWAS Transhumance zones known as the Western, Central and Eastern corridors.
The Western Corridor stretches along the coastal cities including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia as well as Mauritania, the Central Corridor runs through Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo while the Eastern corridor comprises Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, and Nigeria.
Going by the provisions of the decision, Member States are meant to provide surveillance along the corridors using their institutions. ECOWAS on its part will support them with surveillance technologies where possible.