Crop Farmers and Nomadic Fulani Herdsmen in Ghana: Reflections on the 2017 Global Hunger Index

The perplexity of confrontation and conflict between the Ghanaian crop farmer and Nomadic Fulani Herdsmen (pastoralist) for control and use of natural resources: land, rangeland and water in the country will persist in the country. How can the country position itself to maximise the benefits from both key players (crop farmers and livestock producers) in the agriculture arena to avert food and human insecurity?

Ghana in 2013 reached the second goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving hunger by 2015 on record time and seems to be doing well when it comes to food security issues. Although, they were some gains in the MDGs at the end of 2015 globally, there were significant variations in individual country achievements of the set goals. For instance, Ghana as a country although halving hunger on record time, still has some regions and pockets of communities that are food and income insure, very vulnerable and lacks any resilience against food and income insecurity (Ghana Food Security and Living Standards Survey, 2016).

In the latest 2017, Global Hunger Index (GHI) released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) saw Ghana recording a 16.2 below the region average of 29.4 (Africa South of the Sahara). The Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2017 was calculated for 119 countries for which data was available for four indicators: 1. the percentage of the population that is undernourished, 2. the percentage of children under age five who suffer from wasting (low weight for height), 3. the percentage of children under age five who suffer from stunting (low height for age), and 4. the percentage of children who die before the age of five (child mortality). Any increase in a country earlier GHI score shows that the hunger situation is worsening, while a decrease in the score indicates an improvement in the country’s hunger situation. The reported noted for the first time this year, one country hit the threshold of 50 (Central African Republic – 50.9), which signifies extremely alarming hunger levels.

The aggregate GHI score for all 119 countries in the Index for 2017 is 21.8, considered “serious” with Ghana ranked 65th on 16.2 “moderate hunger” among 24 countries in that category. On the percentage of the population that is undernourished, Ghana recorded 7.6% in the 2014-2016 years an increase of 1.2% over the previous record of 6.4% in 2007-2009. This means more of the Ghanaian population are becoming undernourished.

The Data Production Unit of Ghana Statistical Service as at 16th September,2016 projected the population of Ghana to be 28,308,301. Per the 7.6% Ghanaians classified as undernourished and the projected population of 2016, the number of Ghanaians undernourished per the GHI report is 2,151,430. This means over 2 million Ghanaians have insufficient quality or quantity of nourishment to live a dignified life. The country however, recorded a significant drop in the other three indicators. The trend of GHI for the country has seen significant improvement and decreases since 1992. In 1992 Ghana GHI was 41.9, dropping to 29.2 in 2000, then to 21.9 in 2008 and to 16.2 in 2017 (IFPRI, Global Hunger Index,2017).

Despite the improvement of Ghana’s GHI of 16.2 classified as “moderate hunger” level over its West African neighbours, these successes could be exacerbated by the perennial confrontation and conflict between crop farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen in the country. As conflict and climate change are often among the factors that affects countries with the highest GHI which also happens to be mostly the poorest in the world.

In the time passed, the activities of transhumance in trekking long distances was in search for water and pasture for their livestock.

Cattle grazing in Communal Grazing Field in the Nabdam District of the Upper East Region

However, recent research is suggesting that, the pastoralist seasonal movements are far beyond the search of pasture and water, but could be because of factors such as climate change, epidemics, conflicts, bush burning and even market forces.

In Ghana the activities of nomadic Fulani herdsmen have become a canker and very difficult to resolve. Several confrontations and conflicts resulting in loss of lives and destruction of crops have being reported in different communities in the country.

In the country, three categories of nomadic Fulani herdsmen can be identified in the communities. The first category is the care taker of Ghanaian citizens livestock who can be “common or ordinary people” in rural communities who have collectively decided to give their individual livestock but mostly cattle to the Fulani to herd.  The second category is the rich, powerful, and influential people in society who also give their cattle to nomadic Fulani herdsmen to pasture. The third category and probably the problematic one is the pastoral nomadic Fulani herdsmen who come from neighbouring countries through unapproved routes and borders into the country.

The presence of the three categories in the country is often seen by many as unlawful, however, their activities is sanctioned in the 1992 Ghanaian constitution and the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol of 1998. The 1992 constitution has given every Ghana citizen the fundamental human right to freedom of movement in search of legitimate businesses and the right to own property either alone or in association with others. Hence Ghanaian citizen with nomadic Fulani herdsmen pasturing their livestock cannot be sack out of the country.

Likewise, the nomadic Fulani herdsmen or pastoralists from neighbouring West African countries entrance and access to grazing rights in other countries in the ECOWAS zone including Ghana, is also guaranteed by the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol of 1998. Additionally, the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Goods and Persons in West Africa and the ECOWAS Transhumance Protocol allows for herders to move across borders in search of pasture upon fulfilling conditions laid down in the Protocol. The problem is therefore the destruction of farm crops when cattle is left un-herded by the nomadic Fulani herdsmen or natives.

Maize field in the Nabdam District of Upper East Region of Ghana such as this often see sporadic destruction from un-herded cattle of either natives or Fulani herdsmen

Resolving the issue of zero hunger by 2030 and further improving Ghana performance in the GHI will require building resilient farming systems and fostering peaceful co-existence. However, resilient farming systems on a sustainable basis can only be achieved by integrating livestock production into the current systems of sole crop, mixed-cropping or tree production systems. Ruminant livestock can effectively use agro by products and rangeland vegetation not usable by man to produce meat, milk and hide. The manure from livestock is organic fertilizer to potentially manure the farm lands, enhance soil ecosystem and improved crop productivity than the use inorganic fertilizers.

Ghana should therefore be looking at options to facilitate peaceful co-existence of both food crop producers and livestock producers to improve our performance on GHI, accelerate the achievement of most of the SDGs such as SDG1(end poverty), SDG2 (zero hunger), SDG12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns) and human security in the country.

The perennial confrontation and conflict between crop farmers and nomadic Fulani herdsmen has the potential to affect Ghana’s food and human security if not addressed soon.

Article by:

Abukari Yakubu

Sustainable Livestock – Crop Integration Advocate

(Agricultural Systems Specialist)

Upper East Region

Contact: +233 20 591 80 67 / +233 24 634 36 80


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