By Abubakarr Harding
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Food Programme (WFP), Talking Drum Studio (TDS) and the Sierra Leonean and Guinean authorities on the 3rd November, 2022 officially unveiled two border posts in Koindukura (Falaba district) and Hérémakono (Faranah prefecture) and 50 hectares of Inland Valley Swamps (IVS) implemented under the project ‘Building Cross Border Peace and Strengthening Sustainable Livelihoods of Cattle Herders and Crop Farmers in Sierra Leone and Guinea.’
The UN Agencies and their Government counterparts in the two countries have been working with civil society entities, communities, and local Governments to resolve long-standing conflicts, compounded by climate change, between cattle herders and farmers along Sierra Leone’s northern border with Guinea.
With increasing numbers of cattle herders migrating from Guinea into Sierra Leone, the conflicts, if left unaddressed, could escalate, and destabilize both countries. The project, financed by the UN Peace Building Fund, addresses a critical gap on cross-border peacebuilding between the cattle herders and farmers in this zone.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Christos Christodoulides, Country Director of IOM Sierra Leone said that the posts would address different needs related to border management including monitoring, and data collection on the migration of cattle herders and farmers across the borders as they look for grazing or cultivable land, which could be used for the development of evidence-based policies that aim to reduce tension and sustain peace.
“I am with the conviction that with the implementation of this project, communities in Falaba district and Faranah prefecture will benefit from a good border regulation that promotes peaceful coexistence between the herders and crop farmers,” said David Panda Noah, Minister of Internal Affairs. He added that Government would do its utmost to support this well-thought-out project and for it to be replicated in other areas.
To strengthen the livelihoods of cattle herders and farmers, WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, has assisted over 500 smallholder farming households to develop 50 hectares of irrigation systems in IVS across 10 border lying communities in Sulima and Mongo chiefdoms. A 23.5 Km of fencing was also constructed to protect the crops from the cattle. These swamps will not only ensure year-round cultivation but will save the environment as well.
TDS on the other hand, has to date produced 12 editions of the radio soap opera Cross-border Bush Wahala. The dramatization of the issues in this soap opera has helped not only to raise awareness about the Cattle Settlement Policy to reduce risk of conflicts but to bring it into public discourse.
The project will support 1,000 smallholder households to reclaim inland valley swamps and build irrigation schemes for higher crop yields and continuous food production.
Also, some 300 herder households in Sierra Leone and Guinea will benefit from access to solar water points and improved species of grass to graze their cattle.
Some 60 chiefdom/livestock movement officials and 140 community members will be trained and equipped in managing, mitigating, and resolving conflicts. (A far greater number of people will be reached through radio broadcasts that will inform communities on the Cattle Settlement Policy to reduce risk of conflicts).