A fulani herdsman and his cattle

Fulani, farmer feuds - Complicit state actors or unwitting victims?

The movement of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle within communities pre-dates Ghana’s independence. In the past, their presence caused no conflict. however, climatic change conditions affecting vegetation preferred by cattle and herdsmen, as well as the unavailability of land, have resulted in the loss of lives because of conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farmers, currently.


Interestingly, these challenges and more were faced by the colonial administration and the Nkrumah administration.

In addition to the above challenges, they grappled with disease outbreaks and weak breeds of cattle.

However, strategic policies and plans, such as the importation of stronger breeds to inter-breed, mass immunisation of cattle, kraals or designated grazing areas, and the importation of cattle or beef where there was a shortfall in supply of meat in the country, were the positive expressions to challenges captured in letters, policy documents and telegraphs found at the Public Records Administration and Archives Department (PRAAD).

The expert opinions of a lecturer at the Institute of African Studies, Dr Samuel Ntewusu, and a security consultant, Mr Emmanuel Sowatey, show that the current dynamics of the migration of Fulani herdsmen and their cattle can be appropriately checked through such well-thought out interventions to forestall further bloodshed from conflicts between indigenous farmers and herdsmen when their cattle destroy farms.


Conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Agogo in the Asante Akyem North District of the Ashanti Region erupted last month.

It resulted in the death of some people and the renewed push by regional and district security councils to “flush out” Fulani herdsmen from the region.

For Dr Ntewusu, who has had more than a decade’s experience interviewing chiefs in line with his research interests that included African culture and chieftaincy, chiefs may be complicit in the recurrent conflicts.

“I am of the view that it is the chiefs who should be held responsible for the conflicts,” he told the Daily Graphic.

He said since 1874, Arab traders had followed a pattern of movement from Timbuktu in Mali to Salaga, Gambaga, and other northern towns.

That fixed pattern of movement through the Trans-Saharan route had been followed to date, with some Arabs still transporting camels and other goods into Ghana for sale.

Dr Ntewusu said the century-old practice was for the traders in various goods, including kola and cattle, to call on the chief at the palace in any community they first came to.

The traders paid homage and appropriately recognised the authority of the chief by giving gifts of cows, camels or any other expensive gift to have the protection of the chief during their stay in the community.

That is the same thing being followed by Fulani herdsmen presently.

Thus, herdsmen tended to fight off any indigene challenging them when their cattle grazed anywhere and destroyed farms and vegetation in the process.

That was because they had seen the chief and paid for the right to graze, resulting in the conflicts. “There is no single chief that can claim ignorance of the presence of Fulani herdsmen in his area,” he said.

“The chiefs are compromised in the issue of conflicts between herdsmen and farmers,” he added.

Climate change

Another factor fuelling the feuds, according to Mr Sowatey, is climate change.

He explained that special herbs and plants sought out by Fulanis for the growth and wellbeing of their cattle seemed to be dwindling with climatic change conditions such as flooding and droughts.

Thus, in their search for the right vegetation for their cattle, no land was off limits to them, leading to conflict between themselves and landowners who wanted to protect their properties.



The preponderance of evidence from history gleaned by Dr Ntewusu in his research and from Mr K. B. Asante’s write-up in the Monday, February 22, 2016 issue of the Daily Graphic in an article captioned, “Is agriculture menaced by the Fulani herdsmen?” show that the Fulani crisis can be solved with the right policies.

The challenge is not new; individual traders, the colonial government and newly independent government of Dr Kwame Nkrumah were all strategically wise, capitalising on people’s demand for meat to strategise for the public good.

For Dr Ntewusu, chiefs must be involved in solving the conflicts by getting them, through the National and Regional Houses of chiefs, to be transparent in their dealings with the Fulani herdsmen.

Dr Ntewusu and Mr Sowatey suggusted a return to the old practice of dedicating areas for the grazing of cattle, just as it pertained in the colonial era.


Mr Sowatey adds, however, that choosing land for grazing must involve experts in husbandry, hydraulics, climate change, land economy, etc. to ensure the convenience of the land for grazing and the availability of the right foliage for cattle.

For him, the land banks so dedicated must come with the right compensation for owners for generations unborn to benefit.

Early warning systems must also be relied on for information on the presence of Fulani herdsmen and their herds in communities, Mr Sowatey says.

Dr Ntewusu, for his part, added that the country’s transportation systems must also be used to track cattle entering the country.


Innovatively, tolling booth attendants can take down basic information about the owner and destination of cattle being transported.


Dr Ntewusu in his research shows that trading in various goods such as kola nuts brought in Arab migrants from the north into Accra.

Expansion in the trade resulted in some influential traders later broaching into the cattle trade and grazing their cattle in present-day Tudu.

Fulani herdsmen were sometimes hired to look after the cattle of these rich traders.

These were the beginnings of the current love-hate relationship between Fulani herdsmen and Ghanaians; the relationship in the past was, however, devoid of conflict.

His research is captured in his work on Settling in and Holding on: A socio-economic history of northern traders and transporters in Accra’s Tudu, 1908-2008.

With an in-depth understanding of the life of Fulani herdsmen as a result of his research, he said colonial structures of administration and development, such as, roads, rails and buildings, resulted in the expansion of the city.

The expansion came with increases in population and the challenge for meat to satisfy the dietary needs of the people, particularly with the drought and famine of the 1940s.

Dr Ntewusu said there was a deliberate policy by the colonial administration to encourage cattle importation from Northern Ghana and the rearing of cattle at Winneba, Nyanyano and the Manfi areas.

The migration of people with Fulani and Yoruba descent to settle and graze cattle was also encouraged, with herdsmen coming from Nigeria and Togo.

Dr Ntewusu pointed out that with the policy of allowing Fulani and Yoruba herdsmen within the country, came the policy of grazing areas dedicated to grazing cattle, hence the use of the current Tudu/Aflao lorry station area for that purpose.

The demarcated grazing areas ensured minimal conflict between the herdsmen and indigenes.

It also resulted in the growth of areas such as the Cow Lane in Accra, where an active meat, milk and their processed products business flourished.
Writer’s email: [email protected]


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