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Legal Aid mediates between crop and cattle farmers in Port Loko

September 30, 2016 

The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles has called on stakeholders in Port Loko District to come up with home grown solutions to the problem between cattle herders and crop farmers in the district.

She made the above remarks while addressing aggrieved parties and stakeholders including five paramount chiefs, Chairman of the Port Loko District Council, President of the National Framers Federation and the District Director of Agriculture in Masiaka on Tuesday, 27 September 2016.

“For some of these cases, the answers are not in the courts. We will work with stakeholders to promote peace and security in the community,” she said.

Ms. Carlton-Hanciles pointed out that the Board does not have lawyers to provide legal assistance to all those who qualify for legal aid.

“This is why we will be training paralegals from the community in the near future to handle some of the cases which would otherwise be taken to court,” she said.

She also noted that the Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism would work with Paramount Chiefs and other local actors to mediate the cases in the courts.

“Cases involving cattle herders and crop farmers are too many. We do not want them to add up and clog the courts,” She said.

Proffering solution to the dispute, Ms. Carlton-Hanciles said the crop farmers and the cattle herders can benefit from each other if they were prepared to work together.

She encouraged the two groups to embark on mix farming, which she stressed would be beneficial to them, adding that crop farmers would  grow their crops on the land after the cattle have been moved to a new location.

She added that the compost produced by the cattle would provide rich source of nutrients for the crops.

The Legal Aid lawyer for Port Loko and Kambia Districts, Mohamed Korie said upon taking up the post, the first thing he embarked on was to visit the courts in the two districts, and that he was struck by the huge number of cases relating to larceny and killing of cattle.

 ‘When I started work, I realized most of those seeking legal aid were either charged with stealing or killing cattle. And I said to myself, something must be done about this,” he said.

Lawyer Korie said the cattle herders accused members of the community of stealing and killing their cattle, while members of the community on the other hand accused the herders of occupying their land illegally.

He said they had alleged that at the end of the day the herders would just give a cow to the Paramount Chief to compromise the matter

He said he was being threatened for providing legal representation to those charged with killing or stealing of cattle.

“This prompted me to discuss the issue with the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles with a view to finding a solution to the problem,” he said.

The Moderator for the mediation, Alfred Lahai underlined the need for the crop and livestock farmers to live side by side because they needed each other. He reiterated the difficulty in controlling cattle, adding that the misunderstanding between the two groups has been there for a long time.

“This meeting will seek to promote understanding between the groups to stop this from happening in future,” he said.

He recalled being confronted with similar problems in Koinadugu District during his tour in that part of the country.

The Chairperson of the Port Loko District Council, Munir Fofana attributed the problem between the cattle herders and the crop farmers to failure to implement the Cattle Settlement Policy.

“The Council has the authority to issue license to all cattle herders. No livestock farmer can bring cattle into an area without a license to rear them in that area. The policy also requires the setting up of Area Settlement and Chiefdom Committees which must comprise local stakeholders,” he said.

Other speakers include President of the National Farmers Federation, Olu John, Paramount Chief of Marampa, Bai Koblo Queen, District Director of Agriculture, Charles Bangura; Livestock Officer, ShekuJusu; Representative of crop farmers, FodayKabia; representative of cattle herders Dr. Abdul Gudush Jalloh and the representative of the Sierra Leone Police.

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