Space Partners or Mortal Enemies: Contentious Lands, Farmer–Grazier Conflicts and Women's Militancy in Cameroon

Charles Fonchingong, Maurice Ufon Beseng

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The geography of land and space contestation is recurrent in the Cameroon occasioned by population growth and increased pressure on natural resources. This paper examines the ecological perspective, protracted dissonance that has rocked relations between small scale farmers and graziers. Attempts at conquering lands for grazing by Fulani herders coupled with women’s tenuous access and search for fertile farmlands has drawn these erstwhile space partners into fierce and often bloody confrontations.
    As women’s agricultural productivity and livelihoods are threatened, they are opting for direct settling of scores with graziers, the state and local authorities in particular, key players in the allocation of land and resolution of any crisis emanating to access and control. Yet, the state through its administrative officials and some traditional authorities often resort to playing delaying tactics (fruitless commissions of inquiry) when faced with a potential crisis.
    While women accuse graziers of bribing administrative and local authorities, thereby lengthening the search for a permanent solution, equally the graziers are not at ease with dubious intervention of administrative officials, women’s clinging to age-old practices such as slash and burn with nefarious consequences on soil fertility, which have led to scattered farming plots and fragmented land holdings that are prone to cattle encroachment. As the symbiotic relationship is continuously breaking down and battle lines drawn, land is becoming more contentious as both adversaries seek recourse from local authorities; themselves entrenched in corrupt practices and systemic failings. Women storming the Aghem Fon’s palace in 2003, brutal killing of the Fon of Big Babanki (2005) rekindles the debate on land contestation and logic behind women’s collective agency, exacerbated by dire living conditions and struggle to restore fragmented livelihoods on both sides. This issues are further unravelled against the backdrop of unsettled and contentious access to land by the ‘marginalized’ Fulani in Cameroon. Even more problematic are dodgy land allocations mediated through state officials and traditional authorities, often for the benefit of influential political elite, thereby pushing small-scale farmers into further hardship as fertile land becomes scarce.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationLand Reforms and Natural Resource Conflicts in Africa: New Development Paradigms in the Era of Global Liberalization
    EditorsTukumbi Lumumba-Kasongo
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages19
    ISBN (Electronic)ISBN 9781138888821
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Bibliographical note

    This chapter is not available in Pure.


    • Human Geography
    • Development studies
    • Gender


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