Some 158 cattle will this Friday July 25, be auctioned off by Kayonza district authorities for grazing on land owned by RDF – leaving more local villagers counting losses from the same region.
Cattle owners in three neighbouring districts of Gatsibo, Nyagatare and Kayonza are affected by a standing directive to ensure their animals do not graze on land belonging to the RDF Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, Eastern Province.
Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts have already conducted the auctions. 18 cattle owners in Gatsibo lost 493 cattle sold at Rwf 83.2m, while 13 people in Nyagatare lost 180 cattle auctioned at Rwf25m.
The auctions are conducted by the district in which the cattle owners are located.
On Monday, the District Council for Kayonza district adopted its own decision to sell off 158 cattle in its area of jurisdiction. The auction will be held this Friday.
These cows have been under custody of district authorities since May, and despite pleas by the owners to be forgiven, that has fallen on deaf ears.
On June 15, when Local Government Minister Prof Anastase Shyaka toured Gatsibo district, he met the affected people. He told them that he cannot reverse a decision taken by the districts.
He said: “Putting in place such tough rules like auctioning the cattle is meant to discourage any more such acts. It so happens that when 10 or 20 cows are auctioned, the neighbours give that person more cows. This culture is encouraging the continuous repetition of the same crime over and over again.”
“We do not want you to send us your cattle to be auctioned, neither do we want you to keep paying fine over the same cases. If you own 50 cattle, why don’t you sell them off and remain with one or five which you can manage, instead of grazing them on [RDF land]”.
The north eastern neighbouring Uganda and eastern region neighbouring Tanzania are cattle regions. Some farmers there own dozens of cattle – making it a huge supplier of milk.
However, the region is also hot and dry for most times of the year – leaving farmers with minimal grazing land.
Incidentally, the region is also home to the Akagera National park and a large RDF facility. Together, these two bodies take up huge chunks of land, much of it fertile and sprawling with grass.
Since Akagera park was fenced off three years ago, partly to control wild animals straying into human areas, that has stopped cattle from grazing there. Instead, locals had now began encroaching on RDF land.
Several years ago, government began encouraging people in eastern Rwanda to reduce their cattle to the bare minimum, by owning less but more productive cattle. Many people sold theirs off and got Frisians.
But the traditional long-horned cattle are still common in the region and in large numbers, often roaming around to find grazing land.
As the situation stands now, the auction in Kayonza district will go on as planned this Friday.