05 Jan 2022
By: Axel Boisen

Agok, Abyei—As people around the world enjoyed the festivities of 2021, in Abyei, cattle keepers and farmers gathered not for festivities, but more serious business.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), local authorities, and the non-governmental organization—Concordis International hosted a conference for the season’s first pre-migration dialogue in Agok, south of Abyei.

On a two-hour drive from Abyei to Abiemnom in Ruweng Administrative Area, a team of organizers from IOM and Concordis International met two cattle camp leaders to invite their communities to the three-day conference.

“They fled the flooding in Mayom and Rubkona Counties in Unity State with large numbers of cattle,” says Arop Dombek Deng, IOM’s Transition and Recovery Programme Assistant in Abyei.

“And now the cows are dying of a waterborne disease of some kind, they say."

Outside the village of Abiemnom, a herd belonging to 40-year-old Gai Machiek is slowly on the move. The famous graceful longhorn cattle are grazing over 200 kilometers from home in Bentiu. They leave behind the cows that didn’t survive the long journey.

“They are really dying,” Gai Machiek says, pointing at three calves’ carcasses.

Three of Gai’s calves didn’t make it through the long grazing journey. Photo: IOM/ Axel Boisen.

The cattle movement season is traditionally initiated by pre-movement negotiations between the cattle herders and host communities to determine the timing and the routes for cattle herders. This annual migration of hungry cattle and their often armed owners creates tensions with farmers in the area.

In Abyei, every year between January and April, the Misseriya—nomadic pastoralists and other ethnic groups migrate through three passable corridors for southern grazing land. 

This season’s extraordinary flooding and the disease have led local authorities to request IOM for support to tackle heightened tensions between agro-pastoral host communities and the displaced populations over water, pasture, and protection of farm crops to find workable solutions on cattle migration routes through inter-communal dialogue.

Gai Machiek and his fellow cattle keepers. Photo: IOM/Axel Boisen

“When a cow is giving birth, she has no milk for the calves, because she is starving. When the floods came to our homes in Bentiu, diseases also came. There is no area with grass there. That is why we came up to here, Gai explains.

Gai and other cattle keepers in the Abyei Administrative Area are seeking ways to graze their herds without running into conflicts with the host community.

“What we need is a peaceful place to graze our cattle. No fighting. If no one comes to take our cattle, we will never fight anyone,” Gai reiterated.


This story was written by Axel Boisen, IOM South Sudan Youth Promotion and Engagement Specialist.

To know more about the Cattle Premovement Intercommunal Dialogue Conference in Agok, click here. Or contact: IOM Coordinator Benjamin Moore,

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