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Drought and Conflict in the West African Sahel: Developing Conflict Management Strategies. Anthony Nyong, Ph.D. Centre for Environmental Resources and Hazards Research Department of Geography and Planning Faculty of Environmental Sciences University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria.

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drought and conflict in the west african sahel developing conflict management strategies

Drought and Conflict in the West African Sahel: Developing Conflict Management Strategies

Anthony Nyong, Ph.D.

Centre for Environmental Resources and Hazards Research

Department of Geography and Planning

Faculty of Environmental Sciences

University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria

Invited Discussion Paper

The Environmental Change and Security Program

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Washington, D.C.

October 18, 2005

Centre for Environmental Resources and Hazards Research,

University of Jos, Nigeria

plan of presentation
  • Introduction: Droughts in the Sahel
  • Drought and Conflicts in the West African Sahel
  • Conceptual Models of Conflict Management
  • Case Study of Northern Nigeria
    • Study area and background
    • Study methodology
    • Results
  • Lessons Learned
  • Policy Implications and Conclusion
the sahel

Agro-climatic Zones in the Sahel.

Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/oo4

The Sahel
  • Sahel – Arabic meaning “Shore”. A transition between the southern margin of the Sahara desert and the savanna regions to the south.
  • A bio-climatic zone of mainly annual grasses with a few shrubs and trees, that receives a mean annual rainfall of between 150 and 600mm
  • A steep gradient of decreasing rainfall from south to north, with an increase in inter-annual and spatial variability.
  • A zone of cultural transition where the Islamic culture from the north mingles with the traditional cultures of the south.
  • North-south stratification of social systems, northerly cultures tend towards pastoralism, southerly cultures largely practice sedentary agriculture.

Rainfall in the Sahel

A comparison of the 10-day rainfall distribution and the cumulative rainfall for 2002 with the long term average (1960-90) for various zones within the Sahel

droughts in the sahel 1
Droughts in the Sahel (1)
  • Regular seasonal pattern of the monsoonal systems that bring rain, with a wet season spread over 2-5 months. Spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall over the wet season is irregular and highly unpredictable: coefficient of variations of 20-30% or more (Hulme, 2001).
  • Considerable rainfall variability on both interannual and decadal timescales throughout the twentieth century, while palaeo-environmental and historical data also indicate significant rainfall variability on centennial and millennial scales (Brooks, 2004).
  • The short wet season results in the area supporting lower biomass content compared to arid lands with comparable total annual rainfall.
  • What is most distinctive about the Sahel, is the intensity and multi-year persistence of drought conditions. Mean rainfall, for example, decreased by 25–40% between 1931–1960 and 1968–1997 and since 1970 nearly every year has been anomalously dry (Nicholson, 2000; Hulme, 2001).
  • This has resulted in significant socio-economic challenges and has attracted diverse international interest groups emphasizing the need to understand the complex causes of desiccation (Nicholson, 2000; Batterbury and Warren, 2001; Foley et al., 2003).
droughts in the sahel 2
Droughts in the Sahel (2)

One early theory on drought was that land-use pressure led to desertification. However currently there is stronger consensus that desertification might not be responsible for the persistent drought (Nicholson, 2000; Xue and Fennessy, 2002).

The droughts of the 1970s and 1980s were blamed on the systematic abuse of the Sahelian environment by its inhabitants. Land degradation resulting from overgrazing, unsustainable use of fuel wood, and other “inappropriate” land use practices was seen as the driving force behind a progressive regional desertification associated with the southward expansion of the Sahara (e.g. Lamprey, 1975; Charney et alv

drought in the sahel 3
Drought in the Sahel (3)
  • Recently, there has been a regional trend towards increasing rainfall, and remote sensing studies indicate an increase in vegetation cover in much of the Sahel.
  • The Sahel thus provides us with examples of both recent climate change, complex interacting drivers of change and of cases of coping and adaptation to change.
  • The 1950s and 1960s, for example, were characterised by high rainfall, and saw an expansion of farming into previously marginal areas that proved unviable for agriculture in the longer term. This expansion of agriculture also served to push nomadic populations into historically more marginal areas, making both farmers and herders more vulnerable to drought and increasing the likelihood of conflict between these groups (Thébaud and Batterby, 2001).
  • By the early 1970s, rainfall had declined dramatically, and severe droughts in 1972-73 and 1983-84 were associated with widespread human mortality, loss of animal stocks, and the destruction of livelihoods, particularly in the pastoral sector. Drought was one of a number of factors that led to conflict between mobile and sedentary populations in some Sahelian countries (Keita, 1994).
drought in the sahel the future
Drought in the Sahel – The Future
  • The climatic future of the Sahel remains uncertain. While some studies predict increased droughts, others suggest wetter conditions in parts of the Sahel, and an expansion of vegetation into the Sahara (Brovkin, 2002; Claussen et al., 2003; Maynard et al., 2002, Hoerling et al., 2005).
  • Nonetheless, rainfall remains highly variable, and drought and associated food insecurity is still a major problem in many areas (FAO, 2005).
drought and conflict in the sahel 1
Drought and Conflict in the Sahel (1)
  • Droughts and conflicts interact in the Sahel to exacerbate vulnerability and human insecurity in the region.
  • Vulnerability in the Sahel is not caused by climate variability or climate change alone. Social, economic, and political factors act together to cause vulnerability. In the zone, it is the rural and marginalized poor that are most affected by drought, as they have the least resources to adapt to drought. Within this group are the traditional farmers, pastoralists, and agro-pastoralists, who are the traditional food producers.
  • Human security - the ability to reduce or eliminate the vulnerability to social, economic, environmental, and cultural threats that undermine sustainable development of communities.
  • Drought – recurrent feature in the region with climate models predicting more dryness. Adverse effect on agriculture and livelihood systems, generating competition for scarce resources.
  • Competition for scarce resources leads to inter-group and intra-group conflict.
drought and conflict in the sahel 2
Drought and Conflict in the Sahel (2)
  • Managing climate-related conflicts should be pursued within the general framework of reducing the vulnerability to climate change through sustainable development.
  • It’s not all about implementing options, but also on the availability of resources to create enabling environment for implementing the options.
  • Poverty and limited technical capacity have been identified as major impediments to reducing vulnerability to climate change in Africa.
  • Knowledge, not financial capital, is key to sustainable social and economic development. Building on local knowledge is the first step to building adaptive capacity.
conceptual models of conflict management
Conceptual Models of Conflict Management
  • Strong link between natural resource management and conflict. Shortages of natural resources lead to competition could result in conflict. Fighting and insecurity may prevent appropriate management of natural resources and reduce their production, thereby worsening shortages and intensifying competition and conflict.
  • The causal pathway between resource scarcity and the occurrence of conflict is often traced without stressing the community capacity to absorb or manage such conflicts.
  • Drought-related conflicts have occurred for centuries in the West African Sahel and indigenous management strategies have been developed to manage them.
  • Efficacy of traditional African institutions in conflict management in the past, are well noted.
  • Recent failure of traditional institutions and the escalation of conflicts are attributed to the juxtaposition of the "modern" or "western" tenure regimes with traditional regimes.
  • However conflict is managed, the results of this management could help to reduce or escalate further conflicts.
state directed model
State-directed Model
  • Comprises formal institutions that make up the state, functioning to ensure the compliance of the population with the existing arrays of regulations and programmes within the broad framework of state hegemony over the community.
  • Often based on foreign laws and procedures and fails to recognize the inherent partnership between the state and the local community.
  • Relies on the formal apparatus of the state and seen by local communities as a coercive means of social order.
  • Many local communities are sceptical both of the legitimate functions of the state and of its capacity to ensure security and social justice.
  • One’s ability to receive justice in this system depends on a person’s socioeconomic status and political power as well as the technical requirements of the law.
  • It is adversarial, often creating enmity.
local community model
Local Community Model
  • The skepticism and the weakness of formal institutions of justice administration in rural communities, has led to a renewed interest in the local community models of conflict resolution.
  • Not a function of a specialized institution or agency; embedded in the nature of the community and can be identified by its network, organizing themes, activities, structures and cultures.
  • Takes into account the self-organizing capabilities of people at the local level, so as to identify their capacities, strategies and resources and thereby strengthen local control of resources, community network, public safety and self-governance.
  • Varies among communities, but one common thread is that people have deeply rooted cultural commitments, and in many of the conflicts in Africa this cultural heritage plays a decisive role.
  • It is reconciliatory. Priority is to restore relationships as family ties and community networking are respected, maintained and strengthened.
case study from northern nigeria
Case Study from Northern Nigeria
  • The almost inexhaustible literature on drought in the mostly francophone countries of West Africa contrast sharply with the near absence of works treating drought-hit Nigeria as a whole.
  • The population at risk in the drought zone of Nigeria equals or exceeds the total population of the member countries of the CILSS.
  • Considering the sheer size and population of Nigeria (about 50% of West Africa, and close to 20% of Africa), solving Nigeria’s problems largely contributes to solving the continent’s problems.
  • Major Losses from Droughts in Northern Nigeria
    • 1968 – 1974
      • About 300,000 animals (13% of livestock population in North Eastern Nigeria) perished
      • Agricultural yields fell to about 40% of normal yields
      • Population at risk were about 14 million
    • 1983 – 1984
      • About 5 million metric tonnes of grains lost
      • About 120,000 Animals
      • Other losses resulting from conflicts, severe constraints on biological productivity, and forced migrations.
the study area 1
The Study Area (1)
  • Study limited to Sahelian and Sudano-Sahelian zones of northern Nigeria, Lat 10 to 13N.
  • Strong climatic variations and fluctuations with a highly irregular rainfall.
  • Steep gradient of decreasing rainfall from south to north, totals ranging from 150 mm in the northern fringes to about 800 mm in the south.
  • The rains fall during a short single wet season that lasts for about 3 – 4 months.
  • Annual rainfall levels have been decreasing in the region over the course of this century, with an increase in inter-annual and spatial variability.
  • Area characterised by 6 major droughts this century: 1913-1914, 1931-1932, 1942-1943, 1972-1973, 1983-1984, 1990

A Dry River Bed

the study area 2
The Study Area (2)
  • A high population growth (about 3.1 %) and a rapid rate of urbanization (about about 7 %).
  • Main cash crops are cotton and groundnut. Farmers are predominantly smallholders using traditional farming systems, which mix food crops and cash crops on the same farming unit. The rearing of livestock is a very important aspect of life.
  • The southward movement of the isohyets has resulted in the southward migration of pastoralists into lands formerly occupied by sedentary farmers.
  • Major indigenous ethnic groups include the Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Shuwa, Burbur, Gerewa, and Ningawa.
  • Environmental degradation caused by successive years of poor rainfall and recurrent droughts is exacerbated by combined effects of natural population growth and in-migration from resource-poorer countries, destroying complementarity between agriculture and livestock.
  • With growing population, more land is being cultivated and less land available for pasture and traditional land use systems that relied on mobility, control over access to resources and social regulations have broken down.
research methods
Research Methods
  • Reconnaissance Survey
    • Familiarization with study area
    • Identification of study sites
    • Identification of livelihood systems
  • Data Collection
    • Questionnaire survey
    • Focus group discussion
Self-assessed vulnerability

Statistical assessment of vulnerability

  • Determinants
    • Acreage under cultivation
    • Crop yield
    • Dependency ratio
    • Livestock ownership
    • Gender of household head
    • Livelihood diversification
    • Annual cash income
    • Drought preparedness
    • Educational background of the household head
    • Land tenure situation
    • Self-sufficiency in food production
    • Family and social networks
    • Quality of household

Lower Values indicate higher vulnerability

pattern of conflicts
Pattern of Conflicts
  • Conflicts over natural resources
    • Family/household conflicts
    • Inter-group conflicts between different livelihood and ethnic groups
    • Intra-group conflicts between different socio-economic groups within an ethnic group
    • Conflicts between the state and people
    • Inter-regional and international conflicts between the north and other regions within Nigeria and between neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Self-reported conflicts

  • Multiple exposure
  • Seasonal pattern
causes of conflicts

Losses from conflicts

Causes of conflicts
  • Subjective levels of perceived losses across livelihood groups
  • The pastoralists primarily rely on their livestock for protein supply, money and social security. To lose them, therefore, is to lose everything.
  • Farmers have higher perceived loss as they cannot migrate as the herders do.
  • Conflict over resources often translates into conflict over territories
  • Inter-group cleavages
  • Occurs over public space
indigenous institutions 2
Indigenous Institutions (2)
  • Indigenous institutions are often organized on the basis of traditional roles and systems of authority, and legitimized in such structures as family, chieftaincy hierarchy, village council, and native or indigenous court systems.
  • They possess a framework of ideas, guiding principles, and institutional foundation that can serve as entry points in the search for local options and broad-based conflict management initiatives.
  • Factors that constrain the efficacy of these indigenous institutions include the difficulty of altering entrenched attitudes, and the rapid and continuing loss of indigenous belief systems and practices through the imposition of western culture and norms, undermined authority of and respect for indigenous institutions, increasing pressure on existing resources.
  • Although indigenous institutions have suffered and continue to suffer some erosion, this does not necessarily render them outdated. Cultures advance on the basis of new experiences.
  • Thus, far from being anachronisms in today's world, indigenous institutions have much to offer contemporary policy makers searching for a bottom-up approach to conflict resolution and management.
guiding principles timing
Guiding Principles: Timing
  • Timing: guarantees resource use for competing users at such times that reflect the demand and time of need. It
    • guarantees accessibility to a resource for everyone’s needs, demonstrating a form of equity in access.
    • enables the resource to recover from previous exploitation during times of scarcity.
    • further mitigates conflict by preventing contact among competing users in the resource sites.
  • Calls for the need to strengthen the controlling processes and networks rather than discipline individuals.
  • Timing principle builds into cultural and production relations the protection of group survival interests.
  • Reconciles group differences in the allotment of user time by regulating competition over scarce resources
guiding principles risk aversion
Guiding Principles: Risk Aversion.
  • Works on the principle of ‘minimax’, minimizing risks and maximizing advantages.
  • For farmers, drought is an unpredictable phenomenon and the outcome consists of the loss of crops and an uncertain future. The encroachment of herds on farmland may result in the loss of crops, but it may also raise the possibility of demanding monetary compensation from the pastoralists.
  • Consequently, pastoralists are often willing to pay for the crops destroyed during encroachments, particularly during droughts when their herds might otherwise have suffered in the absence of encroachment.
  • Further reducing the potential for conflict is the customary practice that the offending party usually first self-reports himself and the incident to the village head for mediation and settlement.
  • While the process of self-reporting and of imputing values to lost crops and herds is cumbersome, it shows how the economy is implicated in conflict management. The moral economy entails a correspondence between the “safety-first principle” and the “subsistence ethic” in the rural society (Watts, 1983).
risk aversion 2
Risk Aversion (2).
  • Risk aversion principle performs three functions in sustaining the social order in local communities at times of conflict.
    • a deterrent and a control mechanism by imposing responsibility on the parties in conflict.
    • is a just mechanism as it reconciles the interests of the parties and enmeshes the regulation into the network of relationships among contending groups. In this way, it balances the interests of both individual and public good.
    • it reduces the potential for violence, since there is certainty for compensation, which may go both ways.
  • Effective risk reduction and loss management such as these enable farmers and pastoralists to maintain their conventional consumption levels and assets even in drought years.
  • Overall, it makes possible a contextual restorative justice by healing wounds through compensation and making the offender take responsibility, thereby building a reliable network of relationships.
lessons learned
Lessons Learned
  • Conflict resolution should pay more attention to the object of the conflict – the scarce resource, much more than on the actors.
  • Analyzing the nature of a region’s resources, the pressures upon them and the range of possible resource management interventions, could minimize the competition and even help to resolve the resultant conflicts.
  • Conflicts often degenerate into wars that exacerbate insecurity, which may prevent appropriate management of natural resources and reduce their production, thereby increasing scarcity and reducing access to those resources. This in turn creates further competition and conflicts.
  • Economic/Livelihood diversification could reduce demand for particular resources and so reduce competition and the potential for conflict.
  • The ethnic diversity of the area creates both a a potential for conflict as well as serve as an asset in developing effective natural resource management interventions.
policy implications and conclusion
Policy Implications and Conclusion
  • A need to address problems of human security in the region, particularly as it pertains to reducing and managing conflicts caused by scarcity of natural resources, to achieve MDGs.
  • Integrate human security into local development strategies
    • identify the risks faced by the community and the most vulnerable groups.
    • study the strategies adopted by the vulnerable in coping with risks, including the strategies adopted to manage drought-related conflicts.
  • Conflict management has not experienced difficulties because of technical problems, or a lack of know-how, but because of a lack of institutional capacity to manage them.
  • Need to learn from and strengthen traditional institutions to effectively manage conflicts.
  • Enhancing social development in areas like the western Sahel, a key component in the fostering of capacity of populations to adapt to climate change, consequently depends on the resolution and outcomes of existing conflict and the ability of communities to mitigate the potential for future ones.
  • The key to successful management of drought-related conflicts arising from resource use in the Sahel is to mainstream community-based strategies and institutions into national and regional development policies.
  • These conflict-resolution strategies should not be seen in isolation but as part of a broader strategy to cope with climate change and enhance adaptive capacity. Traditional institutions in northern Nigeria have been efficient in managing conflicts in the past. It is therefore important that the factors that have eroded this efficiency be identified and removed.
  • A best practice in enhancing conflict-resolution in the region would combine traditional institutions, strategy and knowledge with western knowledge, rather than seeing them as different and independent from one another.
  • If an effective and a sustainable system of managing conflicts is not developed for the Sahel, it will not only reduce the capacity of residents of the region to adapt to future climate change, but make it difficult for the region to achieve the MDGs of reducing poverty by half by the year 2015.