Pastoralism – the practice of livestock herding between grazing sites – is a vital economic activity and livelihood for millions of people in many parts of Africa. Yet it is also becoming increasingly enmeshed in violent conflict as a result of climate, environmental and other changes.
Conciliation Resources is conducting research on Promoting peaceful pastoralism. This work seeks to better understand the changes to cross-border pastoral movements in Africa – in particular, as a result of environmental change – and the implications these have for peace and security. The research brings together communities, authorities and civil society groups, as well as peacebuilders, environmental and other experts, to find better ways to prevent and resolve conflict associated with pastoral movement. The research is part of the UK-aid funded Cross-Border Conflict, Evidence, Policy and Trends (XCEPT) research programme.
Working in collaboration with local researchers, and pastoralist and climate experts, we are combining field research with satellite data and analysis, and Geographic Information System mapping. Together, these methods track changes in patterns of pastoralist movement, rainfall, vegetation, urban development and land usage.
The research analyses the factors that draw together pastoralism and conflict, and the findings will help to predict potential locations of future violence, and develop policies and preventive actions to improve relations and reduce tensions. Conciliation Resources’ African peacebuilding programmes and their local partners will use the analysis to inform their strategies and practice, and to advocate for policy reforms.
Changes in land use and environmental degradation linked to climate change have limited available grazing sites and disrupted long-established grazing routes, heightening tensions amongst pastoralist groups, and between pastoralists, sedentary farming communities and business interests. These tensions are exacerbated by the presence of local and transnational armed groups, the flow and availability of arms, and persistent criminality and banditry in lightly-governed rural areas. Many pastoral routes cross international borders, making them more difficult to manage peacefully.
Pastoralists, farming communities, authorities and security forces alike are adapting their livelihoods and strategies in the face of these developments, but often at cross-purposes, prolonging and embedding insecurity.
The focus of the research
Our research is concentrated on the experiences of cross-border pastoralism and conflict in two regions: the states of north-eastern Nigeria bordering Cameroon and Niger in West Africa, and the Karamoja and Turkana regions straddling the border between Uganda and Kenya in East Africa.
Through this work we are investigating the following core questions:
- How and why is cross-border pastoral movement changing in Africa, and how are these changes affecting stability and security?
- How have pastoralists, and traditional, state and regional authorities managed these changes and escalating violence?
- How are women and excluded groups affected by violence linked to pastoral movement, and how can they influence conflict prevention and response strategies?
- How can different policy mechanisms work together to anticipate, prevent and resolve interconnected and cross-border drivers of violence related to pastoralism?
As we move into 2023, field research will be translated into actionable recommendations to influence national and international policymakers in a series of workshops and outreach events. An Accord publication will be published in late 2023, drawing together findings from the field research, and complemented by commissioned expert analysis.
The Cross-Border Conflict Evidence, Policy and Trends (XCEPT) research programme brings together world-leading experts to examine conflict-affected borderlands, how conflicts connect across borders, and the drivers of violent and peaceful behaviour. Funded by UK Aid, XCEPT offers actionable research to inform policies and programmes that support peace.