Africa’s farmer-herder clashes

The Africa Report - - POLITICS - P.S.

HOL­LY­WOOD OWES A DEBT OF GRAT­I­TUDE to herders. It was those cat­tle herders head­ing out to the Amer­i­can west in the 19th and early 20th cen­turies that gave plot lines to the movie moguls. It might be the time for Africa’s fast-grow­ing film in­dus­try to up­date ‘the Western’ for a global and 21st-cen­tury au­di­ence. It could at least help a new gen­er­a­tion to un­der­stand the herders and what is driv­ing their mi­gra­tion. The African Union says there are more than 280 mil­lion pas­toral­ists in Africa. Clashes be­tween farm­ers and herders stretch across the Sa­he­lian belt to in­clude Mau­ri­ta­nia, Sene­gal, Mali, Niger, Burk­ina Faso, Ghana, Nige­ria, and Kenya, Ethiopia, Su­dan and So­ma­lia to the east. Weak land man­age­ment and a lack of ini­tia­tives to fight and adapt to cli­mate change have al­lowed dis­putes over land and water to es­ca­late into com­mu­nal and re­li­gious-fu­elled clashes. In the US, a set of laws over graz­ing rights helped to bring the Range Wars to an end. Across Africa, the pol­i­tics are far more com­plex be­cause of the cul­tural, eth­nic and re­li­gious di­ver­sity of the com­mu­ni­ties in­volved. And, most of all, the cli­mate changes that have caused droughts and de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion are more dev­as­tat­ing than any­thing faced by the US herders. As Africa’s herders move in search of grass­lands, the old mech­a­nisms for en­sur­ing peace­ful co­ex­is­tence are fall­ing apart. Al­though the best sys­tems of dis­pute res­o­lu­tion are lo­cal, cen­tral gov­ern­ments and busi­ness al­lies need to in­vest in water sup­plies and feed­stock pro­duc­tion as tra­di­tional pas­tures be­come un­sus­tain­able. That means na­tional and re­gional pol­icy co­or­di­na­tion of a kind that re­mains all too rare.

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