The impact of environmental and political influences on pastoral conflicts in Southern Ethiopia

The impact of environmental and political influences on pastoral conflicts in Southern Ethiopia

Conflicts in African Horn’s pastures: climate deterioration plus factors that exacerbate scarcity

This paper attempts to understand the relationship between environmental and climatic factors on the one hand, and the conflict dynamics in the African Horn on the other hand. The paper recognises aspects like global climatic change and local political dynamics, which intensify the competition for scarce water and pasture, the degradation of natural resources and violent conflict.

The document finds that:

  • the emergence and expansion of private ranches inhibit a crucial coping strategy of pastoralists - mobility
  • ethnic federalism disrupts another coping strategy - reciprocal grazing arrangements.

Additionally, the author finds the culture of cattle raiding involves different members of society and has become more deadly owing to the proliferation of small arms in the region.

To tackle the problem, the document makes the following recommendations:

  • policy makers need to take into consideration the long-term consequences of political actions such as leasing land to investors and demarcating borders
  • new actors wishing to utilise local resources should closely consider their impact on local dynamics and try to minimise the detrimental impact
  • attempts should be made to share resources with local communities, and those should be involved in the initial stages of new developments in order to develop trust and mutual respect
  • further research on the impact that new market agents have on coping strategies of local communities is important for policy makers
  • attempts to reduce cattle raiding need to start with the role of the elders.

The report concludes that deterioration in the climate and environment alone does not lead to conflict, as local populations have learned to adapt to their environments. It is when it is coupled with other social, political and economic factors that exacerbate scarcity that conflicts become more likely.