Land use conflicts in the Inner Niger Delta of Mali: does climate change play a role?

Land use conflicts in the Inner Niger Delta of Mali: does climate change play a role?

Does climate change drive conflict over land use in Mali?

This study investigates the alleged relationship between climate change and conflicts, using the Inland Delta of the Niger River in Mali as a case study, where this region is an African hotspot area in terms of land use conflicts.

The author emphasises that, despite the clear climate developments in the region throughout the last century, researchers are much less sure about future changes. Moreover, the paper finds that:

  • the region is generally considered highly vulnerable to climatic anomalies due to the strong dependence of its population on rainfed agriculture and livestock
  • in recent years the delta has been marked by numerous and increasing land tenure conflicts, which probably reflects a worsening of environmental conditions and particularly loss of rainfall
  • the statistical analysis does not support the idea of climate variation being a driver of these conflicts
  • indicative evidence point that other factors than environmental conditions drive the temporal variability in land disputes
  • it is suggested that structural political or economic causes are driving these fluctuations
  • weather conditions may have a short term effect on the number of land disputes and/or the number of conflicts taken to the judicial system.

The document concludes that three factors can be seen as the main causes of these conflicts:

  • agricultural encroachment on productive key resources for pastoralism
  • the rehabilitation of a pond blocking a livestock corridor 
  • decentralisation leading to a power vacuum in the area.


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