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The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa
The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
What Data Says About Herder-Farmer Violence in Nigeria
What Data Says About Herder-Farmer Violence in Nigeria
Report 215 / Africa

The Security Challenges of Pastoralism in Central Africa

Sensible, inclusive regulation of pastoralism that has mitigated tension in parts of the Sahel should be extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflicts have worsened with the southward expansion of pastoralism.

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Executive Summary

The southward seasonal migration of pastoralists with their cattle is a source of friction that has long been ignored in Central Africa. In the last few years, conflicts between pastoralists and local communities have intensified because of a combination of factors: worsening security; climate change, which drives herdsmen further south; the multiplication of migration roads, especially transnational routes; the expansion of cultivated areas and an increase in cattle herds, which have deepened the competition for natural resources. Though security challenges related to pastoralism are not equally serious in the three countries examined in this report (Chad, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo), governments should take them seriously and promote a regulation of transhumance that includes all relevant actors.

Pastoralism generates wealth and economic interdependence between farmers and cattle herders in some African countries, but it also causes tension and conflicts. Most of these result from competition for vital resources such as water or pasture­lands. In Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and north-east Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the conflicts appear to be especially complex, mainly because pastoral ecosystems go beyond national borders and transhumance creates new settlement fronts.

Transnational livestock migrations, particularly by Chadian herdsmen to CAR, have led to clashes between pastoralists and the local population. Even before the start of the CAR crisis in late 2012, violence had taken an alarming turn: after Chadian pastoralists looted their villages, several thousand CAR inhabitants fled their home and sought refuge in internally displaced camps in the country’s north. Weak bilateral cooperation between Chad and CAR on transhumance has contributed to an increase in violence, a change in cattle migration roads, and the emergence of new groups of pastoralists and livestock farmers with different motives and more weapons.

In Orientale Province, in DRC, the recent migration of Peul Mbororo herdsmen from several Central African countries has led to an often tense coexistence with the local population and the Congolese authorities. The latter have at times cracked down on pastoralists, at others started to accept their presence – a moratorium on expulsions was implemented in 2012. But the government has not provided an adequate and effective response to problems caused by the recent settlement of pastoralists in Orientale Province. It should consider their temporary regularisation, which would likely bring economic benefits to the province, in particular through the development of cattle farming in low-populated areas.

Some Sahel countries such as Niger or Chad have received support from donors to regulate pastoralism and have tried to mitigate conflicts. For their part, the CAR and DRC do not regulate transhumance and are unable to deal with increasing violence between communities. Moreover, other priorities top their security agenda. But while national authorities, located hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from the rural areas affected, ignore frequent violence related to pastoralism, local populations, which are the main victims, cannot afford to do so. Deep-rooted issues can degenerate into intercommunal conflicts, and constitute a major factor in the confrontation between the Fulanis and anti-balaka militias in CAR.

The CAR and DRC should regulate the movement of pastoralists by considering some of the measures implemented in Chad. Chadian authorities, together with international partners such as the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Union (EU), undertook to secure cattle migration roads, amend the pastoral code and reinforce the cattle farming sector. The CAR and DRC should also take steps to improve peaceful coexistence between the Fulani community and the Congolese population, including by promoting a transhumance charter between the populations of Chad and the CAR.

The Congolese government, which intends to boost the agricultural sector, could carry out these measures immediately. In the CAR, implementation depends on the current crisis ending and tension between N’Djamena and Bangui calming. But discussing transhumance under the supervision of the regional organisation in charge of pastoralism before the cattle migration starts this year could be an opportunity to normalise relations between both countries and tackle a dangerous problem.

Video / Africa

What Data Says About Herder-Farmer Violence in Nigeria

In this video, Crisis Group Future of Conflict Fellow Ulrich Eberle discusses the importance of data in understanding climate change and conflict. Africa is especially vulnerable to climate change, as millions are already experiencing record heat, extreme precipitation and rising sea levels. Increasingly, the security implications of changing weather patterns are visible in deadly land resource disputes between farmers and herders across the continent – including in the continent’s most populous country, Nigeria.

Crisis Group's Nigeria Senior Adviser, Nnamdi Obasi, explains the Nigerian government's actions to address the issue. In 2019, Nigerian authorities launched a ten-year National Livestock Transformation Plan to curtail the movement of cattle, boost livestock production and quell the country’s lethal herder-farmer conflict. The new Plan represents Nigeria’s most comprehensive strategy yet to encourage pastoralists to switch to ranching and other sedentary livestock production systems. Modernising the livestock sector is key to resolving the herder-farmer conflict, which threatens Nigeria’s political stability and food security.

View the interactive publication here and read the full report here.

CRISISGROUP