Finding Answers to Rangelands Conflicts

Peter Ken Otieno, Technical Coordinator, Rangelands Initiative Africa-RECONCILE and Angela Nyanchama, Policy Research & Advocacy Officer at RECONCILE

In 2018, pastoral conflicts claimed more lives in Africa than terrorism according to the African Union. The ILC Rangelands Initiative in Africa commissioned studies that examines little tweaks that can bring change.

Shadrack Omondi, Executive Director of Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE) says rangelands are unique landscapes that need urgent protection. Climate and other environmental shocks are putting unprecedented pressure on the continent’s rangelands. As a result, battles between cattle keepers and farmers over land and water are increasingly common in Africa.

To find lasting dispute resolution policies to end rangeland conflicts, ILC’s Rangelands Initiative commissioned three studies on rangeland disputes in Eastern, Western and Central Africa in 2018.

On December 13 2018, the Initiative organised a knowledge sharing session, where reports from the three studies were presented in a regional stakeholders conference at the Nairobi Safari Club in Kenya.

The Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), RECONCILE and the European Union through the Participatory Rangelands Management Project supported the exchange. It brought together over 58 participants representing governments, grassroots network, international organisations, civil society actors and private practitioners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tanzania and Niger to discuss and validate the findings of the studies.

The studies found that land legislations across target regions do not properly address rangeland issues. “National policies and laws make references to rangelands but do not fully address rangeland issues,” says Ken Otieno, Africa Rangelands Initiative Coordinator.

Central Africa

Dr. Blasius Azuhnwi, the Researcher who examined Central Africa, visited Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Central Africa Republic. He finds that Nigeria and Central Africa Republic hatched schemes to ground pastoralists in one restricted areas but failed. Laws protecting pastoralists also exists in target countries, but governments are not implementing them. He blames “laws inspired from colonial legal systems, which nationalised land,” he says. His study recommend states to put in place robust legal frameworks “to palliate the inconsistencies, incompatibilities of land tenure laws.” He believes a strong legal system can contribute to the on-going centralisation of the administrations and would enable a great harmonisation of statutory and customary tenure systems.

Eastern Africa

In Eastern Africa, governments engaged in reforms and projects to address rangeland issues, but their policy schemes, which initiated grounding pastoralists in a specific geographical area recorded limited success. Charles Otieno Konyango is the National Land Commissioner in Kenya. He led the study for Eastern Africa. He says Eastern African governments need to make the process of securing rangelands inclusive. “Enhancing the resilience of drylands’ biodiversity and its people requires a combination of transformational interventions and action from all sectors.” Actors, that he believes could form a rangeland observatory to “push the formulation and implementation of legislation to safeguard rangeland,” he says.

Western Africa

The Western Africa study focused on Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal. Boubacar Soumare, the Land Expert who conducted the study for Western Africa found that construction of social agreements is an innovation that is helping securing pastoral spaces. The involvement of local communities in the design and application of pastoral land security models helps to stimulate a structural dynamic of ownership and sustainability of new approaches tested by farmers’ organisations and their partners. “The communal project management of pastoral development can serve as a lever to guarantee the maintenance of infrastructure,” says Boubacar Soumare.

Way Forward

At the end of the meeting, the delegates validated the process undertaken by the Rangelands Initiative Africa of commissioning the studies. A major consensus with the conference was the need for a rangelands policy or strategy to help coordinate and secure rangelands and its resources. The studies are being finalised and would be used to engage sub regional economic communities and other integrated bodies in Africa.