Environmental Change and Farmer-Herder Conflict in Agro-Pastoral West Africa

Abstract

The debate concerning resource conflict, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has become a polarized “dialogue of the deaf” between modelers who argue for a robust relationship between climate anomalies and conflict and scholars who are skeptical of this assertion. Most skeptical scholars, arguing for the primary importance of economic and political factors, have largely eschewed quantitative engagement with the biophysical dimensions of resource conflicts. This article takes a step towards reconciling these seemingly disparate but compatible viewpoints by using a political ecology framework together with empirical measurements of the environmental changes—rainfall, land cover, and fire—that play key roles in the increasingly intense competition between smallholder farmers and semi-nomadic livestock herders. An original contribution of this article is its use of geographic scale to identify relationships between these environmental changes, agro-pastoral livelihood adaptations and resource tenure arrangements that may be contributing to more local resource conflicts.

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Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank Lassine Ba, Mamadou Diakite, and Ibrahim Sow for able assistance in the field data collection; Matthew Turner, Paul Laris, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on the manuscript; as well as Masrudy Omri for cartographic design. Any errors remain the responsibility of the author.

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Correspondence to Leif V. Brottem.

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Brottem, L.V. Environmental Change and Farmer-Herder Conflict in Agro-Pastoral West Africa. Hum Ecol 44, 547–563 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-016-9846-5

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Keywords

  • Farmer-herder conflict
  • Environmental change
  • Transhumance
  • Resource tenure
  • West Africa
  • Pastoralism