The Sahel region, which stretches from the Sahara desert in the north to the southern savannahs of Sudan, plays a vital role in fostering peace through mobile pastoralism. According to Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), pastoralism requires improved governance and support to further help reduce the risk of conflicts.
“Increasing conflicts and insecurity in agro-pastoral areas have led to a negative view of cross-border transhumance, despite its significant economic benefits and socio-cultural and environmental importance,” he said. “Transhumant pastoralism is a vital strategy, employed by millions of people across the Sahel to convert scarce and variable natural resources into a sustained source of nutritious food, income and viable livelihoods.”
“In the Sahel, around 50 million people or 72% of the population depend on rearing livestock for their survival and the livestock sector contributes around a quarter of the total gross domestic product of the three countries.”
FAO Director-General António Vitorino, IOM Director-General António Vitorino, UN Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Eric Tiare, Executive Secretary of the G5 Sahel Secretariat, and representatives of the African Union, European Union, World Bank, African Development Bank, and local non-governmental organisations, as well as other UN officers, delivered briefings during a panel focused specifically on mobile pastoralism.
“The G5 Sahel countries have experienced mounting security threats and recurrent food crises in recent years, driving massive humanitarian needs. That has been a primary driver of the nearly tripling of the number of people in a situation of food security crisis or worse in West Africa and the Sahel since 2016, to around 35 million people in 2022, according to the Cadre Harmonisé. After irregular rains in 2021, a very severe lean season for pastoralists is expected this year, with Niger’s cereal production on course to be 38 percent below its five-year average representing a particular cause of concern. Available pasture covers just one to three months of needs, triggering early movements of herds and raising the risk that conflicts with farmers become exacerbated,” the FAO said via a statement.
“Conflict and the climate crisis are adversely affecting mobility,” the FAO Director-General said, noting that mobility allows livestock owners to take advantage of the variety of local ecosystems, adapt to environmental changes and access a wider range of markets. “Increased resilience is critical, and that will require improved public policies to address the multi-dimensional and cross-border challenges in the region.”
Between 2015 and 2020, the frequency of violent attacks in Central Sahel surged by eightfold, resulting in a twenty-fold increase in internally displaced people in the G5 Sahel countries and almost a million refugees fleeing their homelands. Conflict analysis is used by the FAO to assess natural resource conflicts and other rural conflicts, identify conflict prevention and management initiatives, and create ideas to increase the effectiveness of conflict prevention and management mechanisms.
FAO and the IOM have partnered on a project in the Liptako-Gourma region, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger and is under particular strain due to a complex set of factors including dwindling resources, climate variability, demographic pressure, high levels of poverty, disaffection, communal tension, and the absence of state institutions and basic services, all of which are exacerbated by violence related to organized crime and Non-State Affiliation