Mali Bouwéré Village. Farmer tends to cattle.

Credit: P. Casier / CGIAR . Mali Bouwéré Village.

February 2011 - In the village of Karbaye in the Niger River Delta, a dispute between a farmer community and a herder community over a pond needed by both groups led to violence.  More than 15 people were injured and three were killed.  Although the region has supported a variety of livelihoods, droughts and insufficient rainfall are spurring competition between herders and farmers over rights to water for cattle versus rights to water for crops. In many ways, conflict in the Delta is emblematic of a larger problem.

Today, approximately 42 percent of land use conflicts in the country are between herders and farmers, usually stemming from disputes over rights to land and water resources. The heightened tensions have accompanied rising water insecurity caused by higher temperatures, shorter drought cycles, and less predictable rainfall. Loss of soil fertility and population growth has also contributed to natural resource conflicts in Mali.

Traditionally, farmers and herders maintained mutually beneficial relationships. They traded or sold manure, crops, milk and other goods and found ways to share water, pasture and other natural resources. As available arable land has become scarcer, however, farmers fear that over-grazing will ruin their fields.  Further, an expansion of land under cultivation has reduced available pasture, narrowed corridors for passage by cattle and blocked herds’ access to water sources.

As Mali’s population grows and climate variability adds to strains on land, water, and other natural resources, a number of measures could minimize tensions between farmers and herders:

  • Forums that promote farmer-herder dialogue about rules governing access to and control over land and water resources.
  • Formal agreements backed by customary or government authorities, and clear roles for dispute regulation actors.
  • A stronger role for traditional authorities to coordinate livestock movement and to protect livestock corridors from expanding cultivation.
  • Community training in techniques to measure and monitor damages from cattle intrusion on cultivated fields.
  • Soil and water conservation measures to alleviate land pressures and other drivers of farmer-herder conflict.



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