27 Pastoralism, conflict, land and food security in Africa in the face of climate change

The impact of climate change-related extreme weather events and natural resource competition on pastoralist livelihoods in the arid and semi-arid lands of the Sahel and Horn of Africa – exploring links with stability and peace

Organizers: FAO Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, World Bank Group, FAO Strategic Programme on Resilience (SP5), Coalition of Pastoralist Civil Society Organizations (COPACSO), and Réseau Billital Maroobé (RBM).


In arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, increasing livestock numbers and climate change related extreme events contribute to the competition for progressively less accessible and available resources which eventually can lead to violent conflict. Tenure insecurity has been identified as an endogenous determinant of rural conflicts (Pica- Ciamarra et al., 2007), and numerous conflicts have emerged in areas about access to land between different users, especially in pastoralist areas. Recognizing the opportunities and challenges of pastoralism, international investments (e.g. IFAD, World Bank) in pastoralist areas have increased in recent years. Where the presence of the state is fragile, or in case of systematic underinvestment at the countries’ peripheries, a vicious cycle of instability can occur, whereby food insecurity is caused by, and contributes to, recurrent violent conflict and high level on instability. The food security situation can also worsen if livestock prices collapse due to drought, disease outbreaks and climate change and livestock capital becomes rapidly depleted. If the economic incentive to engage in illegal activities is greater than the focus on livestock husbandry activities, the opportunity cost of participating in extremist or radical groups shifts and may be seen as worthwhile.

Key speakers

Moderator: Mr. Gregorio Velasco Gil (FAO Pastoralist Knowledge Hub)

Catalina Quintero - The World Bank

Eric Fermet-Quinet - The World Bank

Dominique Burgeon - Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

Massimo Castiello - Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

Dodo Bouraima - Réseux Bilital Moroobé

Benjamin Mutambukah - Coalition of Pastoralist Civil Society Organisations 

Main themes/issues discussed

  • Resource access and conflict in pastoral areas in arid and semi-arid regions of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa
  • Conflict prevention and mitigation


Summary of key points

Conflict in pastoral areas is caused by a range of interrelated and interdependent factors, such as restrictions on mobility, insecure tenure rights, decreasing access to water and pasture, stress on resources due to climate change, lack of public investment, exclusion from decision-making process, and negative perceptions about pastoralism.

There is general change of perception on pastoralism as being the best suited livelihood in dryland regions because it has the capacity to make the most of the scarce resources found in these harsh environments.

The World Bank has launched large programmes to support pastoralism in Africa. The Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project (PRAPS) programme in West Africa and the Regional Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project (RPLRP) programme in East Africa aim to tackle the most important challenges faced by pastoralists in the region: drought, animal diseases, climate change, conflicts and dwindling access to land and water resources.  The newly launched programme Pastoralism and Stability in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel (PASSHA) project aims to increase conflict sensitivity and include a peace-building component in PRAPS and RPLRP.

FAO supports pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in a wide range of areas to promote food security, resilient livelihoods, pastoral economies and healthy environments. FAO shares knowledge, increases capacities through various country projects and methods such as Pastoral and Agro-pastoral Field Schools.

Key outcomes/take away messages

Understanding mobile pastoralism is crucial to preventing conflict. Mobility is the key factor for pastoral success.

Conflicts in pastoral areas differ to a great extent depending on the region, the causes and involved actors. A detailed conflict and context analysis allows for effective localized interventions.

Conflicts in pastoral areas can be reduced by focusing on holistic development of the livelihood and regions, including a robust network of support services adapted to the mobile livelihoods of pastoralists.

Programmes should be designed to have greater conflict sensitivity.