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Pastoralism platform promotes peace in conflict-prone Central African Republic

Multi-stakeholder platform discusses how to reduce conflict


12/09/2016 -

Promoting dialogue, fostering partnerships and finding solutions for the challenges that pastoralists are facing: these are the goals of the Pastoralism and Transhumance Platform, a multi-stakeholder initiative launched in March 2015 by the government of the Central African Republic.

At its second meeting in Bangui in June 2016, the platform brought together government institutions, NGOs, pastoralist networks, security forces including the UN’s peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA), the French military intervention (Operation SANGARIS) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). FAO is helping to convene the platform.

Collapse of peaceful co-existence

The security situation in the Central Africa Republic was complex even before the rebellion that began in 2012. Various armed groups operate in the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced. Communities have deliberately been destabilized in order to create unrest elsewhere. In 2014 pastoralist communities were forced out of the entire eastern part of the country.

The peaceful coexistence between farming and pastoralist communities has collapsed. Ties to foreign pastoralist groups who enter the country in search of pasture have been disrupted.

Pastoralist groups report numerous difficulties. They face violence from armed groups, livestock theft, bush fires, disrupted markets, arbitrary taxes and blocked access to water points and migratory routes due to the expansion of farmland.

Traditionally, farming and pastoralist groups have exchanged live animals and grain for their mutual benefit. Conflict has disrupted this trade and increased poverty and food insecurity.

Natural pastures cover between 30 to 40 percent of the national territory. It is estimated that the country has 3.8 million cattle and 3.5 million goats. Some 90% of the livestock belong to Fulani groups.

Stakeholders welcome conflict resolution initiatives

The Pastoralism and Transhumance Platform brings together local and international organizations, civil society, security forces and government officials from various ministries that are responsible for animal production, rural development, environment, internal affairs, communication, finance and defence. 

At the platform’s first meeting, in November 2015, the participants made 15 recommendations. These include to increase the exchange of information on pastoral migratory routes, promote dialogue with neighbouring countries and strengthen the capacities of livestock services and NGOs.

The second meeting, in June 2016, discussed vaccination campaigns and ways to resolve conflicts. It made recommendations on amending the law on pastoralism.

The participants think the best way to mediate conflicts and increase social cohesion is by setting up local committees, supporting youth and women through small projects and micro-credit, and establishing slaughterhouses to create markets and meet the demand for meat.

Local committees bring together the leaders of different groups, including community and religious leaders, elders, militia heads, UN representatives and police commanders. The representatives openly discuss conflicting issues. Dialogue is an important first step to resolve conflicts.

The UN’s peacekeeping mission assured their support to provide security for the platform’s activities. Improving security will help rehabilitate infrastructure, restore state authority and improve livestock markets.

Vaccination campaigns with peace-building component

“The platform is a promising approach”, says Vincent Briac, a FAO livestock officer who attended the first two meetings. “All groups share the common interest of keeping their animals healthy. The risk of losing livestock to diseases is greater that than the risk of armed conflict. This is our entry point to bring groups together who would never meet under normal circumstances.” He recommends establishing similar initiatives in other countries where similar herder-farmer conflicts occur.

Together with local partners including the National Federation of Central African Pastoralists (FNEC) and the National Agency for Livestock Development (ANDE), FAO launched a vaccination campaign against two major diseases, peste des petits ruminants and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, at the end of the last year. The campaign included a peace building and social cohesion component.

Local committees were established to discuss the vaccination campaign. Leaders of the different groups were also given the opportunity to talk about conflict-related issues such as carrying weapons in villages.

Starting in September 2016, the next animal-health interventions will follow a similar approach and will focus on strengthening the capacities of public and private veterinary services. A third meeting of the platform is in planning.

Similar platforms will be launched in other countries in the new World Bank project “Pastoralism and Stability in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa (PASSHA)” by the Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel.

Such platforms can help understand the nature of a conflict and bring together the key actors. This said, most conflicts are complex and require a detailed analysis of involved parties, conflict causes and dynamics. Interventions differ and must be adapted to the respective circumstances. 

 

Pastoralism and Transhumance Platform of the Central African Republic

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