Boosting pastoralists’ resilience, key to achieving peace in the Sahel

FAO’s Director-General emphasizes the need to tackle root causes of rural distress in visit to Senegal

25 April 2019, Dakar – The Sahel remains affected by conflict, food insecurity, malnutrition, population displacement, natural disasters and epidemics and unless we address these crises from their roots, millions of people will continue requiring urgent assistance each year, FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva, said today.

“Major investments in rural development and agriculture must be integral to peacebuilding efforts.” he added. The FAO Director-General made the remarks during a visit to Senegal.    

Some 6 million people in the Sahel faced acute hunger last year, around half of whom are pastoralists and agropastoralists, according to the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and the Cadre Harmonisé analyses.

Graziano da Silva noted that building on successful interventions, FAO and the European Union (EU) are boosting their joint efforts to  strengthen food insecurity and resilience analyses, country-level investments in building resilient livelihoods and supporting policy change.

In the framework of the Global Network against Food Crises Partnership Programme, FAO and the EU are implementing a 9-million euro project designed to benefit 140 000 people – many of whom are  vulnerable pastoralists - in the Sahel desert area.

The project aims to contribute to a broader regional approach to strengthen the resilience of transboundary agropastoral communities to food crises in the Sahel in a long-term perspective. In so doing, the aim is also to help achieve stability in several Sahel priority zones as defined by the G5 Sahel,  including Senegal, and between Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger.

Moreover, it aims to develop information networks that will help guide decision-makers and agropastoralists in their choice of investment strategies, economic activities and mobility options. It also aims at strengthening the capacities of government technical services, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations to scale up good pastoral and agropastoral practices that will enhance increased productivity and social cohesion through field schools.

The project is part of the United Nations agency’s  efforts to support sustainable peace, which encompasses activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict as well as moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development. Conflicts involving non-state armed groups, bandits and organized crime networks have caused widespread displacement in the Sahel region and exacerbated the frequency with which farmers and pastoralists clash over how to use resources. Specific patterns and causes of such tensions vary notably across the region, indicating tailored efforts to contain them are needed.

Defusing tensions through improved fodder management

Feed balance sheets, which FAO has piloted in eastern Africa, will be designed to provide adequate data on the availability, use and needs of animal feed across the Sahel region, an area where people and their herds frequently cross national borders. This information can help pre-empt and mitigate the emergence of local conflicts that often pit herders against farmers and will be aligned to the Cadre Harmonisé.

Further initiatives within the framework of the project include setting up 300 agropastoral field schools, promoting inclusive and equitable access to natural resources and inputs as well as access to beneficial cross-border trade opportunities and veterinary services. Local governance institutions that can serve to settle disputes will be fostered, and cash+ social protection programmes offering emergency safety nets will be deployed when appropriate.

Expected outcomes include the restoration of critical water points for traveling herds, land restoration and optimized fodder production techniques.

Photo: ©Benedicte Kurzen/NOOR for FAO
Feeding livestock in rural Senegal.