A Livestock Corridor To Promote Peace

Peace_and_dev_meetingMeeting of Peace and Development Council. (Photo credit: UNDP)

For centuries, pastoralists have migrated with their livestock in search of grazing land along well-trod migratory corridors in Blue Nile state. With the expansion of mechanized farming and increased livestock densities, as well as variable rainfall and recurrent drought, competition over scarce land and water resources intensified over time.

“If left unchecked, this situation could have ended up like the conflict in Darfur”, affirms Adam Abaker Ismail, who is the General Secretary of the Peace Council and former Minister for Agriculture.

When South Sudan became Africa’s newest nation in 2011, the borders closed, further reducing the land available to pastoralists. With both pastoralist and farming communities reliant on access to land for their survival, mounting tensions often boiled over into conflict. Farming crops were damaged as pastoralists were forced to graze livestock on farm land, reducing the crop yields and ultimately, the food security of farming communities. Police routinely received reports of crop damage or conflict between farmers and pastoralists, with members of the Native Administration called upon to mediate the disputes. Whilst a short-term solution was often forged, problems frequently re-surfaced.

Supported by the UN, the Blue Nile Peace Council and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources undertook a livestock corridor demarcation and compensation process that led to the freeing up 109 km of livestock corridor.

“We are very happy about this work because it means the animals will no longer enter our land and we can grow crops safely without fear of damage by animals” said Ibrahim Shaga, who is a farmer living in Agadi West, Blue Nile state, who readily gave up a portion of his land in favour of the corridor.

These efforts, together with the provision of water points and a community school, have resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of police cases of conflict between farmers and pastoralists. According to the Blue Nile Peace Council, 37 police cases were reported in the harvest season ending in March 2014, compared to around 400-500 in the previous season (source: police records). Key informants also confirmed that there has been a significant improvement in relations between farmers and pastoralists in the area.

“Between July 2012 and July 2013, there were around 20-30 deaths related to farmer-pastoralist conflict, and since the demarcation started, there have been no reports of deaths”, said Adam Abaker Ismail.

Abdulrahman Hassan, the head of the Pastoralists Union declared that “no farmer can come and say someone has destroyed his crop”, adding that “the pastoralists now have enough land without the need to graze their livestock on farmers’ land”.