Farmer-herder conflicts are enduring features of social life in the Sudano-Sahelian zone.
A survey was carried out between August and December 2004 in four sites in Niger,
namely Bokki, Katanga, Sabon Gida and Tountoubé to determine the proximate and
long-term causes of conflict over natural resource use, to evaluate the appropriateness of
existing institutional arrangements for managing conflicts and identify innovative options
and incentives to reduce the incidence and severity of conflicts. The research was
implemented in three phases: (1) collection of village and household level socioeconomic
information, (2) social network mapping, and (3) collection of conflict history
and conflict management strategies. Additionally, governmental and NGO agencies in
Niamey that address conflict management and/or resolution at the regional and national
levels were interviewed. The research employed both quantitative and qualitative survey
instruments. Surveys collected information on: historical micro-geographies of cropping
and herding in the area encompassing village territory; local day-to-day relationships
between transhumance herders, settled herders, and farming households at the study site;
nodes of communication under different types of disagreements and negotiative settings;
documentation of past conflicts and role of government officials, customary authorities
and NGOs in conflict management. Results from this study showed that in all sites,
damage to crops was the first reported cause of conflict between farmers and herders.
Crop damage is not limited to damage to growing crops on the field but also included
unauthorized grazing of crop residues after harvest. Other causes of conflict reported
were access to watering points, expansion of crop fields across corridors for animal
passage and thefts of animal. The ability of rural communities to prevent and manage
conflict is largely based on the strength of networks of communication between herding
and farming interests, respected community leaders, and leaders in neighboring
communities. Overall, the local institutional arrangements are functional and a high
percentage of conflicts are effectively managed at local levels. In all the study sites
except Bokki, there was a high level of involvement of internal mediators.
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