Main content area

Environmental Change and Farmer-Herder Conflict in Agro-Pastoral West Africa

Brottem, Leif V.
Human ecology 2016 v.44 no.5 pp. 547-563
climate, ecology, farmers, land cover, livelihood, livestock, politics, Western Africa
The debate concerning resource conflict, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has become a polarized “dialogue of the deaf” between modelers who argue for a robust relationship between climate anomalies and conflict and scholars who are skeptical of this assertion. Most skeptical scholars, arguing for the primary importance of economic and political factors, have largely eschewed quantitative engagement with the biophysical dimensions of resource conflicts. This article takes a step towards reconciling these seemingly disparate but compatible viewpoints by using a political ecology framework together with empirical measurements of the environmental changes—rainfall, land cover, and fire—that play key roles in the increasingly intense competition between smallholder farmers and semi-nomadic livestock herders. An original contribution of this article is its use of geographic scale to identify relationships between these environmental changes, agro-pastoral livelihood adaptations and resource tenure arrangements that may be contributing to more local resource conflicts.