Tana Forum: Pastoral areas are critical for African development

Competition over scarce resources stemming from the discovery of oil, gas, mineral, iron ore, and the land rush to secure food and commodities in Africa has become the new causes of conflict in pastoral areas in African countries.

This was made known during a Tana Forum session on the launch of an evidence based research book titled “New Fringe Pastoralism: Conflict, Security and Development in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.”

“Major conflicts in African States are mostly concentrated in pastoral areas,” said Professor  Mohamed Salih (Emeritus), co-author of the book from the International Institute of Social Studies, Eramus University Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The book that highlights the causes of conflict and its consequences on development in three African regions (Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes), revealed that conflicts involving pastoral communities has been aggravated by climate change and environmental degradation.

Despite harsh environmental and living conditions, pastoralists contribute between 30 to 38 percent of the gross value of the agricultural commodities for the entire African continent, contributing significantly to a country’s wealth.

Professor Salih told Tana Forum participants that “Pastoral areas are rich, but pastoralists are poor. Though they are rich with resources, they remain poor,” thus, pastoral contributions to national wealth have, however, not reflected in their lifestyle.

Pastoral communities in Africa are plagued with food insecurity, hunger, famine, drought, poverty and land annihilation as a result of urban expansion. Pastoralists live under poor conditions with no access to basic amenities, which have made pastoral communities vulnerable to unlawful activities that are transnational in nature. These activities include human trafficking, drugs, illegal migration and transnational jihadist and religious extremist groups, with serious negative implications not only for their safety but also for the economies of their countries.

Speaking on the state of affairs in these areas, former president of Nigeria and outgoing chairperson of the Tana Forum board Olusegun Obasanjo noted that there is need for contingency solutions to the state of insecurity in these areas, particularly in Nigeria, where the escalating herdsmen crisis continues to claim human lives and properties.

“We have a serious situation that is dividing our nation,” Obasanjo said. “It’s high time we start proffering customized solutions to address pastoral issues in these regions,” as African regions are not all indigenous.

Former President of the Republic of Ghana John Dramani Mahama highlighted the importance of decentralization and infrastructural development in bringing a lasting solution to the state of affairs in African nations.

“The overwhelming level of centralization in African states needs to be addressed as resources are only centered in central areas. There is need to get decentralization right in Africa,” Mahama said.

Making a call to tackle insecurity in conflict inflicted areas, Professor Jerome Gefu, co-author of the book launched said, ” Let’s not think about the cost for conflict resolution, but rather look at the significance of peaceful relations amongst pastoral and non-pastoral communities in our nation, and work towards achieving peace in our countries.”