With climate change impacting the route and calendars of nomadic herders throughout Western and Central Africa, imposing upon all stakeholders the need to ensure peaceful cohabitation between all groups and reduce the risk of violence and forced displacement due to competition over access natural sources, IOM aims to continue to support, at the local level, its Member States to develop early alert mechanisms and to reinforce local conflict mitigation strategies to pre-empt the risk of conflicts associated with herds movements, and, at the regional level, ECOWAS, its Member States, the Regional Herders Network and its national members, promoting multilateralism by ensuring that ECOWAS remains the forum where international transhumance is managed in a harmonized way.
Insecurity and climate variability have forced shifts in the seasonal migratory routes of transhumant movements throughout West and Central Africa. The past years have seen an escalation of clashes between mobile transhumant and sedentary herder and farming communities over access to natural resources necessitating collective action to pre-empt and mitigate the risk of persistent loss of life and livelihoods across Ghana, Togo, Niger, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali; leading to a hardened stance by coastal countries who opt to close their borders.
These policy decisions, however, have not halted the passage of transhumant herds through the coastal countries but made these movements more opaque, while unilateral decisions from affected countries jeopardize a coherent and integrated approach.
Recognizing these dynamics, multiple intra-regional bodies have convened focused policy-level discussions to formulate cohesive regional strategies to prevent further risk of tensions in their states, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), accompanied by the largest regional herders’ network, the Billital Maroobé Network (Réseau Billital Maroobé in French – RBM), who meet on a regular basis to take stock of the latest transhumance campaigns, grouped along the three primary transhumance corridors that cross from the North to the South in the West and Central Africa region.
Two core gaps have been highlighted as a result of these cyclical high-level consultations. ECOWAS Member States both emphasized the region’s lack of unified understanding of transhumant movements, their numbers and routes, and noted the direct impact this has on their ability to make sound policy decisions, as well as stressing the need for localised conflict mitigation approaches to successfully address these recurrent conflicts.
Source: International Organization for Migration