Disputes over natural resources such as water and land among pastoralist groups and between mobile pastoralists and sedentary farmers have a long history and are turning increasingly violent. Competition over scarce natural resources is often put forward as the key driver of farmer-herder conflicts, disregarding the significant role governance is playing in conflict dynamics. Oversimplifications of the pastoralist-conflict equation and a lack of understanding of pastoralist systems and the way they are governed has led to inappropriate interventions further undermining pastoralism. Policies and interventions in response to pastoralism-related conflicts often do not take an integrated approach but are based on sectoral policies and are not conflict sensitive as they fail to take into account the political economy driving farmer-herder conflicts. Comparing the cases of Burkina Faso, Somalia and South Sudan, this paper analyses how pastoralist resource governance in combination with its specific underlying political economy differentially affects the dynamics of conflict around pastoral resources. Reflecting upon three agendas that inform the thinking about pastoralism as well as donor interventions – climate change, food security and governance – this paper provides some recommendations on how to take underlying political economy into account for sensible and effective programming.
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