This report finds that issues of resource competition or socio-political grievances form the core of the problems for pastoralists in Burkina Faso. Pastoralist communities face economic and political marginalisation having either been neglected by the government and international development agencies or suffering from poorly designed interventions. The narrative of pastoralists as a security threat de-links pastoralism-related conflicts from structural trends disrupting pastoral livelihoods and disenfranchising an ever-growing number of pastoralists in Burkina Faso.
While pastoralism is found to be at the heart of the current conflicts, a perspective on the current security crisis that starts from pastoral communities at the margins is underrepresented. This report thus aims to provide an understanding of the causes and drivers fuelling grievances that have pushed Fulani and other pastoralists to join extremist groups or engage in violent acts. It asks: what are these underlying causes and drivers of conflict and what solutions are there for the challenges that Burkinabe pastoralists face? To unpack this relationship, this study addresses three sub-questions:
In order to answer these questions this report draws on data collected between November 2019 and January 2020 as well as in August 2020. Data was collected in a total of 15 municipalities in Burkina Faso’s East, Sahel and Boucle du Mouhon regions.These regions are particularly hit by the spreading violence in the region (see figure 1).
In 15 municipalities access was gained to 19 locations where farmers and pastoralists share resources. A total of 47 focus group discussions and 81 key informant interviews were took place. These focus group discussion and key informant interview were conducted with herders, farmers, traditional authorities and state authorities, persons who operate water points and markets as well as security forces. In Boucle du Mouhou we find mainly Fulani pastoralists, while in the Sahel and East region the actors in the livestock sector are not only Fulani, but also include other ethnic groups. Given this reality, in this research we did not limit our analysis to Fulani communities, but included different groups of pastoralists in our data collection.
Interviews with policy makers, experts, (I)NGOs, the Liptako Gourma Authority and herders’ and farmers’ associations were conducted in Ouagadougou to identify the main policies that are currently being adopted to address resource conflicts and transhumance, their degree of implementation and effects on the livelihoods of and relationships between different pastoral actors.
Finally, detailed market information was gathered at various cattle markets. The goal was to identify the different steps in the value chain and the position of relevant stakeholders in every step. In short, the research adopted a political-economy lens to identify socio-economic and political dynamics that contribute to conflict and to identify opportunities for policy initiatives in at-risk regions of Burkina Faso. Many lessons are more widely applicable to the Sahel (and West Africa).
The report is structured in five sections. The first section describes pastoral-related violence. The second section discusses governance at the local level to understand the pastoral resource governance regime at the national and local level. This section illustrates how inequality between farmers and pastoralists has less to do with formal rights than with the power relations that shape these. Pastoralists’ grievances stem from their unequal capacity to secure access to resources, and the role of customary justice mechanisms in preventing the escalation of resource conflicts.
The third section of the report delves more deeply into pastoralist grievances by looking at the economic structure of pastoral livelihoods and value chains (and how these are affected by the current violence). First, the position of pastoralists in the cattle value chain is discussed showing how market dynamics drive major changes to pastoral livelihoods. Second, the unsustainability of mobility as a coping mechanism is discussed showing that violence further undercuts this key strategy employed by pastoralists to manage vulnerability and uncertainty.
The report concludes with a summary of the findings (section four) and recommendations for donors and international partners (section five) pointing at governance solutions and development initiatives.
The scholarly literature and policy debate on pastoralism and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa are complex with numerous actors and a rich terminology. For the sake of brevity and clarity, this study uses some umbrella terms that we believe best encapsulate the spirit of this study. We recognize, however, that these terms can be used to describe a broad range of practices and peoples.
Pastoralism – a livelihood system whereby more than half of the income is derived from livestock production, characterised by an extensive livestock production system that relies on spatial and temporal mobility to access land and resources. This may include the consistent nomadic movement of livestock over long distances or the practice of moving livestock over short distances or only on a seasonal basis. Pastoralism is an adaptive practice, and the timing and the extent of pastoral mobility can vary across different ecological zones.
Transhumance – Transhumance refers specifically to regular seasonal livestock movements that typically correspond to the region’s rainy and dry seasons.
Pastoralists – This term broadly refers to the people who practise some form of livestock production and to whom this livelihood is constitutive of their identity. To some extent, the profile and ethnic groups of livestock keepers also vary from country to country, and there are also subtle differences related to the type of pastoralism practised. In Burkina Faso, the Fulani have historically been the biggest cattle owners. Today, they still herd about 70 per cent of the total cattle population, but only own about half thereof. Transhumant pastoralism is practiced mainly by the Fulani. Although some of them have settled and practice crop-livestock mixed production systems – or agro-pastoralism – in society they are seen as pastoralists and as such are compared with other groups considered to be farmers. Indeed, agriculture and pastoralism are increasingly being integrated in Burkina Faso, and some farmers now own more livestock than sedentary pastoralists. The distinction between who is and who is not a pastoralist relies more on social representation, property regimes, and practices that are typical of pastoralism and mobility patterns than who owns the cows.
Farmers – Similarly, this term broadly refers to the people who mainly practise agriculture.
Customary/traditional authority – refers to “an institution that derives full or partial legitimacy from the tribal / ethnic / cultural values of a group of people (wherever they are) who share them.” Throughout this report, we will use the terms traditional leaders and customary leaders interchangeably. They are an informal source of governance, as the Constitution of Burkina Faso recognizes traditional leaders as “moral authorities” and “custodians of traditions and customs in [Burkinabè] society.