The Borgou Department is a large administrative area with eight communes and 43 districts spanning over 25,856 square kilometers. The department primarily comprises the Bariba, Dendi, Boo (about 40%) and Fulani ethnic groups (about 33%). The majority of the first three groups are farmers, and the Fulani are primarily nomadic or semi-nomadic cattle and sheepherders.
The Borgou Department in Northern Benin has seen communal conflict over the past few years. There are escalating tensions between farmers and herders, even though there has also been more violence between the supporters of the former president Boni Yayi and those of the sitting President Patrice Talon (particularly in 2019 and 2020).
Communal conflicts between farmers and herders in Borgou have multiple driving forces. This report explores one of these: changing land management systems. It is argued that recent changes in land management are in any event likely to become a stronger driver of tensions in Borgou in the near future.
Exploring land management systems and their impact on the Borgou is relevant for two reasons.
First, there is simply very little literature on changing land management systems in Benin. For example, in August 2017 Benin’s authorities modified the 2013 Land Code to limit land conflicts and to modernize the institutional framework governing land acquisition and management. But exactly what the impact of this change has been has not been fully explored.
Second, Northern Benin has experienced the problem of increasing violent extremist activity. While this activity is concentrated in the Alibori and Atacora regions, it is conceivable that once it has become established it might further escalate, with Borgou being a possible area of expansion. Being able to focus on vulnerabilities with the aim of addressing them is important for Benin’s stability.
Research and media reports point to an increase in both the number and intensity of farmer-herder confrontations in the Borgou Department over the past five years.
From the literature, it is apparent that this shift is driven by two factors. On the one hand, it is the effect of the demographic growth of and the increase in the cattle population which results in more competition for land. On the other hand, the introduction of land reforms by successive governments has tended to reinforce the feeling of insecurity among essentially illiterate farmers and herders.
This report explores this last factor.
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