event 24 mar 2020

Nexus Blog // Can the Water, Energy and Food Nexus approach prevent conflicts in a fragile context?

By Luca Ferrini and Lucia Benavides. This Blog post explores how stability and climate resilience in the Sahel region can be improved through the Water-Energy-Food Nexus.

category Nexus Blog tag Climate tag Climate Change tag Governance tag Peace and conflict globe Africa globe La cuenca del río Níger globe Proyecto Frexus/ Sahel
Niger basin nasa
(C) USGS / Unsplash

The lack of access to water, land and energy resources is a major constraint for sustainable development and can have negative implications on local, national and regional security. In the Sahel region, climate change increases stress and vulnerabilities to both resource scarcity and conflict. This situation calls for the environment and the security communities to cooperate and jointly analyse implications for peace and security.

Niger karte

The lack of access to water, land and energy resources is a major constraint for sustainable development and can have negative implications on local, national and regional security. In the Sahel region, climate change increases stress and vulnerabilities to both resource scarcity and conflict. This situation calls for the environment and the security communities to cooperate and jointly analyse implications for peace and security.

Tensions and Conflicts in the Sahel

In the Sahel region, political instability and general insecurity are increasingly hindering development activities in all sectors, making it more difficult for governments and their development partners to create an environment where populations have access to basic services such as water, energy, food, education and healthcare. The reasons for these unfavourable conditions are manifold.

In many cases, state administrations have difficulties to provide basic services to the population, resulting in, for example, high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Responsibilities at the local level are multiplied within the framework of decentralisation and thus watered down, resulting in a large number of overlapping institutions and committees. Also, the security sector in many Sahelian countries faces several challenges as it is in charge of protecting vast and hostile territories with limited resources. Violent crime including several forms of robbery is generally considered to be on the rise, while unpatrolled border regions are predominantly subject to insecurity as they are suitable for terrorist and criminal groups as hideouts and refuges.

In addition, justice and security institutions face the problem of legal pluralism caused by parallel validity of national and traditional laws. Certain conflicts that have historical reasons, as for example clashes between the pastoralist, nomadic and trader communities in the North and agricultural and fishing communities in the South of the Sahelian band (see section below), have not been solved yet and are deepening by growing resource scarcity, such as fertile land and water scarcity. Another factor is the inequality among different socio-economic and cultural groups, which has grown in recent decades, and has been accelerated by the forces of globalisation. Inequality, along with the definition of national borders that do not always reflect ethnic and traditional dynamics, have promoted an attitude of mistrust or even rejection towards the State.

This complex mix of factors results in great difficulties for a majority of people in the Sahel to maintain and enhance their livelihoods, including the fulfilment of basic needs such as food and water security and the reduction of the risk for forced migration due to violent conflict.

Anderes bild mitte

The access to natural resources and climate change

This already challenging scenario is yet exacerbated by climate change. The Sahel is projected to be one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change (see map below). Changing rain patterns, desertification, deforestation, siltation, reduced wetlands, decreasing water tables and an increase in extreme weather events threaten the livelihoods of millions of people. This triggers migration of the population to more fertile and water-rich areas, potentially fuelling conflicts with host communities who then compete over the limited access to natural resources.

One example are nomadic herders who are already marginalised by the denial of certain rights and the access to pastures and water points. In the context of climate change, the already fragile livelihoods face shorter rainy seasons which forces them to move south earlier in the year in the search for pastures to feed their cattle. This enhances the conflict between farmers and the pastoralists, as the herds feed on cultivated fields that have not yet been harvested (traditionally pastoralists were accepted on agricultural land at the end of the agricultural season, in return for the beneficial fertilising effect of the cattle’s manure) and can lead to the establishment of civil defence forces (also called self-defence groups), particularly in regions with little presence from the security sector, such as police.

Another competition over especially water resources can be observed when looking at the fast development of the mining (uranium, gold and iron) and oil sector. The high amount of water used and the hereby pollution of the resource lead to environmental degradation and the lack of clean water for agricultural purposes and the provision of drinking water.

Nexus based resource-management: a pathway to peace?

Although each case is unique and highly complex, the examples above illustrate that the conflicting interests of different sectors over scarce natural resources often result in conflict when a peaceful allocation of “fair shares” to different users is not possible due to the absence of strong and well-equipped governance structures able to include the different actors and form consensus. In the Sahel region, climate change acts as a risk multiplier. Therefore, the strengthening intersectoral resource planning, resource governance, ecosystem health and climate resilience are likely to make meaningful contributions to peace and stability.

In this context, the GIZ has been commissioned by the European Union and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to implement the project Improving security and climate resilience in a fragile context through the Water-Energy and Food Security Nexus (Frexus). Partner countries are Mali, Niger and Chad.

Ultimately, the project aims to break the vicious circle of resource scarcity and the conflict over resources exacerbated by climate change to transform it into a virtuous cycle of sustainable, climate-resilient and sustainable development with the help of the Nexus approach on a local, national and transboundary level. It is intended to promote cooperation between communities, authorities and international actors from the resource management community and the security sector, to solve problems collaboratively and peacefully, and thus positively influence the livelihoods of local communities. Based on the input of the stakeholders, a tool will be developed to identify Nexus-based activities and implementation roadmaps to counter the challenges and establish climate resilient development opportunities.

Further Information and Contact

, Nexus Regional Dialogus Programme Niger Basin

Contacto

Stephanie Bilgram
Secretará Global del Nexo

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