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
Luca Ferrini, Nexus Regional Dialogus Programme Niger Basin