event 10 мая 2022

The Frexus project // A response to resource conflict in the Sahel region

This article highlights the Frexus project’s ambition to improve security and climate resilience within the Sahel region through the use of a global early warning tool and local analysis tool developed through the Frexus project along with the Water Peace and Security Partnership.

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Improving security and climate resilience in a fragile context

The Sahel region has experienced a deterioration of its security situation over the last decade with a steep rise in armed conflict through the presence of rebel groups and terrorist activities. At the same time, reduced access to natural resources plays a major role in tensions between communities. The Sahel has been declared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as being one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change worldwide. With a rapidly growing population, currently estimated at more than 150 million inhabitants, whose revenues depend mainly on agriculture and livestock, Sahelian countries face growing pressures on water, land and energy resources, exacerbated by climate change and leading to competition and conflict between different user groups.

Project overview and development

The Frexus project, currently operating in Niger, Mali and Chad aims to work towards a peaceful resolution of social tensions and conflicts in fragile areas between population groups which are caused or exacerbated by the negative effects of climate change. The project works towards a more conflict- and climate-resilient management of land, natural resources and ecosystems in the targeted communities at local, national and transboundary levels. The integrated Nexus approach adopts inter-sectoral management of water, land and energy resources to mitigate negative effects between these sectors and their respective user groups, promote climate resilience and sustainable resource management. As such, the Frexus project aims to enable authorities and communities in fragile areas facing the consequences of climate change impacts to address these issues in a peaceful, cooperative and integrated manner. The project is co-financed by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ. The core objective sets out to develop peaceful resolution of social tensions and conflicts between population groups that are caused or exacerbated by climate change in fragile areas i.e.: the three aforementioned states within the Sahel region. The project works closely with the sector ministries of the three countries, as well as with its regional partners, the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission. Beginning in January 2019 (with the completion date set in June 2023), the Frexus project has been sectioned into three core phases: diagnostic, action plan development and implementation.

In order to facilitate the implementation of the Frexus project, local climate risk assessment studies as well as systemic conflict analyses have been conducted within the intervention zones to help identify how climate change risks impact human security and natural resources and the related existing and potential conflicts.

Conflict analysis in Dosso, Niger

In addition to this, analytical tools have been developed in cooperation with the Water Peace and Security Partnership (WPSP) to assess the links between natural resources, climate change impacts and conflicts. The first being the global analytical tool, used for predicting emerging conflicts on a 12-month scale. The second being the local analytical tool - still in the development stage - for assessing the links between resource scarcity, governance, climate change impacts and the onset and escalation of conflicts. It is co-developed with local stakeholders to help tailor the tool to the local situation. It will be tested locally and applied in the intervention areas. Special attention will be paid to the most vulnerable populations (women and youth). The local tool aims to integrate the climate risk assessment and conflict analysis studies to establish a local resolution of natural resources management. The following section highlights the ongoing development of the local analytical tool within a pilot area.

Peace building in the Sahel - The case of Dosso, Niger

The Dosso region of Niger has been identified as one of three pilot project areas as it is subject to high conflict over natural resources and access to pastoral land. The study, coordinated by Abdou Boko Boubakar (Technical advisor to the Frexus project in Niger), set out to understand the key factors and dynamics of conflicts in the region and determine possible peace drivers as a form of conflict-mitigation.

Methodological approach

To ensure the validity of the results, the study adopted a three-step methodological approach. The first being a series of interviews and focus groups of identified key actors of the conflicts at a local, regional and national level to exclude the possibility of ‘invisible parties’. Secondly, examining the local realities and hardships. Lastly, presenting the findings through a validation workshop to highlight any concerns, gather feedback from various stakeholders and establish recommendations.

The national level (Niamey) saw the inclusion of Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s), as well as traditional and administrative authorities. The regional level (Dosso) also saw the participation of CSO’s, traditional and administrative authorities with the inclusion of technical ministries (Agriculture, Water, Environment). The local level (Farrey & Karrel) sought to include individual actors (farmers, pastors, youth and women organisations).

Regional and local level findings

At the regional level, a causal loop of conflicts has identified the inadequate management of pastoral areas by traditional authorities as the Central Factor of Conflict (CFC). Multiple sub-factors have been found to exacerbate the CFC, namely a lack of sustainable mechanisms for resource use, the inadequate implementation of the public management of natural resources, a non-compliance of land allocation and use, inadequate and insufficient pastoral infrastructure network, and lastly a perceived inequality of access to natural resources leading to competition between user groups.

Regional Causal Loop – Dosso, Niger

At the local level, within the Farrey pastoral area, the main source of conflict emerges between farmers and breeders, seeing pastoral land being occupied by farmers hindering breeders. The CFC has been identified as local farmers aiming to maintain their relative dominant societal position. The CFC is exacerbated by an insufficient protection of pastoral areas, a low acceptance of land legislation and regulations by traditional authorities and questioning the vocations of pastoral spaces recognised by the regional legal framework (Schéma d’Aménagement Foncier, SAF). Within the Karrel pastoral area, the source of conflict stems from a lack of pastoral infrastructure (hydraulic infrastructure in particular) identified as the CFC. The latter is exacerbated by the pastoral infrastructure of the farms being damaged by livestock.

Solutions identified within the Karrel Pastoral Area

Key peace drivers and peace building actors have been identified to mitigate the negative impacts stemming from the lack of pastoral infrastructure. Upon sharing the results of the conflict analysis with the various stakeholders a series of recommendations were voiced to strengthen the resolution process. Namely, the establishment of an ad-hoc committee, a deeper analysis of all actors and their level of implication and finally the preservation of the inclusive and participatory nature of the dialogue between the conflict actors.

Peaceful resolution of conflict in the Karrel Pastoral Area
Peaceful resolution of conflict in the Karrel Pastoral Area

The interconnectivity of compound climate fragility and conflict risk

As the Frexus project moves out of the diagnostic phase and into the action plan development phase (and implementation) over the next 18 months, the aforementioned solutions will guide the development of locally tailored action plans to best serve the local communities within the Farrey and Karrel pastoral areas of Niger. A series of workshops will be conducted in each intervention area to finalise the respective local tools so as to establish mitigation strategies in a participatory manner with all concerned stakeholders in the Dosso region to improve the security and mitigate ongoing conflicts surrounding the natural resources available.

Although it is widely accepted that climate change increases the risk of conflict, the complex and context-based nature of the problem makes it impossible to adopt a ‘one-size fits all’ solution. As such, the Frexus project aims to tackle the negative effects of climate change on a context-specific basis. Adapting the local analytical tool to specific cases, communities and conflicts will ensure a tailored assessment of the root-cause of conflict. In the long term, such tools and approach may be transferred to other countries and or regions beyond that of the pilot areas, where conflict is worsened by climate change to provide sustainable development opportunities. Integrated and intersectoral resource planning and management can provide people, communities, regions and countries with the means to mitigate current potential negative impacts of resources use by one group or sector on another while facing the challenges of climate change.

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Cecilia Vey

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