Mali conflict ups pressure on climate-stressed herders

Source(s): Thomson Reuters Foundation, trust.org

By Soumaila T. Diarra

Bamako – The recent conflict in northern Mali, where the situation remains volatile, has left many livestock herders in fear of losing millions of cattle, sheep and goats at a time when they were already struggling to find enough pasture for their animals due to drought.

Since the spring of 2012, violence between Islamist groups who grabbed much of the north from Tuareg nomads, and the army, supported by foreign troops for the past two months, has disturbed the West African nation’s traditional grazing system, in which herders migrate according to the seasons.

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Climate impacts on fodder

Before conflict interrupted the normal migration pattern of the region’s herders, bourgou pastures were already suffering a lot from drought. The PIDRN report says serial droughts and the negative impacts of climate change over the past two decades have destroyed much of the area’s original bourgou plants. “This has caused disturbance to cattle breeding systems and an important loss of cattle,” it adds.

Since the 1980s, local and international aid groups have worked to restore the natural meadows, hoping to ease the fodder shortages induced by shifting climate patterns. But due to the recent conflict, many have had to leave the region, halting their efforts at least temporarily.

The immediate impact of the conflict and the more gradual effects of climate change pose serious threats to the herders’ livelihoods, but many feel they have been left to cope on their own.

Assistance with fodder and medication, distributed by the government and aid agencies, has reached only a small number of herders, they say.

“No one helped me. I didn’t have any support from the government and nobody told me about the possibility to get help,” said Fulani herdsman Barry.

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