Reduced water resources are becoming an imminent cause of conflict in the regions of the world hardest hit by climate change. The East African country of Tanzania is grappling with clashes between farmers and herders, who have often killed each other in the hunt for grazing land and shrinking water resources.
In the midst of rising population growth and the worsening effects of climate change, the country’s natural resources have come under increasing strain, which has put enormous pressure on land, forests and water sources.
From Arusha in the north to Kilindi in the east and to Iringa in the south, deadly clashes have erupted at an unabated pace as armed rival groups are fighting for the declining water resources.
The changing weather patterns experienced in East Africa have made it more difficult to find water in many parts of the country, forcing herders to drive hundreds of their animals to roam freely on farmland, even encroaching on wildlife reserves in their desperate search for animal feed and water. , resulting in conflicts with farmers and violent wildlife.
Last week, six people were killed in the village of Kibirashi in the Kilindi district of the Tanga region, when shepherds armed with machetes, axes, swords and weapons clashed with farmers in a dispute that highlighted a huge struggle for resources.
Simon Sirro, Tanzania’s Inspector General of Police, said 20 people had been arrested and were being questioned in connection with the shocking incident, which had created fear in the community.
“This is a very sad event. It makes me sad to see that people are still taking the law into their own hands. Everyone involved will be hunted down and severely punished in accordance with the law,” Sirro said.
The tragic incident in Kilindi has revived gloomy memories of the worst clash between farmers and herders, in which 38 people were brutally killed by pastoralists with machete in the eastern Kiteto district.
As hostilities between farmers, pastoralists and wildlife continue, observers fear that the long-term survival of iconic plant and animal species, including elephants, is in jeopardy.
Adam Malima, Tanga’s regional commissioner, said the violent encounters between farmers, pastoralists and wildlife had caused losses of human life, property and the general disruption of livelihoods.
“The root cause of this problem is drought. We will try to sit down with both groups to discuss the best way to ease tensions,” Malima told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Poor decision making
But local experts say that resource-based conflicts in the country are driven by ethnic hostility or poor land management that causes economic losses, destruction of livelihoods and threats to food security, health and safety.
Raymond Mwaikenda, an independent land law researcher, said that conflicts over resources are often caused by bad government decisions and actions.
Many opposition groups fighting for water, he argued, have limited awareness and knowledge of governance issues as they are often left out of policy-making.
“When the state allocates real estate to an investor to develop commercial agriculture, it often ignores the interests of the local population,” he noted.
In places where water disputes are widespread, rival groups often lack a land use plan to guide their decisions on how to best use available resources, Mwaikenda said.
“The dispute over water and resources is likely to continue due to widespread corruption and a weak governance system,” he said.
Analysts argue that as the world becomes more populous, violent confrontations between farmers, pastoralists and wildlife are likely to continue, although effective and well-planned approaches can help minimize them.
“To reduce these conflicts, we need to examine relationships and direct interactions between humans and wildlife to improve our coexistence,” Mwaikenda suggested.
According to Mwaikenda, experts need to adopt approaches that identify and address the deeper, underlying causes of conflict, while developing mechanisms and specific solutions involving affected communities.
Yannick Ndoinyo, Head of Traditional Ecosystems Survival Tanzania – a non-governmental organization (NGO) working to empower indigenous peoples and communities to secure, plan, manage and exploit land resources – said that recurring conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are caused by preferential treatment get from the government and negative societal perceptions about pastoralism.
“Pastoralism is generally nomad and a way of life for a people, but the government sees pastoralists as intruders and troublemakers,” he told AA.
As traditional pastures are rapidly declining due to persistent drought, nomadic pastoralists have been forced to walk long distances looking for water and greener pastures in vast wetlands and river valleys, damaging crops in the process.
Although farmers and pastoralists have often clashed in some regions of Tanzania, there seems to be a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel, as rival groups in places like Iringa have put an end to deadly hostility with a deceptively simple solution – to talk to each other. .
In the Pawaga division in the southern highlands, rival groups have formed a loose coalition to even out their differences.
“Farmers and pastoralists agreed to use water resources and feed animals in a way that does not affect each other,” Mwaikenda said.
The Pawaga Division, known for its plains and valleys that had become the epicenter of disputes between pastoralists, farmers and conservationists, is now a beacon of hope as rival groups often meet to vent their frustration and create the way forward, resulting in a significant decline in violent clashes.