Greenwar: Environment and conflict

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UK: Panos Institute

The book is written by residents of the Sahel; it gives personal experiences of conflict within the Sahel, holding that environmental deterioration is a contributing factor to increased conflict. Ecological interdependence is indisputable, and problems over resource allocation cannot be solved by states in isolation. There has been a gradual drying process over the last 4000 years, and there have been several severe droughts in the twentieth century. These are not socially uniform, but have the effect of exacerbating differences between groups; the effects of drought and ecological degradation, the falling biological productivity reinforce each other in adding to conflict. In many areas mutually accommodating relationships between pastoralists and farmers have been strained by the lack of resources which leads to livestock wandering onto cultivated land. Symbiotic relationships which used to exist between nomads and settled farmers are further eroded by government intervention. In Senegal the government decreed in 1964 that the land should belong to those who input it to profitable use, which was taken to mean farmers rather than pastoralists. Relationships between settled farmers and pastoralists rarely result in large numbers of deaths, but are the cause of continual casualties and a feeling of insecurity. This gives rise to permanent and involuntary migration; in Ethiopia the government resettled 600 000 people to relieve the pressure of their land, but it is questionable whether such use of force is the best means of problem-solving. War contributes to the ecological problems causing more political upheaval; the use of land mines means that farmers are afraid to farm their land and so move to another area. The war was considered to be the most important feature of land degradation in Eritrea after and during the fighting. Conflict over resources has always been part of life in the Sahel, but the intensity and the desperation have reached new levels. There is a need for governments and international agencies to learn from the mistakes of the past; National sovereignty has been discussed by the World Bank as it is insufficient to cope with the complexity of ecological damage. Greater participation at the local level is needed, particularly as regards the distribution of resources, but this involves a commitment to processes of democratization.

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Conflict, Government, Democratization, Resources, Mines, Role of government, International agencies, World Bank, Ecosystem Governance