Authority and conflict in management of natural resources: A story about trees and immigrants in southern Burkina Faso

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Forest, Trees and People Programme


Social dynamics of local interest groups, especially those that concern land tenure issues, can significantly impact implementation of community projects. This newsletter provides a case study of a particular conflict simmering between Nuni and Mossi inhabitants of Burkina Faso concerning access and rights to land that quickly reached its boiling point upon execution of a community forest project. Before implementation of the project by a local NGO, tensions between the two groups were growing. The Mossi, an immigrant group, outnumbered the indigenous population, the Nuni, and continually called into question the Mossi right to land (given out by a specific Nuni village chief. Land reform in 1985, in which all land become owned by the State (thus undermining local chief power), further exacerbated the issue. Among these groups, planting trees is seen as a significant commitment to the land and as a symbol of ownership. In August 1992, members from both groups were to plant a community forest plot as a joint effort. The Mossi were in favor of having autonomous land rights; therefore, they desired to separate their plots of trees from the Nunis. Nunis, however, wanted to plant them side by side as a symbol of cooperation as well as to reinforce traditional land tenure agreements. After the groups nearly engaged in physical fighting, Mossi decided to plant at a different location, separate from the Nuni plot. Prior investigation and mediation completed by the local NGO may have dissolved some of the tension and combativeness, highlighting the importance of knowledge of local social structures.


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Traditional tenure systems, Natural resource management, Land tenure, Community forests, Burkina Faso, Resource conflict, Nuni, Mossi, Governance


The Forest, Trees, and People Newsletter No. 25