Addressing the root causes of farmer-herder conflicts in Chad

  • By David Traynor, Concern Worldwide and Anne Radday, Feinstein International Center, Tufts University
  • 16/04/2018

Photo courtesy of Gwenaelle Luc.


In eastern Chad, pastoralists face many challenges to maintain their livelihoods, notably conflict with farmers, livestock diseases, degradation of pasture and lack of water.

Concern Worldwide and the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University conducted research into how to better meet the needs of pastoralist communities for resilience interventions.

The study gave us a clearer understanding of pastoralist dynamics in the area and suggested key actions to better ensure that pastoralist and agro-pastoral communities are appropriately targeted along with the sedentary populations Concern works with more regularly.

One of the study’s main findings relates to conflict between agro-pastoral and pastoral communities and farmers.

There are strong traditional conflict resolution mechanisms to react to conflict incidents. However, to date traditional leadership structures, local state services and NGOs largely have not been able to analyse the conflict dynamics to develop and implement measures to prevent conflicts.

Concern prioritised this issue because conflict between pastoralists and farmers is a big threat to the sustainability of these livelihoods. Pastoralists’ mobility is disrupted by farmland encroaching on their migration routes. Farmers’ production is disrupted by livestock damaging their crops. There are frequent tensions around the use of water points between both communities.

To begin to develop measures of conflict prevention and management, all those involved must be able to assess its root causes.

Concern organised a two-day workshop on conflict analysis to help stakeholders learn to assess the root causes of conflicts in September 2017, just before pastoralists’ migration south toward the post-rainy season pasture and water. Concern borrowed and adapted simple participatory rapid assessment (PRA) tools for conflict analyses that Christian Aid developed for northern Kenya.

The Sultan of Dar Sila facilitated the workshop, and is particularly keen to collaborate with Concern on this effort because he does not believe that the politico-economic approach that the administration is currently taking will be effective. Rather he believes that these conflicts must be resolved with socio-cultural and historical understanding.

Workshop participants included traditional chiefs, local authorities, NGOs, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) and other U.N. agencies, as well as representatives of the federations of livestock breeders and of farmers.

During the workshop, randomly mixed groups discussed the following:

  • Profile of the area: Groups started by discussing the context where they live and work to understand the region’s agricultural and pastoralist systems; what communities need to sustain pastoral and agricultural livelihoods; and locations of conflict incidents. To do this, they:
    • Mapped the area, including main conflict sites
    • Created seasonal calendars describing rainy and dry seasons; agricultural production periods; and migration periods
    • Described economic profiles of pastoralists (such herds sizes and livestock products sold) and farmers (such as types of agriculture they practice)
  • Actors in the area and their roles in the conflict: The groups then identified the types of communities and ethnic groups, leaders, authorities, organisations and institutions and their roles and influence in conflicts. They then mapped out the power structures and relationships between actors. This helped participants understand who the conflicting groups are, who has the potential to influence the outcomes of conflicts, and how each of the actors can play a role in conflict reduction and resolution.
  • Conflict causes: The groups then analysed the conflict causes with techniques such as problem trees (a tool to help find solutions by mapping out the cause and effect around an issue). They identified root causes of conflict and their impact, and mapped the causes’ location.

Through this process, the groups were able to:

  • Suggest potential conflict reduction measures
  • Identify who could play a role in implementing these actions
  • Determine feasible actions based on resources

 Most recommendations focused on developing infrastructures for farmers and pastoralists, such as water points, livestock corridors and livestock parking points. Participants noted that while their livelihood activities can impede each other, it was in their interest to work together.

The president of the Livestock Breeders Federation of Dar Sila noted that “I have never had these meetings before with farmers and livestock herders together to discuss problems…This workshop has opened a spirit of reflection in me to the possibility of having mixed committees resolve our problems.”

After the workshop, participants committed to conducting similar exercises within their organisations or communities. In May Concern will host a follow-up workshop to review the results of participants’ work with their communities and determine the next steps in mitigating the root causes of the farmer-herder conflicts in this area.

Anne Radday is the research programme manager at the Feinstein International Center, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of Tufts University.

David Traynor is the former food, income and markets programme manager for Concern Worldwide in Chad and is now the programme quality coordinator for Concern Worldwide in South Sudan.

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