A new volume examines climate and ecological changes in Sub-Saharan Africa, and how these relate to conflicts on the continent. Particular attention is paid to environmental and livelihood aspects of the crisis in Darfur. Conclusions are drawn regarding peace-building in areas facing resource constraints. The book includes research conducted in-house at UPEACE Africa in Addis Ababa under a project funded by the Preventive Diplomacy Programme of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also included are twenty-five contributed papers that are based on presentations made at a conference which was organized by the project in Addis Ababa on 20 to 23 July 2009. Environment and Conflict in Africa: Reflections on Darfur Edited by Marcel Leroy, UPEACE Africa Programme, October 2009.
“The case for drought preparedness” examines the vulnerability of Darfur’s towns, IDP camps and cities to years of low rainfall or drought in the context of the conflict and displacement. The rapid growth in Darfur’s towns and cities in the last five years places unprecedented concentrations of demands on Darfur’s low and variable water resources. Where these concentrations of population occur on areas with unfavourable hydrogeology there are risks of water shortages in the event of a year of poor rains. So far the rains during the crisis have been above average but this pattern cannot be relied on to continue. On the basis of hydrogeological analysis and consultation with water stakeholders in Darfur the report sets out a strategy for mitigating the impacts of drought in Darfur. It sets out how the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management could be applied in Darfur to promote improved dialogue and management of water resources as a means of mitigating potential conflict in the event of a dry year. The UNICEF led collaboration between the international community, the Sudanese government organisations and nongovernmental organisations has made considerable achievements in delivering an emergency water and sanitation programme to conflict-affected communities in difficult operating […]
Brendan Bromwich & Margie Buchanan-Smith This report by the UN Environment Programme highlight the impact of displacement and rapid urbanisation on the natural resources of Darfur, specifically on water resources and forestry. The work is driven by the recognition that Darfurians are dependent on natural resources for their basic needs and livelihoods. “Destitution, distortion and deforestation” examines the trade and markets in timber and woodfuel. The report highlights: • How IDPs from one large camp used to be able to access firewood 15 km away. Now they must travel 75 km • Driven by a construction boom, brick production has risen 4 to 5 times pre-conflict levels and uses more than 57,000 trees-worth of firewood per year for firing in brick kilns, much of which is greenwood • There has been a three-fold increase in the number of sawmills since before the conflict. The conflict has led to a distorted process of urbanization, fuelled by massive displacement, and the large and unprecedented presence of the international community as they respond to the humanitarian crisis. Property rather than livestock is now the preferred form of investment for Darfurians with resources. The report concludes that the use of firewood in the brick […]
Darfur has suffered more than most from the international community’s attention deficit disorder. It only commands that attention at times of crisis: the sahel drought of the 1968 to 1970, the Band Aid famine of 1984/5 and the current conflict. As each crisis recedes, important lessons are forgotten and the effort spent learning them is wasted. And every wave of international engagement is framed by a new set of assumptions and preconceptions about politics, society and development: assumptions that are not grounded in any knowledge of Darfur, preconceptions that lack depth and perspective. Making sense of Darfur is about replacing these assumptions with a real understanding of what is needed and, just as important, of what will work and what will not work in the region. More is known about Darfur than most people realise. 1957 saw the start of a 30 year effort to understand the region, an effort that ended in the early 1990s, when the international community withdrew its support from the National Islamic Front regime of Omar El Bashir. Darfur’s only livelihood is farming and work started with surveys of the soils, water resources and vegetation. It quickly extended to innovative efforts to monitor environmental change […]
Posted on behalf of Sarah Barga Alex de Waal makes a compelling argument for the possibility of the underground lake found in the northern part of Darfur as having negative effects. It is easy to look at the situation at arms length, or from the outside and think that the water reserves would have positive impact, but as we look closer at this issue we see that political instability plays a key role in determining what the outcome of the water reserves would be. De Waal presents information that is necessary to consider, especially for those of us who are not as familiar with the current situation. Alex successfully breaks down the situation into parts so that it is less overwhelming to analyze and does not solely argue that water resources will have a negative effect, he also looks into what would need to happen in order for the new found water to positively effect the people of Darfur.
In the Sudanese context of prolonged conflict, mobility of pastoral groups into the transitional areas such as South Kordofan and Blue Nile and the drive for compensation for the dispossession of lands where petroleum is found, rural land is being gradually and consistently transformed from communal use to private possession. The lack of a land tenure system and the absence of cadastral registration exacerbate the problem. The movement towards privatization of land has been one of a slow pace towards commoditization in spite of the prevailing customary norms and traditional practices. Competition over access to shrinking land and natural resources has increasingly become the prime mover of disputes and conflicts in the transitional areas. Land is set to become a scarce commodity due to a combination of rapid population increase and the demands made on land access by oil exploration and commercial farming. Issues such as desertification, land degradation, loss of biological diversity and deforestation will have negative impact on sustained income generation and on Sudan’s future prospects. It follows logically that a review of government policies on land and natural resources is of prime importance to consolidate peace. A comprehensive mapping of land and natural resources in the transitional […]
It goes without saying that Sudanese scholars are the true experts on Darfur’s crisis. The short book edited by Abdel Ghaffar Mohammed Ahmed and Leif Manger, Understanding the Crisis in Darfur: Listening to Sudanese Voices, is an essential resource for those wishing to understand how Sudanese see the conflict and the possible resolution to it.
(posted on behalf of Thomas Homer-Dixon )
What does it mean when we say that one factor is more or less important than another in identifying the causes of social conflict? Thomas Homer-Dixon writes here on causality in complex systems, in response to Alex de Waal’s earlier post Is Climate Change the Culprit for Darfur? and to Declan Butler’s June 28th Nature article Darfur’s climate roots challenged. Thomas Homer-Dixon holds the George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at University College, University of Toronto. […]
The basic rule of water supply in semi-arid lands is that whoever controls the water, controls the people. New water resources provide as many perils as hopes depending on the politics of how the water is controlled. The recent discovery of a vast underground lake in the far north of Darfur has been acclaimed by commentators as a Godsend—a potential solution to Darfur’s war. The lake was discovered by the geologist and specialist in remote sensing, Dr Farouk El-Baz of Boston University, who is confident that, based on similar discoveries of fossil water in other parts of the Sahara, there are vast reserves under the desert. In adjoining Libya, the "Great Man-Made River Project" is irrigating millions of acres of agricultural land and providing water to cities and industry. In Egypt, the Toskha project has pumped water from Lake Nasser (behind the Aswan Dam) to create an oasis akin to a second Nile Valley that could provide land for as many as six million people, resettled from densely-populated parts of the country. Could Darfur’s aquifer provide a similar solution to the region’s poverty and under-development? Could we be more ambitious still and hope that more water can actually help resolve […]
Is climate change the culprit for the disaster in Darfur? The answer is not simple. In this posting I argue that climatic and environmental factors have compelled Darfurians to adapt their livelihoods and migrate southwards. These changes have been going on for centuries, but over the last thirty years, they have occurred at a faster pace and on a larger scale. But depleted natural resources and livelihood transformations cannot on their own account for conflict, let alone armed conflict. The most important culprit for violence in Darfur is government, which not only failed to utilize local and central institutions to address the problems of environmental stress in Darfur, but actually worsened the situation through its militarized, crisis management interventions whenever political disputes have arisen. In turn, violent conflict has worsened Darfur’s ecological crisis. For many reasons, Darfur cannot now be reconstituted the way it was. What’s needed is a new governance of Darfur that takes account of the challenges of the coming century—including the impact of future climate change. In an article published on June 15, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon provocatively identified climate change as an underlying cause of the disaster in Darfur. The UN Environment Programme’s assessment (published […]