MARGINALIZATION OF TRADITIONAL SYSTEMS
One of the most destructively persistent historical legacies
of Africa's past has been the subversion and destruction of indigenous coping
strategies due to foreign military, political, administrative and economic interference.
Colonial dispossession of the richest traditional pastoral and agricultural lands
from Africans, and the commodotization of agriculture production for export purposes,
marked two of the most far-reaching colonial interventions which have significantly
contributed to Africa's current state of vulnerability. The loss of pasturage
and farmland to colonial settlement/private ownership, and insecure land tenure
for the native population, have further undermined traditional coping strategies.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, in particular, indigenous Africans were confined
to marginal, and increasingly degraded and unproductive, lands due to the impacts
of settler agriculture, colonialism and subsequent changes in traditional land
tenure which exacerbated negative environmental change after independence. In
Ethiopia, for example, foreign resource conservation measures introduced by the
government between 1971 and 1985 not only eroded indigenous processes of resource
conservation, but also led to soil erosion and impact on crop production (Singh
HIV/AIDS leads to labour shortages, decreased productivity, reduced income
and an increasing number of dependents. In turn, traditional farming methods
are often lost together with, inter-generational knowledge, and specialized
skills, practices and customs.
CIVIL STRIFE AND ARMED CONFLICT
A total of 26 armed conflicts erupted in Africa between 1963 and 1998, affecting
474 million people in Africa, or 61 per cent of the population. Some 79 per
cent of people were affected in Eastern Africa; 73 per cent in Central Africa;
64 per cent in Western Africa; 51 per cent in Northern Africa; and 29 per cent
in Southern Africa (ECA 2001). Another impact of armed conflict is the creation
of refugees. In 2001 in Central Africa and the Horn of Africa, for example,
a total of about 9.6 million people were either refugees or internally displaced
as a result of armed conflict (US Committee for Refugees 2001). Refugee settlements
often result in environmental degradation which, in turn, increase human vulnerability,
limiting livelihood options and exposing the refugees to health risks.
Environmental change due to environmental stress has an indirect impact on
the outbreak of conflict. Environmental stress-including deforestation, land
degradation and scarce supply of freshwater-alone, and in combination with high
population density, increases the risk of low-level conflict.
Armed conflict over resources can also spill over national borders. In 1977-78,
deforestation and soil degradation, in conjunction with rapid population growth,
forced Somali pastoralists to migrate to Ethiopia, resulting in conflict between
the two countries (Molvoer 1991). Overgrazing induced widespread deforestation
and desertification in Somalia, prompting the large migrations of Somali pastoralists
into Ethiopian territory. The migrations brought the Somali pastoralists face
to face with local Ethiopians who were dependent on the same resources. The
bitter competition between these groups fuelled cross-border tensions which
eventually found an outlet in armed conflict between the two nations.
Conflicts in the region are partly attributed to disputes over environmental
resources. For example, Liberia/Sierra Leone/Guinea conflicts are partly attributed
to contest over the resources of the Manor River basin. The DRC/Rwanda conflicts,
the Sudanese conflict, and tribal conflicts and wars in many African countries
are attributed, in part, to contest over natural resources. Environmental problems
which are exacerbated by civil strife, armed conflicts and wars are threatening
the survival of large numbers of people in the Africa region, and these problems
are becoming increasingly serious. The types of environmentally related conflicts
- Simple scarcity conflicts which may arise over three major types of resources:
river water, fish and agriculturally productive land. These renewable resources
are likely to spark conflict because they are rapidly becoming scarce in some
regions, they are essential for human survival and they can be physically
seized or controlled.
- Group identity conflicts, which are likely to arise from the large-scale
movements of populations brought about by environmental change, for instance,
the earlier Ethiopia/Somalia example.
The situation described above is vividly illustrated by a case study on natural
resources scarcity and conflicts, summarized in the Box 3.10.
|Box 3.10 Natural resources scarcity and conflicts
The semi-arid land of northern Uganda is usually referred to as
Karamoja. It is home to pastoralists called karimojong,made up of
several tribes which depend on livestock for food, payment of bride
price and other cash needs.
Karamoja is characterized by low/unreliable rainfall. Scarcity
of water for human and animal needs, and inadequate pasture for
grazing, results in overstocking of livestock in the area in relation
to the carrying capacity of the limited pasture. The groundwater
resources on which the population depend has been reducing because
the water table in the area has been falling since 1960, as a result
of the effects of drought and other aspects of environmental degradation.
Also, the rate of livestock loss is high, due to the effects of
drought and disease. Furthermore, about 50 per cent of Karamoja
is a protected biodiversity conservation area, where the government
prohibits any human activities.
The explosive situation described above has led to internal armed
conflicts and cattle raiding between the different tribes, and also
to external armed conflicts with people from neighbouring countries
with the same resource scarcity problems.
|Source: Y.Moyini, Natural Resources Scarcity and Conflicts:
Case of Northern Uganda (unpublished 2002)
The analysis of the relationship between environmental change (especially that
which leads to scarcity), violent conflict and security has highlighted both
positive and negative social effects (Matthew 2000). The negative social effects
of environmental change include:
- Decreased agricultural production and productivity, which may arise as
a result of the effects of deforestation, as well as of the degrading and
decreasing of available agricultural land.
- Depressing economic performance as a result of environmental degradation,
leading to further impoverishment in the affected countries.
- Population displacement, compelling people to migrate in search of livelihood
- Intensifying group identity tensions, forcing people onto marginal lands
and promoting resource capture by social subgroups-all of which may generate
diffuse and persistent misery, frustration and resentment.
- Rendering individuals and groups increasingly vulnerable to natural and
- Disruption of legitimized and authoritative institutions and social relations.
Continues on next page