The climate and conflict nexus

How do climate and seasonal changes influence conflict? During the Stockholm World Water week Cordaid’s Sanne Vermeulen presented the case of farmers in South Sudan, a country that ranks highest on the Fragile State Index.

Sanne Vermeulen, Cordaid’s Resilience advocacy expert, presented a case in South Sudan where farmers have their own piece of land to grow their crop and cattle herders travel from place to place, depending on where their cattle can graze.

Climate change’s multiplier effect on conflict

What we see from our practice on the ground”, Vermeulen explains, “is that due to climate change pastoralist migration patterns and crop growing seasons change. This leads to more competition over land and water resources. Because of the changing season pattern, cattle herders migrate earlier into the farming areas. The cattle cause more damage because the crop is still young and has not been harvested yet. That in turn triggers conflict between farmers and herders”, she explained.

climate and conflict

Rainwater harvesting construction, the first of its kind in South Sudan (© Cordaid)

Early warning with horns and bells

Vermeulen was involved in a project introducing an early warning system, mitigating the impact of conflict and allowing farmers to know beforehand when cattle comes, so they can harvest their crops or designate communal land for pastoralists’ cattle to graze. The project also involved local authorities and peace building committees. “Some farming communities use bells, horns and drums to warn others when danger is in sight”, she explains, “like a storm, or a group of rebels on its way to the village, or cattle coming close to fields and crops.”

We hope more organizations will include conflict-climate dimensions to enhance resilience.

Sanne Vermeulen

In some cases agreements were signed between pastoralists, farmers and local authorities. They include compensation measures in case crops are damaged as well as agreements on the timeline of pastoralists migration.

Civil war

‘Despite the ongoing civil war in South Sudan we can keep the early warning system operational”, Vermeulen explained. “But the local involvement is minimal as the peace building committees have other priorities now’, she adds.

Vermeulen hopes that as soon as the conflict settles and the security situation allows for it, work on the project can continue. “Many people have been forced by the militants to leave their homes, so the first thing we must do is re-establish contact”, she says.

Conflict-climate dimensions and resilience

To conclude, Vermeulen stresses the importance of the conflict and climate nexus. “Within Cordaid we are learning more and more on how climate and conflict interconnect. We hope more and more organizations and institutions will include conflict-climate dimensions and community-centered approaches to enhance resilience.”

Our Peace, Our Future

Cordaid has been implementing and supporting programs in Sudan and South Sudan for over two decades. In the Cordaid publication Our Peace, Our Future, we share best practices, lessons learned and recommendations taken from our Cordaid has been implementing and supporting programs in Sudan and South Sudan for over two decades. We have now released a publication, in which we Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction in South Sudan. CMDRR is a process of bringing people together within the same community, or between neighboring communities. This enables them to collectively address a common disaster risk and to collectively pursue common disaster risk reduction measures.

Download the publication.

(This post is based on an article published by the Dutch Water Sector.)

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