New Faculty Publication Reviews Studies on Conflicts Between Sub-Saharan African Farmers and Herders

Author: Carlos Arenas

Ellis A. Adams, Pulte Core Affiliated Faculty and Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Policy at the Keough School of Global Affairs, is the first author in a recently published peer-reviewed article, “Farmer–herder conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa: drivers, impacts, and resolution and peacebuilding strategies," appearing in Environmental Research Letters, one of the leading open-access journals on the multidisciplinary study of environmental issues. Adams' co-authors include Audrey Thill (University of Notre Dame), Elias Danyi Kuusaana (SD Dombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies, Ghana), and Anna Mittag (University of Notre Dame).

For centuries, farmers and herders in West and Central Africa lived a relatively peaceful coexistence, sharing land and other resources. However, climate change in the last few decades, coupled with ethnic, religious, and identity politics, has led to violent farmer–herder clashes which pose a significant threat to security and stability in the Sahelian and savannah dryland regions.

To understand this phenomenon, Adams et al. 2023 reviewed 53 empirical studies on farmer–herder conflicts in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Mali, Cameroon, Niger, Kenya, Senegal, and Sudan published from 2000 to 2021, focusing holistically on drivers, impacts, and the opportunities of current resolution and peacebuilding strategies to provide a synthesis of the historical and current state of knowledge of these conflicts. The article advances several strands of literature on farmer–herder conflicts, including geography, peace and conflict studies, natural resources and the environment, and African studies.

Adams et al. 2023. found that nonconfrontational and passive conflict management methods and constructive community-based interventions were the most promising methods for addressing farmer–herder conflicts. They emphasize the importance of community-based organizations and local government committees in conflict resolution. However, they also point out that existing literature lacks attention to female farmer informants, as most studies only survey males. The most significant policy lesson from Ellis et al.’s review is that farmer–herder conflicts are complex and multifaceted. No single approach is independently effective, suggesting that a more effective way to address these conflicts should rely on state and non-state actors working in collaboration.

Read the article here

Article's full citation

Adams, E.A., Thill, A., Kuusaana, E.D, and Mittag, A. "Farmer–herder conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa: drivers, impacts, and resolution and peacebuilding strategies," Environmental Research Letters 18:12 (2023):