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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

The Arena of Conflict Management Between Farmers and Herders in the Southwest of Burkina Faso: Obstacles for Empowerment

Maria Brockhaus, Ernst-August Nuppenau

Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Institute of Agricultural Policy and Market Research, Germany


In today's political realities there is a strong tendency for bargaining and negotiation policies. An inclusion of organisations and organised interests has taken place not only in western political decision making processes but also in more traditional societies. In times of political, economic and social transformation in West Africa conflicts of interests over natural resources, particularly between ‘farmers' and ‘herders', are common problems and of growing concern. Instruments like decentralisation and land tenure reform may empower actors and actor groups to support successful conflict management. But the question for ‘who empowers whom and how' arises immediately. Therefore, an analysis of frame conditions, institutional arrangements and actors' roles and networks is necessary.
Between 2001 and 2003 a study on conflict management was undertaken in the Southwest of Burkina Faso. 124 households and the local authorities in six villages participated in semi-structured interviews and group discussions. Also representatives of the regional and national meso- and macro level were interviewed to identify their involvement in and perception of conflict management.
Beside the ‘farmers' and ‘herders' different actors in the arena of conflict management could be identified: local authorities (mediators); administration (local/regional as mediator, national as frame condition donor); ‘politicians', influencing decision making processes at local as well as at national level; development projects and NGOs, supporting negotiation processes. Local-level solutions for management problems are preferred and capacity building due to its impact in sustainable and equitable land use planning and resource management has been seen as a prerequisite. Although the actor groups pointed out their own potentials to serve e.g. as catalyst for negotiation processes, the ties between them, if they exist, are dominated by information gaps, hierarchical influence and distrust. Numerous obstacles for the fulfilment of theirs or other's roles were listed: actor's lack of means and abilities, state's unwillingness to share power with the civil society, and the feared abuse of power by powerful individuals for the realisation of their personal stakes.
It seems that empowerment has to be seen not only as a question of who, whom and how, but also as a question of control of power relations.

Keywords: Arena, Burkina Faso, conflicts, conflict management, decentralisation, empowerment

Contact Address: Maria Brockhaus, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Institute of Agricultural Policy and Market Research, Senckenbergstraße 3, 35390 Gießen, Germany, e-mail: maria.brockhaus@agrar.uni-giessen.de

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