Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mali conflict ups pressure on climate-stressed herders

Soumaila T. Diarra in AlertNet: The recent conflict in northern Mali, where the situation remains volatile, has left many livestock herders in fear of losing millions of cattle, sheep and goats at a time when they were already struggling to find enough pasture for their animals due to drought.

Since the spring of 2012, violence between Islamist groups who grabbed much of the north from Tuareg nomads, and the army, supported by foreign troops for the past two months, has disturbed the West African nation’s traditional grazing system, in which herders migrate according to the seasons.

Cattle-rearing is at risk from the ongoing France-backed operation to flush out the defeated Islamists, now hiding out in the northern mountains, and the aftermath of the insurgency, according to Rene Alfonse, leader of a federation of several herders’ associations.  Malian herders own around 9 million cows and 32 million small animals like sheep and goats, he noted. “About 50 percent of Malian cattle are under threat of being destroyed,” Alfonse said, explaining that the violence has made it harder to access grazing land and vaccinations to stop animals falling sick.

The livestock sector is important for Mali’s economy, providing the third-largest source of exports after gold and cotton, and accounting for 14 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Alfonse said the past 10 months have been tough for Mali’s herders. Some have moved into neighbouring countries, including Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, to escape the fighting….

From 2006, a livestock market in Mali, shot by ILRI, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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