Climate change is putting pressure on Kilosa district in Tanzania, where extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are projected to increase with greater climatic variability. These augment the risk of soil erosion.
Decreasing accessibility to land and water resources in turn, threatens the livelihoods of local farmers, and pastoralists. These dynamics are compounded by changing climatic conditions.
The overall reduction of available resources has exacerbated long-standing conflicts between local communities
At approximately 5 a.m. on 8 December 2000, pastoral Maasai warriors attacked the Rudewa Mbuyuni village in the Kilosa district of Tanzania, killing 38 villagers and wounding even more (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). Kilosa, one of six districts in the Morogoro region of Eastern Tanzania, has, in the past, experienced resource-related tensions and numerous conflicts between pastoralists and farmers (Mutabazi et al., 2014; Dyngeland & Eriksson, 2011). The causes of the violence, can be traced to a mix of natural, demographic, social, economic and political changes in the years leading up to the event (Kisoza, 2007).
Growing land scarcity
Across Tanzania, both farmers and pastoralists rely on land and forest resources (Kisoza, 2007). In recent years, climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as drought and flooding, which contribute to soil erosion, limiting the amount of usable land for grazing and farming (Paavola, 2004).
Conservation projects, such as the Mikumi National Park that covers 23% of Kilosa, have also limited land resources that are crucial to the livelihoods of both pastoralists and farmers (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). Increased development of agriculture consequently led to the marginalization of pastoralists (Kisoza, 2007).
Political marginalization of pastoralists
Historically, pastoralists were considered unsustainable and environmentally destructive by government authorities, often blamed for environmental degradation such as desertification. Consequently, government policies have reflected these views (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). The view of pastoralism as unsustainable has been reinforced by the pressure that a growing urban population places on government to maintain food self-sufficiency; therefore, government policies and economic reforms have encouraged agricultural expansion and intensification, often at the expense of important pastoral resources (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). The December 2000 conflict in the Rudewa Mbuyuni village was the result of a dispute over wetland area between farmers and pastoralists (Benjaminsen et al., 2009).
The ‘Kilosa Killings’ and distrust of government
Another compounding factor in pastoralist versus farmer conflict is distrust in local government institutions. The issue of corruption in local government, police and judiciary bodies as well as the unwillingness of these bodies to prevent future conflict has created public distrust in governance (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). Since governmental institutions have historically neglected to alleviate tensions and solve conflict, pastoralist and farmers have resorted to solving the problems themselves, often escalating into violence, as seen in the Rudwea Mbuyuni village (Benjaminsen et al., 2009).
The immediate after-effects of the killings in Kilosa were the termination of the Kilosa District Commissioner and the demotion and transfer of the Police Commander of Kilosa District (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). There were also a number of Maasai arrested and some were held in prison for up to a year without trial (Benjaminsen et al., 2009).
Furthermore, while the Prime Minister’s Office set up a commission to investigate the conflict, one of its main recommendations was to encourage pastoralists to stop their nomadic life (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). This, is consistent with the anti-pastoralist rhetoric and reflects a policy agenda that favours farmers over pastoralists, a sentiment contributing to the political marginalization driving the original conflict (Benjaminsen et al., 2009).
A 2009 report by Benjaminsen et al. gives a list of recommendations for how to reduce the level of conflict in Kilosa. First, it encourages the establishment of an inter-village institution that would allow farmers and pastoralists to peacefully negotiate the use of the flood plain, a process that could be based off of previous transboundary resource management , such as participatory forest management (PFM), which aims to deal with increasing land scarcity while preserving important forest resources (Benjaminsen et al., 2009; Ibrahim, 2016).
The second recommendation for alleviating conflict is to make pastoral resources more productive by recognising pastoralism as a valid activity, using different methods of combatting encroachment on pasture, controlling tse-tse and ticks, constructing dams to maintain water resources for livestock, and reinstating inexpensive veterinary services (Benjaminsen et al., 2009). However, while this kind of support is important, general pastoral policies in Tanzania must also be changed to better consider and include pastoralists (Benjaminsen et al., 2009).