ECC Platform Library


Conflict over Land Resources in Kilosa, Tanzania

Type of conflict
Intensity 2
Time 2000 ‐ 2000
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land
Conflict Summary Kilosa, a district of the Morogoro region in Eastern Tanzania, has a history of resource-related conflicts surrounding land and forest tenure and management....
Conflict over Land Resources in Kilosa, Tanzania
Kilosa, a district of the Morogoro region in Eastern Tanzania, has a history of resource-related conflicts surrounding land and forest tenure and management. These conflicts stem from a mix of environmental, social, economic and political factors that have aggravated resource-related tensions between pastoralists and farmers in the region. Moving forward, the district of Kilosa will need more conflict-sensitive and sustainable initiatives in order to sufficiently handle forest and land resources while avoiding the exacerbation of existing tensions.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

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.

Intermediary Mechanisms

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.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

The overall reduction of available resources has exacerbated long-standing conflicts between local communities

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversMore frequent/intense extreme weather events reduce available natural resources.Economic developments lead to changes in land use.Changes in land use reduce available/usable natural resources.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources reduces available resources and ecosystem services.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsGrowing scarcity of essential natural resources.Natural Resource ScarcityA broad concept to cover economic growth in general but also specific economic changes or changes of incentives.Economic DevelopmentA change in the usage of environmentally relevant land.Land Use ChangeReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups
Context Factors
  • Political Marginalization
  • Unresponsive Government
Conflict History

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 environmental, 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 also 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, national policies have reflected these ideas (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 subsistence agropastoralism and small scale farming. 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. 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).

Resolution Efforts

The immediate after-effects of the killings in Kilosa were the termination of the Kilosa District Commission and the demotion and transfer of the Police Commander of Kilosa District . 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. 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 ( 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 . 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).

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Diplomatic Crisis No diplomatic crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Municipal
Agricultural / Pastoral Land
Resolution Success
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison

Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
0 Social inclusion & empowerment Greater recognition of pastoralism as a valid agro-ecological activity, using different methods of combatting encroachment on pasture and a better incorporation of pastoralists into policy making could reduce tensions between groups over land use. This could reduce violence and grievances against the state and sedentary communities.
0 Promoting peaceful relations Allowing farmers and pastoralists to peacefully negotiate the use of the flood plain, could engender a process of negotiation and reciprocal agreements. This could draw from previous transboundary resource management schemes, such as participatory forest management (PFM), which aims to deal with changing land uses while developing sustainable arrangements between conflicting land uses. This could mitigate conflict.
0 Improving infrastructure & services Controlling tse-tse and ticks, constructing dams to maintain water resources for livestock, and reinstating inexpensive veterinary services could reduce problems faced by pastoralists. This could help promote pastoral systems by increasing resilience to resource shocks brought by climate change.
0 Improving actionable information Filling knowledge gaps to better respond to the need for information on the effects of both environmental change and environmental/development policies on local livelihoods and specifically a better understanding pastoralist concerns,could aid diplomacy between pastoralists the state and other land users. A better understanding of concerns could lead to political solutions to problems surrounding conflicting land uses and identify potential for mutual benefits.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse


Adaptation & Resilience

All countries will need to adapt to some of the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. Food security, livelihoods, water resource availability and public health are some affected areas. People living in poverty are more vulnerable, having a lower capacity to adapt. Thus, it is essential to promote resilience building. The adaptation and resilience aspects need to be mainstreamed into planning by policy makers and the private sector as well as integrated into development strategies.

Biodiversity & Livelihoods

Nature protection is most sustainable if it essentially contributes to the long-term stability of human needs. Today many regions around the world are confronted with increasing destruction of the natural foundations of life. The consequences of wide-ranging resource destruction are no longer regionally limited, but rather represent a global threat. Those affected are mainly rural populations, who find the sources of their income and the foundations of their way of life swept away. The depletion and destruction of natural resources goes hand in hand with decreasing agricultural yields and increasing poverty, which in turn forces the affected populations to deplete the remaining resources.

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Capacity Building

On the one hand, conflicts are caused by structural factors, such as economic and social inequality or environmental destruction. On the other hand, conflicts are fuelled by a lack of democratic structures, deficient mechanisms of non-violent conflict settlement, inadequate rule of law, the destruction of social and cultural identity and the disregard of human rights. Against this backdrop, development policies have been dedicated to a broad concept of security, which comprises political, economic, ecological and social stability. As a consequence, development cooperation agencies and actors have developed a broad spectrum of approaches for conflict prevention and transformation as well as for sustainable use of natural resources.

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Civil Society

Civil society is the first victim of environmental pollution, under-development and conflicts. Economically disadvantaged and politically marginalized population groups are particularly affected by violent conflicts as well as increasing resource degradation. Simultaneously, civil society is a fundamental pillar for implementing sustainable development. It contributes in many ways to strengthening conflict prevention and plays a significant role in the peaceful and democratic development of states. It must be supported to strengthen civil rights, adherence to human rights in general and democratic participation.

Climate Change

Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges for international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, shifting of climate zones and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. The climate problem is also directly linked to the question of future energy generation.

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Climate Diplomacy

To address the challenges posed by climate change, a new profile of climate diplomacy is evolving. This utilises a full range of policies, including development cooperation, conflict prevention efforts, and humanitarian assistance, in addition to more traditional measures of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Moving from a risk analysis of climate-related threats to well-timed preventive action requires a greater commitment to integrating climate change concerns into development, foreign, and security policies. Examples include strengthening diplomatic networks, building new alliances with partners, and raising awareness – not only of potentially negative climate change impacts, but also of opportunities to embark on a sustainable transformation of our societies.

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Climate action entails an array of economic, social, political and environmental co-benefits. It provides an opportunity for economic growth and new jobs. Many investments can take into account climate considerations without becoming more costly. Further important co-benefits include: improved energy security, less local air and water pollution, health benefits as well as ecosystem and biodiversity protection.

Conflict Transformation

In order to overcome the structural causes of violent conflicts and thus bring about an improvement in the framework conditions for peaceful and fair development, it is essential to have long term and broadly planned peace development and peace advancement. Various governmental and non-governmental, national and international actors and groups are involved in these processes.

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Climate change and development are inextricably linked. Climate change endangers the development agenda and has the potential to reverse development goals. Furthermore, successful mitigation of climate change heavily depends on development choices around the world. Therefore, development strategies need to be climate-compatible to provide long-term success, and there are viable policy options that support this compatibility. Many mitigation and adaptation activities can present development opportunities to developing countries and avoid the lock-in to environmentally damaging technologies.

Early Warning & Risk Analysis

The reasons for the development and escalation of conflicts and the incidence of risks are multifaceted and complex. Simultaneously, the assessment of the specific causes in the form of risk and conflict analyses can contribute to a better understanding of these processes and make it possible to provide warning of negative developments, or ideally help prevent them. In the context of natural resource use, risks and conflicts have gained increasing attention in the past years. The debate on possible future water wars is merely one example.

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The well-being of individuals, communities and nations depends on the availability of energy resources. The gap between energy supply and demand appears to be growing, making the world vulnerable to serious economic shocks. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change is one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate change and energy policy include a greater role for renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency and a stronger decentralisation of energy supply.

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Environment & Migration

The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy. In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and an improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. 

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Climate finance, from all sources, plays a key role in supporting and enabling adaptation and mitigation action as well as climate and energy innovation. The Paris Agreement ensured that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility are at the core of climate finance architecture as entities entrusted with the operation of the Financial Mechanism of the UNFCCC. Increasing climate finance from all relevant public and private sources is crucial. Furthermore, much needs to be done to redirect finance flows to sustainable paths, e.g. reducing fossil fuel subsidies, introducing maritime and air transportation taxes. The conditions for green investment in developing countries should also be improved.


Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Competition for forest resources triggers, exacerbates, or finances numerous crises and conflicts in tropical developing countries. Illegal logging and timber trade foster instability and sometimes violent conflict by strengthening illegal and armed groups, increasing corruption and exacerbating use and claim conflicts among local communities, the state and the business sector. Forests are a vital resource to poor people but they can also become areas of conflict. Sustainable management of forest resources is therefore key to preventing violent conflict over and within forests.

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Gender plays an important role as a category of conflict for many reasons. The interlinkages between gender, environment and conflicts are complex and much research is still needed. Existing insights suggest that conflicts may worsen gender inequalities that existed before the outbreak of violence. The unequal distribution of land property rights in many parts of the world serves as an example. Moreover, women (and children) are among those most affected by both violent conflict and natural disasters. At the same time, women carry much of the burden of trying to implement rehabilitation measures after crisis events.

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Land & Food

Increasing water scarcity, desertification and crop failures due to extreme weather events are becoming more and more of a threat to global food production. While the world’s population continues to grow rapidly, food production is unable to keep pace. Due to the global food crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people reached the symbolic one billion threshold for the first time – corresponding to about 16 percent of world population. Food insecurity may be a consequence or cause of conflicts. Violent conflicts often lead to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure and means of production, as well as to the displacement of local communities.

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Minerals & Mining

In the past, the discovery and tapping of valuable or strategic resources like valuable minerals, oil and natural gas, particularly in developing and emerging countries, has often led to large scale environmental contamination and negative development. The "resource curse" of some countries shows that the wealth from resource yields is frequently unfairly distributed; instead of serving development it advanced the formation of corrupt elites and in some cases even led to conflicts and civil wars. Measures in various sectors and at all levels are important in order to use the potential of these natural resources in a manner that is sustainable and prevents conflicts.

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Private Sector

The spread of violent conflict not only affects people but also companies located in such regions. Destruction of investments and infrastructure, collapse of markets and trade partnerships, flight and expulsion of employees are phenomena of conflicts and environment-induced crises that directly affect companies in unstable regions. Almost all branches of the economy thus have a clear interest in a stable and peaceful environment for their activities. Conversely, the business sector plays an important role in the interaction of economic growth, social development and a healthy environment, all of which can advance peace and sustainable development. 

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Environmental issues have a significant security dimension. Access to, and overuse of, natural resources often play a key role in civil wars or other forms of internal domestic conflict. This is compounded by climate change and environmental degradation. Climate change is now widely recognised as a non-traditional, risk-multiplying threat that will have increasing security impacts. Key risks with possible implications for human and national security include water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement. More preventive diplomacy and advocacy is needed to address the strategic implications of climate and environmental change.

Sustainable Transformation

Sustainable Transformation allows societies to profit from a growing, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economy – especially in emerging and developing countries. This requires a higher up-front investment, but the benefits of a sustainable transformation in the medium and long term are significant. For instance, energy cost savings and reducing the impact of price volatility offer major incentives for deploying renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency. Such benefits exist in all key sectors of the economy.

Technology & Innovation

Innovations and technologies are already readily available and affordable but their global diffusion and uptake remains a challenge. Innovation and technology are crucial to achieving ambitious climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. However, research and development often do not receive appropriate public support. Developing countries can leapfrog high-carbon industrialisation phases by adopting, deploying and improving existing innovations and technologies. For this, it is essential to minimise financial, administrative and political barriers.


The availability of freshwater resources in sufficient quantity and quality is essential for the preservation of human health and sound ecosystems. The use of water resources is also vital, however, for economic development: whether for agriculture, industrial production or for electricity generation. The world's freshwater resources are distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and seasons. In addition, water shortage is becoming more prevalent in several regions due to population growth, economic development, urbanisation and increasing environmental pollution. Thus, water resources can hold potential for conflicts between parties who have different interests and needs.

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The environment in Asia is already under tremendous pressure as a result of the unsustainable use of land, forests, water and even air in many regions. Climate change will only exacerbate these challenges. Rising sea levels will likely endanger densely populated areas, changes in the monsoon patterns can strongly impact agriculture, melting glaciers will increase long-term water scarcity, and extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and cyclones can pose further hazards.

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Central America & Caribbean

Natural disasters and water scarcity are key challenges for most of Central America and the Caribbean. These challenges will become even more pronounced as the climate changes. Weak resource and disaster risk management and land disputes pose additional security challenges for large parts of the region. Several countries of Central America and the Caribbean have limited adaptive capacities as they face political instability caused by high social inequality, crime, corruption, and intra-state conflicts.

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As one of the most developed and most densely populated regions in the world, Europe makes heavy use of its resources, resulting in difficult trade-offs and negative consequences for the environment and ecosystems. Land is used for settlements, agriculture and dense infrastructure, creating problems of soil degradation. Water resources are stressed due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Despite nature protection policies, Europe continues to lose biodiversity at an alarming pace. Some of these trends are exacerbated by climate change, which is expected, for instance, to lead to shifts in water availability.

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Global Issues

Resource scarcities, environmental pollution and climate change are not limited by national borders, but often have a transboundary or even global impact. These issues interact with political stability, governance structures and economic performance, and can trigger or worsen disputes and violent conflicts. Exacerbating some of these trends, climate change is likely to lead to the degradation of freshwater resources, declines in food production, increases in storm and flood disasters and environmentally induced migration. All these developments pose potential for conflict.

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Middle East & North Africa

The geopolitical position of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), its fossil fuel resources, high population growth and the political changes spurred by the Arab Spring all make the region one of the most dynamic in the world. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most arid and environmentally stressed. Dwindling water resources, limited arable and grazing land, high pollution from household and industrial waste, remnants of conflicts and increasing desertification are key environmental challenges.

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North America

Climate change has various impacts on the three North American countries of Canada, Mexico and the US. Canada and the US have well-developed adaptive capacities and foster the strengthening of capacities in other regions as well. With high per capita emissions, these two countries also bear a greater responsibility for a changing climate. Mexico has a sound national strategy for climate change adaptation, yet fewer capacities than Canada and the US. The poorer and rural populations of Mexico are especially vulnerable to climate change, due to an increased sensitivity and a lower adaptive capacity.

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Oceania & Pacific

In Oceania, population growth and economic development trends put a strain on oceanic and island ecosystems. Freshwater scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries, loss of land biodiversity, forests and trees, invasive species, soil degradation, increasing levels of settlement, poor management of solid and hazardous waste and disproportionate use of coastal areas are some of the problems. Climate change exacerbates most of these trends, while also raising questions about the future sovereignty of some island states.

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South America

South America has diverse and unique ecosystems and is very rich in biodiversity. Weak natural resource management, land disputes and extreme weather events bring about significant challenges for the region. While South America accounts for relatively few CO2 emissions, the changing climate will alter its ecosystems and greater climate variability will lead to more hurricanes, landslides, and droughts.

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Sub-Saharan Africa

In many African states, environmental security issues rank high on the political agenda. Throughout the continent, countries suffer from water scarcity, food insecurity and energy poverty. These chronic and worsening resource scarcities have severe livelihood implications and are exacerbated by political conflicts over access to and control over these resources. Climate change may seriously threaten political and economic stability in Africa. It may also put a severe strain on the capacities of states and societies to co-ordinate activities, to communicate and to organize.

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