Climate Change and Conflict: A Case Study of Darfur Conflict (3)

David Ochieng Onyango

A research project submitted in partial fulfillment for the award of a Degree in Master of Arts in International Conflict Management at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS), University of Nairobi.
The Zartman School of thought points out that a number of the Eastern and Central African countries have witnessed some of the most violent conflicts and human rights abuses in recent history and this could be as a result of the effects of climate change that have hit the globe lately.14 Africa is characterised by widespread and deeply entrenched poverty, armed conflict, slow economic development until recently, and agricultural systems proven to failure during frequent and persistent drought. With its tremendous natural resources and remarkable social and ecological diversity, the continent reflects a close dependency of people on natural resources which are at risk of being scarce as a result of the effects of climate change.
Hezron Mogaka (2005) notes that a specific pattern of droughts and floods due to climate change have been identified with the appearance then disappearance of a large pool of roman water in the Western Equatorial pacific. This phenomenon alters major pacific currents and affect global weather patterns including the Southern pacific and the Indian oceans. The persistent droughts in the Sudan could be as a result of this.16Jacky Cilliers (2007) points out that most conflicts in Africa have tended to revolve around water resources. For the last three decades, serious ecological changes have taken place in Sudan as a result of the climate change. Prolonged and severe climatic conditions have been experienced here and coupled with intensive exploitation of natural resources. Sudan has also experienced an increase on population of human beings and livestock, and this has degraded the environment of the Darfur regions. Infact, most of the conflicts in Darfur have tended to take the shape of conflicts fought from the richer ecological zones to the poorer zones. Droughts have also been persistent and severe in these regions and have resulted to overgrazing and migration of people to other areas. Many scholars have tended to ignore the root causes of these conflicts and have focused more on the likely causes of the conflicts in these areas.17Golden (2009) further argues that climate change is likely to have a wide range of interrelated impacts for the environment and well being of the people. The effects of climate change on the well being of people can be vast ranging from depletion of the environment to conflicts over scarcity of resources. Whilst these impacts are negative there may also be beneficial outcomes such as increased grazing area for livestock with increased rainfall or opportunities to grow more profitable crops. Sudan and particularly Darfur is vulnerable to climate change impacts on water resources. Beyond its reliance on water for energy and agricultural production the burgeoning mining sector and the fledging manufacturing sector almost entirely reliant on reliable water availability to support processing. 18Osman (2007) notes that the past global efforts at dealing with the problem of climate change concentrated on mitigation, with the aim of reducing and possibly stablizing the green house gas concentrations in the atmosphere but due to a slow pace, adaptation was viewed as a possible option to reduce the vulnerability to the anticipated negative impacts of global warming like conflicts. Africa, especially in Sudan is characterised by perennial and persistent drought, have seen the local population in this region suffer from the effects of the droughts. Through their indigenous knowledge systems, they have developed and implemented extensive mitigation strategies, however, integration mitigation and adaptation into climate change concerns is not a completely new idea in the Darfur area of Sudan.
Jonathan on the other hand asserts that with the onset of droughts as a result of climate change, rural economies began to collapse. The result of these droughts is that the people’s only investment which is livestock end up dying in large numbers or maybe they sell the remainder at throws away prices. At this point, the society here is prone to dislocation, turbulence and conflicts. 20Robert (1990) notes that the droughts of 1970’s and 1980’s in Darfur were indeed devastating and these resulted to some dramatic consequences in some nomadic and agricultural activities like clearance of forests as a result of increased demand for fuel by the locals. This led also to the higher demand for pressure of higher food production that led to shorter fallow periods hence the removal of vegetation cover and dismantling of the top soil layer. The ultimate result of this case is the reactivation of the consolidated sand dunes and the advancement of moving sands, with all their ecological and socio-economic consequences.21Although regional conflicts and world tensions characterize the present international climate, the fact that all countries have managed to set aside their divergences, the Rio and Johannesburg World Summits on Sustainable Development respectively in 1992 and 2002 have shown that the international community indeed has realized many of the labours in Sudan have ended up migrating from one agricultural scheme to another in search for employment. This is estimated to have begun from the condominium period the vulnerability of our planet and started to understand the necessity of jointly managing the world resources in a United Nations framework.22The paradigm for sustainable development is a growing strategy for interest for many of the international affairs scholars and environmental activists and practitioners. The paradigm covers how nations dialogue on issues of such as environmental stress, resource scarcity, poverty, population change, development crisis and violent conflicts. According to the findings of the Proceedings of the international conference on environment in Tehnan, many people in Sudan will gladly confirm that the climate has become drier for the last thirty years and they blame this on the industrialized countries. 16No one is sure whether this is part of another long term climatic change in Sudan but drought is obviously not a new phenomenon in Sudan.23Increase in green house emissions through human activities has resettled into additional warming of the earth’s surface with several anticipated disasters such as conflicts that arise from the scarcity of resources. The Darfur area has been characterized by recurrent droughts for the last 100 years and consequently in the destruction caused by it. Records have shown that the region has experienced marked rainfall declines and droughts exceed those predicted by models of future climates.
Robinson (2001) notes that traditional societies in many cases have built up knowledge over long periods about changes in the environment and have developed elaborate strategies to cope with these changes, however traditional knowledge systems in mitigation and adaptation have for a long time been neglected in climate change policy formulation and implementation and have result only been taken up by climate change discourse, thus has led to severe impacts of conflicts. Traditional and indigenous people who have survived over long periods to many kinds of environmental changes, including climate change may have valuable lessons to offer action successful and unsuccessful adaptations which could be vital in the context of climate change.
Elinor (2011) notes that there is evidence in environmental change and that there is clear evidence of build-up of earth warming gases that threaten to change the climate by changing the circulation of the climate and the air. He further argues that these changes are as a result of human activities that range from use of fossil fuel, tropical deforestation in the case of carbon and from reusing of vast populations animals. Changes in climate associated with changes in Earth’s atmosphere and water cycles threaten the occurrence of conflicts over access and control of natural resources of all the consequences of climate change, one seems to have the greatest consequence, both for humans and for other species. Forest for example provides a large source of ecological services that stabilize the climate. He further notes that forests may have changed in spatial coverage and composition due to natural climatic changes occurring commonly over long period of time.26Chris (1995) argues that the economic policies that rendered the rural people of Darfur as sources of cheap labour stipulates the direct investments to certain areas, to the exclusion of other areas that are considered less productive.27 The policies have not focused on designing how the people can adapt to the constraints of the harsh environment that result from the effects of climate change. Traditional methods of cultivating that helped to conserve and regenerate marginal lands have gradually been replaced by intensive farming for cash crops which involves the clearance of large areas of marginal land in development areas. As populations increase, people in Sudan have increasingly found that they have less land for their subsistence needs. In 1960, hundreds of boreholes were drilled by the government of Sudan in a ‘freedom from thirst’ campaign that was funded by the western donors.28 The intensions of the project was good, but the result was that many nomadic groups flocked around these boreholes with 18their heard of cattle. This resulted to trees around that area being cut down, overgrazing because the herds were concentrated in one place. The project was well intended with its policies but over the years, it slowly destroyed the natural resources around these boreholes; but it was only when a prolonged drought occurred that the full effect of the policy was left.29The drought that occurred in 1910-1917 in Sudan that affected the Darfur region was dubbed the ‘time of the half-gourd’ denoting the meager ration of grain given to large parts of the population. The rains also failed between 1940 and 1945, and again in 1970-1973. The drought of 1984/85 was the worst in the century and it affected ten million people. The drought of 1990/91 was equally intense. Since then, Sudan and especially in Darfur has experienced periods of long and persistent droughts as a result of climate change. It has rendered the people of Sudan and more so Dafur have no chance to recover and they have become increasingly unable to cope. The poor policies that have been improvised has rendered the relationship between the nomads and farmers go against their symbiosis where the farmers provided grains to the nomads and the nomads provided meat drought animals to the farmers. Unfortunately, the climate change effects like perennial droughts in Darfur have resulted to deteriorating status of the environment over the past decades. 30Farming is the man economic activity for the 80% of the people living in Darfur and droughts that have been perennial as a result of global warming have had a far reaching effect on agricultural productivity. The many agricultural products farmed in 19Darfur such as millets; maize, groundnuts as well as national cash crops largely depend on rainfall and the recent deterioration in both rainfalls as a result to global warming has led to the sharp decline in production of rain fed crops.

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