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Farmer–herder conflicts, pastoral marginalisation and corruption: a case study from the inland Niger delta of Mali

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This study aims to explain a farmer–herder conflict in the inland Niger delta of Mali. We focus on the interests and motivations of the actors involved in the conflict and the rent seeking of the local administration in handling the conflict. Since independence, the customary pastoral leaders (the jowros) have gradually lost power and wealth to the benefit of previously underprivileged farmers (the rimaybé). We argue that this process is mainly the result of national policies and laws giving priority to agricultural development at the expense of pastoralism. The result has been large-scale conversions of dry season pastures to rice fields. This pastoral marginalisation also results in increased land use conflicts between herders and farmers. In addition, rent seeking by local officials is perpetuating land use conflicts in the area. Hence, officials are benefiting from conflicts, while especially pastoralists, but also farmers, are losing out. The droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, leading to a more rapid encroachment of rice fields on pastures, as well as the power vacuum that emerged in the early days of the decentralisation process, further aggravated land disputes. Finally, we use this case study to call for an inclusion of issues of rent seeking and corruption more centrally in political ecology.

Keywords: Mali; corruption; farmer–herder conflicts; political ecology; rent seeking

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, 1432 Ås, Norway, Email: 2: Eveil, B.P. 23 Sevaré/Mopti, Mali, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2009


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