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“Fighting affects entire populations”

A. Ibrahim
As nomads in East Darfur move with the seasons to seek pastures, there are frequent clashes with local farmers. A farmer and a grazer give their views on the fighting which is often linked to water.
22.03.2016  |  Nyala, Sudan
A farmer in Karbab village, Darfur, July 3, 2014. (photo: UN Photo | Albert González Farran)
A farmer in Karbab village, Darfur, July 3, 2014. (photo: UN Photo | Albert González Farran)

Farmer: Khidr Mohamed Ahmed, Yasin Locality, East Darfur State

Farming is my livelihood. It is my life. I have been a farmer for 20 years and what I get from farming helps me get through the year.

I sell what crops I have left over at the market and that means I can buy sugar, tea and other items. I’m up against many difficulties, especially the scarce rainfall at the beginning of the season and the spread of pests, as we don’t have access to enough pesticides.

Livestock grazers also cause other problems. At the beginning of the season, grazers lose their pastures because of heavy rainfall which forces them to move north and search for new pastures for their cattle. They also need to avoid diseases which are rife in the area. When the water sources become scarce, grazers are forced to enter the wet areas such as the valleys which are cultivated by farmers.

The difficulty of controlling the herds means they enter farms and destroy crops which leads to arguments and conflicts between the grazers and the farmers. There are often clashes between grazers and farmers. This violence is started by individuals and fighting escalates until it involves entire populations. Such conflicts kill both people and livestock and also damage farms, sometimes even burning property down.

Our relationship with the grazers is normal. We are all Sudanese citizens. Sometimes our relationship becomes a family-like one. Farmers buy livestock and their products from the grazers who, in turn, buy crops from the farmers. The problems start with some stupidity from either side, and then things develop into major and long conflicts. When it comes to water, we do not go near each other as the government and some organisations have drilled wells far from the agricultural areas to avoid any contact between the two sides.”


Grazer: Jad Al-Sayed Ismail, Bahr Al-Arab Locality, East Darfur State

I inherited this profession from my ancestors. I wish I had studied and joined the university. I deeply regret that. I graze my father’s herds and I don’t get any wages as I work with our own animals. It is my job to see that they are looked after and make sure that our herd grows in size.

In the summer, our relationship with farmers is excellent due to our common interests and exchanges of produce. As soon as rain falls, this relationship is spoiled because the grazers are forced to leave the areas with high rainfalls. We flee the spread of insects and settle in agricultural areas. Clashes might happen between us and the farmers, which sometimes lead to wars in the entire area, causing major financial damages for both sides.

Such incidents are unintentional as controlling animals is very difficult. Individuals from both sides start arguing and it develops into a quarrel. Such problems can be solved at the start by wise men from both sides mediating to end the conflict. Even if things develop into a violent conflict, the mediation of neutral sides can solve the problem.

The scarcity of water sources sometimes triggers conflicts between grazers and farmers. In the summer, farmers plant on the water ways, such as the valleys and the wet places which include lots of trees, as they are the only places that have water during this season. Grazers search for water and grass which are very scarce in the summer and enter the water ways which are planted and that often leads to clashes.

The relationship between farmers and grazers is basically complementary as each side offers its products to the other and, thus, they have common interests. The absence of either side would make life more difficult for the other. These problems will not affect the common interests and the benefit exchange. Governmental authorities should intervene to provide the healthy environment for farming and grazing to avoid any possible problems. Modern farms should be established to plant sufficient quantities of feeds to be readily available, and safe sources of water which are far from agricultural areas should also be provided.”

This article is part of:
Water: A fool won’t even find water in the Nile!
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