A dialogue module to resolve the pastoralism crisis

An innovative initiative aimed at resolving the pastoral crisis in West Africa and creating resilient food systems.

Building a livestock-peace nexus through multi-actor dialogue in the Sahel-Coastal countries border areas

SNV, PeaceNexus, and Network Billital Maroobè (RBM) have joined forces to spearhead an innovative initiative aimed at resolving the pastoral crisis in West Africa and creating resilient food systems. A comprehensive study involving 1900 families revealed that the majority of pastoralists are victims of the current insecurity, while some are also perpetrators. In response to this, the organizations have developed and tested a dialogue module, which was showcased at the SDC International Cooperation Forum in Basel. This module is designed to foster cooperation and enhance food security.


The study Hearing the Voice of Livestock Breeders in the Sahel and West Africa, published by RBM in 2021 provides detailed insights into the interaction between pastoralism and insecurity. It is based on the perspectives of 1900 individuals, mostly livestock breeders, from 26 regions across eight countries in the Sahel and Coastal regions. The study emphasizes that insecurity has been exacerbated by the pastoralism crisis, particularly impacting pastoralism and rural livelihoods in the Sahel. Traditional responses are no longer adequate to address the needs of pastoralists in the current context of insecurity and violence. RBM has, therefore, decided to pursue a different approach.

RBM in search of a livestock – peace nexus:

RBM is now working to build on the foundation laid by the 2021 study to develop a methodology for implementing the Livestock-Peace nexus. This initiative aims to address the fourfold crisis of pastoralism:

  1. Development crisis of pastoralism: This requires structural responses to secure pastoral land and establish consensual and accepted rules among different resource users and states.

  2. Societal crisis of pastoralism: This necessitates redefining the rules for peaceful cohabitation with all stakeholders working alongside pastoralists, including new actors that have emerged in the context of insecurity.

  3. Mobility crisis of pastoralism: This crisis has led to a growing lack of understanding between Sahelian and coastal countries in managing transhumance, resulting in a constrained cross-border pastoral mobility.

  4. Humanitarian crisis of pastoralism: Responding to the immediate needs expressed by pastoralists in the face of increasing impoverishment, where traditional adaptation strategies have become ineffective.

In the face of complex challenges, addressing this quadruple crisis calls for an innovative approach. RBM advocates for an informed multi-actor dialogue, bringing together all stakeholders concerned about the pastoral situation in cross-border areas. This dialogue is a response to the diminishing communication among actors, leading to mutual misunderstanding.

Such a dialogue serves to address the four crises of pastoralism simultaneously:

  • It establishes a continuous space for dialogue and consensual negotiation, enabling states and partners to adapt their policies and approaches to the shared use of resources.

  • It integrates all stakeholders, including those with whom pastoralists have strained relationships, fostering trust and conflict resolution.

  • It offers a framework for exchange between state authorities, making it possible to maintain channels of dialogue in a political context and management of cross-border transhumance.

  • It serves as a permanent information channel for authorities and partners to respond promptly to humanitarian needs in cross-border areas.

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Four key principles for informed multi-stakeholder dialogues:

There are numerous dialogues already taking place in the Sahel. However, the dialogues are either driven by the states, or do not sufficiently involve the states at the risk of threatening the sustainability of the process. Additionally, only certain actors are involved, overlooking others who may play a crucial role in tension or conflict dynamics. The lack of criteria for ensuring the representativeness of dialogue actors and their lack of preparedness to engage with each other due to existing mistrust and resentment make these dialogues artificial and without lasting impact.

The RBM has outlined four key principles to address the limitations of multi-actor dialogues:

  • Dialogue reconciles the top and the bottom, considering the needs, constraints and interests of grassroots communities as well as authorities at the highest level.

  • Dialogue participants are identified according to precise criteria by the facilitators with constant monitoring of RBM, and validation by the authorities.

  • The dialogue strives to be inclusive, involving all relevant actors such as elected authorities, communities, and government representatives.

  • Prior to the dialogue, all categories of involved actors are prepared to challenge their preconceptions about each other and alleviate any resentments.

These dialogues provide RBM with the opportunity to understand and represent the diverse aspirations related to livestock breeding at the grassroots level. This is indeed a strong message from the study, that RBM ensures the diverse aspirations of livestock breeders are acknowledged and reflected in policies that offer a range of possibilities.

Process flow for informed multi-stakeholder dialogues

The process flow for informed multi-stakeholder dialogues involves a preparation phase of approximately six months, from identifying the actors to initiating the dialogue. Following its initiation at a regional level, the dialogue will continue in the short and medium term in different formats and timeframes based on the expressed needs of the actors. The pyramid of needs should make it possible to identify very precise avenues for commitment to respond to the most crucial needs and thus face the quadruple crisis of pastoralism:

Development crisis: Informed dialogue will lead to mutually agreed solutions regarding access to resources, potentially requiring specific infrastructure such as livestock markets, livestock trails, and pastoral drilling.

Societal crisis: Dialogue will help reduce tensions between actors, thereby minimizing the risk of conflicts, violence among breeders-pastoralists, and abuses by defense and security forces.

Mobility crisis: The dialogue will identify local cross-border solutions to mitigate the impact of border closures and propose exceptional measures for transhumant breeders.

Humanitarian crisis: The dialogue will swiftly identify and address the humanitarian needs of breeders-pastoralists in cross-border areas, such as fodder, livestock feed, and animal vaccination.

The role of animators and facilitators:

Animators and facilitators are crucial in driving the process forward. Animators are carefully chosen from the pastoral world and local civil society based on specific criteria such as neutrality, availability, familiarity with the topic, and respect. Their responsibilities include disseminating the module to different stakeholders, collecting priority needs, identifying active participants, and ensuring lively dialogues with appropriate follow-up.

Facilitators serve as focal points within each category of stakeholders and play an essential supporting role during the process. They are identified by the RBM and various stakeholder actors. Their roles include facilitating access to different stakeholders, helping identify and mobilize participants, and facilitating and conducting dialogues.

Financial commitment and support of partners

Partners and development agencies have the opportunity to make significant contributions to various stages of the process. The most crucial contributions are outlined below:

  • Assistance in preparing for dialogue: Supporting the preparation for informed multi-actor dialogue, including covering costs for consultation workshops, module animation, dissemination workshops, and awareness-raising missions. This rigorous methodology and monitoring are essential for the success of the process.

  • Facilitation of dialogue: Supporting the facilitation of dialogue workshops and mediation processes that are inclusive and take into account the interests of all stakeholders. Additionally, backing these processes with rigorous monitoring mechanisms can lead to concrete and lasting results.

  • Support for cross-border pastoral mobility: Providing support for mobility monitoring systems (counting, digital monitoring solutions, etc.) that can reassure states and enable pastoral mobility in a secure manner.

  • Humanitarian support: Partners and aid agencies are often best positioned to respond swiftly to humanitarian needs.

  • Support for structural investments: Addressing the infrastructure needs expressed during the dialogues require the support of partners.

Prospects for extending dialogue to new cross-border areas

Looking ahead, the RBM plans to extend this dialogue to other cross-border areas facing similar challenges based on the achievements and lessons learned from the first informed multi-stakeholder dialogue in Ivory Coast. Three priority areas for extension include:

  • Ghana and Burkina Faso Border zone

  • Kebbi – Alibori – Dosso border zone between Niger and Benin, and

  • Katsina – Maradi border zone between Niger and Nigeria.

The cross-border dimension between Sahel and Coastal countries is crucial for addressing common political and security challenges and improving social cohesion in these areas.

As previously mentioned, the interconnectedness between Sahel and Coastal countries holds significant importance for various reasons. These nations are experiencing common political and security challenges, leading to a growing divergence. Therefore, facilitating platforms for dialogue enables the expression of their voices and requirements. Enhancing social cohesion in these border regions stands as a potent defense against the spread of extremist ideologies from the Sahel to Coastal countries.

Serge Aubague

Serge Aubague

Global Technical Advisor