“Herders and farmers can live together without problems if they respect each other’s rights, since the two activities can complement each other.” 
Thierno, activity participant

Agriculture and pastoralism are the primary economic activities in the Est region of Burkina Faso, and particularly in the Matiacoali commune. The commune is home to the Tapoa Boopo zone, the largest pastoral area in the region, and is a transit area for pastoralists and their cattle. It also sits at the crossroads of transhumance corridors (used for the seasonal movement of livestock from summer and winter pastures) between Burkina Faso’s Sahel region and Niger’s Tillabéri region. However, like many communes in the region, Matiacoali faces challenges when it comes to managing access to resources, including grazing land and watering points—particularly during the rainy season from May to October. Tensions between herders and farmers across the country are known to increase during this season, because herders often let their livestock stray into farmers’ fields during this time, which destroys crops. These already limited natural resources are increasingly coveted as the region’s population increases (due in part to the arrival of over ten thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing violent extremist organizations (VEOs) elsewhere) leading to tension and conflicts between farmers and herders. 

To address these tensions, the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) Burkina Faso Regional Program (BFRP) worked with the Pastoralism Communication Network (RECOPA) to organize a forum, held from June 29 to July 1, 2021, for local farmers and herders to attend and discuss their challenges, encouraging open dialogue. During the forum, participants acknowledged the need to work together peacefully to reduce VEOs’ ability to capitalize on societal tensions and use them for recruitment, which would further destabilize the region. The forum also provided participants with the space and opportunity to propose ideas for local initiatives, such as training selected herders and farmers in conflict prevention and the management of pastoral resources, emboldening them to serve as leaders in their respective communities. 

“Thanks to this forum, I know the importance of [the] transhumance corridors, grazing areas, and cattle tracks that are defined by each commune to avoid conflicts between farmers and herders. I also learned that herders and farmers can live together without problems if they respect each other’s rights, since the two activities can complement each other,” said Thierno, an activity participant.

The forum’s success was partially due to RECOPA’s activity design process, which involved meeting with 20 herders and farmers for five days to ensure the agenda reflected their views and addressed their key concerns, beyond practical learning about land management and its use in the Est region. This process made it easier for the forum’s participants to speak about issues that were important to them, because they were involved in the planning. Additionally, the forum’s involvement and engagement with both stakeholder groups—the herders and the farmers—provided the groups with their first opportunity to come together and candidly discuss their misconceptions and biases. The forum’s deliberate focus on those discussions paved the way for more frequent gatherings between herders and farmers, which have been useful to resolve misunderstandings and prevent escalating tension between the two groups.

The forum proved timely, bringing the two groups together during the rainy season to improve their abilities to prevent, manage, and mitigate future conflicts regarding land use. Following the forum, stakeholders committed to reducing tensions in their communities. Tankoano, a community leader and participant, said, “As a community leader, I commit myself to sharing the knowledge acquired during the sessions in my communities and I commit to being an actor and ambassador of peace.”


An activity participant looking after his cattle in Matiacoali, Est Region, Burkina Faso.
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