Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, May 04, 2007

Darfur through an ecological prism

In an article in Time magazine last week, Alex Perry writes on his travels in Irba, Chad, which is home to six camps for Darfurian refugees, and his views on the crisis in the region.

Perry relays the grim accounts given by relief workers in the camps regarding the scarcity of available natural resources. “The water is going. The firewood is gone. The land has lost its ability to regenerate, says Palouma Ponlibae, an agriculture and natural resources officer for the relief agency CARE. “The refugees are going to have to move. There’s going to be nothing here to sustain life.”

Perry sees the dearth of natural resources in the region, which he says has been brought by global warming-induced desertification and declining precipitation, as a major reason for the crisis and cautions against directly attributing the conflict to ethnic tensions between Arabs and black Africans. “But what is often overlooked,” Perry writes, “is that the roots of the conflict may have more to do with ecology than ethnicity. To live on the poor and arid soil of the Sahel – just south of the Sahara – is to be mired in an eternal fight for water, food and shelter. The few pockets of good land have been the focus of intermittent conflict for decades between nomads (who tend to be Arabs) and settled farmers (who are both Arab and African).”

“The shifting dynamics of the fighting in Darfur illustrate why the prism through which the war is commonly explained – ethnic animosity between Arabs and blacks – may be less applicable than other factors, including the environment,” Perry writes.

In addition to a large peacekeeping force, Perry sees “sensible land-use policies and careful water management” as vital in future assistance interventions.

For the full article, click here.


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