The security situation in South Sudan has been fraught ever since independence in 2011, exacerbated particularly by the civil war which only ended in 2020. Adding to this already fragile situation is the farmer-herder conflict which used to flare up every year in the dry season when herders moved their cattle to new pasture. Unregulated cattle movements used to devour and trample the ripening crops of farmers, leaving them impoverished and hungry. Often, retaliation killings of cattle would spark wider discord. Changing weather patterns caused by climate change have often been noted to have an inflammatory influence on farmer-herder conflicts.
With this backdrop, attempts at dispute mechanisms to preserve the peace were made, and VNG international was invited to co-organise an initial conference of parties in 2014. After 2 years of community consultation and research their suggestions for regulations and implementation were presented at the Marial Bai community conference in 2016 and signed by 24 chiefs of 19 counties. Importantly, VNG international were able to get 3 state governments to undersign the agreement and formally legalise it in parallel. As a result of the process an interstate coordinating committee for regulating cattle movement was set up, made up of members elected by the communities involved. Furthermore, a robust dispute and compensation mechanism was set up for crop or livestock damage.
As a result, violent intercommunity incidents have decreased over time, and mutual trust is rising between communities. The national peace process also adds hope for lasting stability and peace. The Marial Bai peace initiative shows how engagement with local communities and the involvement of all stakeholder’s concerns in a process can help foster a lasting peace, even as weather patterns change.
Access our compilation of climate security practices here
Watch a video on the initiative here
Read about the project here (p.47)
Photo Credit: Bob Denaro/ Flickr