Mali: pastoralists trapped between drought, jihadis

Hundreds of pastoralists in the Mopti region of central Mali are trapped between floodplains to the south and armed Islamist rebels to the north. The nomadic herders, mostly of the Peulh (Fulani) ethnicity, fear that their way of life faces an imminent end. “It’s all over—it’s finished,” Ibrahim Koita, head of the Society of Social Welfare in Mopti Region, told UN news agency IRIN in the capital, Bamako, where he is trying to pressure donors for more aid. Pastoralists from the northern regions of Adara, Azawad, Tiilenis and Gourma generally head to southern Mali, and into Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast or as far as Togo in search of pasture before the rainy season, which lasts from June to October. Once the rains arrive, they move north again to avoid the Middle Niger Delta flood zone, finding renewed pasturelands on the edge of the desert. But at the end of July, pasture had yet to appear in the north. 

Additionally, the jihadist militias that have seized the north have stolen livestock from the returning pastoralists, taking their best animals at gunpoint and killing those who resist. “You give it [the animal] or they shoot you,” said Ansigue Moussa Ouologuem, Mali head of the Association for the Promotion of Livestock in the Sahel and Savanna (APESS) in Mopti town. “MNLA, Ansar Dine, MUJAO—they are all the same. Criminals.” 
Now, they cannot cross the Niger River to the south as their animals are too weak, and it is too dangerous for them to head north. Without access to fresh pasture and receiving little government aid, up to 30% of their remaining animals have already died. René Alphonse, president of Mali’s National Federation of the Livestock Industry (FEBEVIM),  says around 75% of the herders in Mopti region face this plight.  

From the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), Aug. 3

Mopti lies immediately to the south of Timbuktu region, on the edge of rebel-held territory, and is divided by the Niger River. (See map.)