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Pastoralist Association Taming Climate-Related Conflict in Eastern Africa

Behind towering acacia trees that provide much sought after shade in the sunbaked landscape of southern Ethiopia lies the story of a long quest for lasting peace by communities at the Kenya-Ethiopia border, led most recently by a group of community elders. The region has suffered from decades of longstanding conflict over limited resources that have claimed thousands of lives and displaced tens of thousands of families, and which have recently been exacerbated by drought and changing weather patterns.

The conflict, pitting communities in southern Ethiopia and north-eastern Kenya against one another, has historic and cultural roots. Theft of livestock has traditionally been hailed as a symbol of status and dominance in the region. Each community tries to demonstrate its might based on the number of livestock it can steal from rivals, and how many neighboring young men it can disarm and control. As a source of wealth and status, livestock is also used in payment of dowry — a young man without enough livestock will struggle to find a wife.


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