To Share or Not to Share? (Non-) Violence, Scarcity and Resource Access in Somali Region, Ethiopia
It is often argued that environmental scarcity was a trigger and source of violent conflict, in particular in African countries. At the root of such arguments is a simple environmental determinism, which understands scarcity as undermining co-operative relationships between competing resource users. Robert Kaplan popularised this thesis in his argument about "The Coming Anarchy", where he interpreted recent civil wars in Africa as an advent of a fundamental environmental crisis. In our view, this conception disregards the crucial role of local-level institutions in governing competing resource claims. In this paper, we present a case study from the violence-prone Somali Region, Ethiopia. We analyse how agro-pastoralist communities develop sharing arrangements on pasture resources with intruding pastoralist communities in drought years, even though this places additional pressure on their grazing resource. A household survey investigates the determinants for different households in the agro-pastoralist community, asset-poor and wealthy ones, to enter into different types of sharing arrangements. Our findings suggest that resource sharing offers asset-poor households opportunities to stabilise and enhance their asset-base in drought years, providing incentives for co-operative rather than conflictive relations with intruding pastoralists. We conclude that it may depend on potential incentives arising from institutional arrangements, whether competing resource claims in periods of environmental scarcity are resolved peacefully or violently.
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