Pastoralists seek access to water and peace in Chad: Account of a participatory mapping exercise in the Sahel

BAÏBOKOUM, CHAD: 31 July to 11 August 2012, the Association des Femmes Peules Autochtones du Tchad (AFPAT), in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), conducted a training course on Participatory 3 Dimensional Modelling in the area of Baïbokoum, Logone Oriental, in southern Chad. The Chadian mapping project focused on training pastoralist activists from different parts of Chad, as well as from neighbouring countries and East Africa in the basics of cartography and how to conduct a Participatory 3D Modeling (P3DM) exercise with nomads and semi-nomadic M’bororo indigenous people in the Baïbokoum area.

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Baïbokoum’s rural population is faced with competing resource challenges similar to other parts of Africa. These include changes in land use, notably encroachment by sedentary farmers, loss of biodiversity as a result of land use change, the impact of extractive industries and climate change impacts. All of these factors contribute to increasing human vulnerability, soil and biodiversity degradation, food insecurity and risks of conflict.

The Baïbokoum project followed on the November 2011 workshop in N’Djamena, Chad where pastoralists from AFPAT and the IPACC network met with the World Meteorological Organisation, UNESCO, CTA and the meteorological services of Chad to discuss climate adaptation and the risks experienced by nomadic communities in Africa today. The N’Djamena workshop led to the N’Djamena Declaration on traditional knowledge and climate adaptation which was presented at the 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Nomadic, semi-nomadic community members from the villages in the district then spent 3 days coding the map with the indigenous traditional knowledge; showing land use, traditional routes of cattle migration, ecosystem features, and biodiversity information. Trainees came to Baïbokoum from five different regions of Chad, as well as from Niger, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Technical support and training was provided by Mr Barthelemy Boika from the Réseau des Ressources Naturelles in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Additional training and guidance was provided by the Secretariat of IPACC, from South Africa. Trainees did practical work with ephemeral mapping, GPS skills training, elicitation of a vernacular language legend (in this case in Fufulde), and orientation on the basics of cartography, scaling and georeferencing. They spent four days constructing a scaled, geo-referenced 3D model of Baïbokoum and environs (24km x 20 km; 1:10 000 scale).

The resulting Participatory 3D Model (P3DM) had some notably features, including the emphasis placed by pastoralists on different types of surface water – seasonal, permanent, swampy and flowing. Herders also were able to identify six tree species which are protected under M’bororo customary law. The six species of trees, all of them with medicinal and ecosystems functions, may not be cut or damaged, and serve as navigation reference points over generations.

Herders’ main concerns revolved around the expansion of sedentary farmers who have blocked traditional transhumance routes that allow cattle access to potable water. Herders accuse the farmers of burning their fields, thus killing off biodiversity and including long protected tree species. Herders noted that there were now oil wells being dug in the adjacent territory and a pipeline that are creating pressure on them from both sides. Sudden shifts of weather and climate, including both droughts and floods have made them more vulnerable and increased the risk of armed conflict in the region.

Over sixty M’bororo community members participated in the mapping, as well as the trainees, villagers and school goers. Leaders in the community felt confident that the map could help alleviate simmering conflicts in the community.The event was formally closed on 10 August by His Excellency, the Governor of Logone Orientale, the President of the 5% Revenue from Oil Exploration, the Prefect and Deputy-Prefect of Baïbokoum, and representatives of the national 

Gendarmerie and Ministries of Livestock, Agriculture and the Department responsible for climate change. The Governor immediately offered to mediate a process between sedentary and nomadic communities to restore transhumance corridors for herders to be able to access water again. Participants noted that sedentary and nomadic communities could have symbiotic and supportive relationships. Resolving conflicts and having a preventative approach to resolving resource competition is a fundamental aspect of climate adaptation and development of rural areas. AFPAT Coordinator, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim praised the government and community for their willingness to explore new avenues of cooperation. 

She noted the traditional importance placed by M’bororo men and women on nature conservation and has opened discussions with the President of the 5% oil revenues to look at how M’bororo herders can be more involved in protecting the threatened forest spaces in the mountains outside Baïbokoum. The mapping process and examination of issues of conflict and peace building was documented by Jade Productions as a film to be released for the 18th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar. National media reported throughout the workshop on radio and then broadcast a television report after the closing protocol event. The workshop took place during the holy month of Ramadan, which added an extra dimension of how religious teachings and values can also encourage people to work cooperatively, even in circumstances where they do not share a language between them. Indigenous herders from Kenya, Cameroon and Niger all joined their Chadian partners during the prayers and fasting during the two week workshop.

The event was generously supported by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), with additional financial support from Bread for the World, Norwegian Church Aid and Misereor. Documents, photographs and videos can be seen on

Credits for text and images: Nigel Crawhall, IPACC