US embassy cable - 05NDJAMENA308

CATTLE, CAMELS, ELEPHANTS, AND REFUGEES: SKETCHES OF THE STRUGGLE FOR LAND IN SOUTHERN CHAD

Identifier: 05NDJAMENA308
Wikileaks: View 05NDJAMENA308 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ndjamena
Created: 2005-03-01 14:48:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: EAGR EAID ECON PGOV PHUM PREL SENV CD SU Political Stability Humanitarian Operations
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


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FM AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1046
INFO AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY ACCRA 
AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 
AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 
AMEMBASSY DAKAR 
AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 
AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 
AMEMBASSY NIAMEY 
AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 
AMEMBASSY OUAGADOUGOU 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 
USMISSION GENEVA 
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
USEU BRUSSELS
UNCLAS  NDJAMENA 000308 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE PASS USAID 
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICAN WATCHERS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, EAID, ECON, PGOV, PHUM, PREL, SENV, CD, SU, Political Stability, Humanitarian Operations 
SUBJECT: CATTLE, CAMELS, ELEPHANTS, AND REFUGEES: SKETCHES 
OF THE STRUGGLE FOR LAND IN SOUTHERN CHAD 
 
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Summary 
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1.  (U)  Pressures on the land are multiplying in southern 
Chad.  Cattle and camel herds are expanding as nomads migrate 
further south and stay longer.  Clashes with local farmers 
are breaking out as livestock trample crops and drain water 
reserves.  Refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) 
are finding a congenial home, but are also bumping up against 
resource constraints.  The animals in Central Africa's last 
large wildlife stronghold are preyed upon by poachers.  Local 
authorities are scrambling to manage the tensions brought on 
by this competition for cropland, pasture, and water. 
Notwithstanding their efforts, environmental pressures are 
contributing to a potentially volatile mix.  This series of 
sketches from the Ambassador's recent visit to the region 
illustrates some of the deep-set strains facing Chad and 
other similarly fragile states.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (U)  The land becomes greener on the drive from N'Djamena 
into southern Chad, but competition for its riches is no less 
fierce.  Farmers, herders, wildlife, and now even refugees 
and returning Chadians are crowding in on each other in a 
struggle for access to its soil and water.  Previous 
reporting has focused on how the ExxonMobil-led consortium is 
working to benefit or at least avoid disrupting livelihoods 
in the villages near the oil wells scattered through the area 
south of Doba.  The Ambassador's recent trip to Moundou, 
Koumra, Sarh, Zakouma, Am Timan, and Mongo over February 8-15 
showed the many other ways the inhabitants of this 
impoverished region are straining to eke a living from the 
land. 
 
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Cattle and Camels 
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3.  (U) Almost everywhere in southern Chad herds of cattle 
can be seen clustered around water holes or sauntering 
through the countryside.  Further to the east in the Salamat 
region camels begin to appear grazing among the scrub trees 
or in long processions beside the road.  Asked the biggest 
issue they face, local officials consistently cite the 
challenge of managing tensions between the sedentary farmers 
and the nomadic herders.  Only the related problem of water 
shortfalls is mentioned as frequently. 
 
4.  (U)  For centuries during the dry season between 
September and June, herders have led their cattle in massive 
seasonal migrations to the wetter lands in southern Chad. 
But as pastures in the northern and central regions of the 
country dry up, more and more are moving further south and 
staying longer.  They are coming with larger herds.  Some 
settle in a particular vicinity and become "sedentary 
nomads."  Farmers too are increasing the number of their 
livestock.  Even in the more sparsely settled regions toward 
the East, Chadians refugees returning from Sudan and the CAR 
need more space for their herds or farms.  The result 
everywhere is increasingly serious clashes when cattle 
trample fields and deplete water supplies. 
 
5.  (U)  Officials in Guera, a province where for generations 
livestock have passed on the way south, say local farmers and 
herders have learned over the years to deal with this annual 
trek.  The two groups can usually work things out on their 
own, they assured us.  The farmers in Logone Occidental, 
Moundoul, and Moyen Chari further south have not had to learn 
these coping strategies until now.  Local officials now are 
regularly called in to mediate conflicts.  They talk of 
public relations campaigns to encourage both sides to be 
 
 
respectful.  They have tried to stake out corridors where 
livestock can pass without damaging farmland.  They have 
sought to arrange for herders to compensate farmers for 
damaged crops.  In Sarh, they talk wistfully of reopening the 
shuttered slaughterhouse and tannery.  At least that way, 
they say, the local residents could derive some commercial 
benefit from the rising numbers of livestock in the area. 
 
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Refugees on the Southern Border 
------------------------------- 
 
6.  (SBU)  Compared to the desolate vistas surrounding the 
camps for the Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad, Yaroungou 
near the CAR border looks like a summer camp for American 
school kids.  Square-sided tents and covered pavilions under 
shade trees provide shelter for its nearly 16,000 residents. 
They have the benefit of a clinic, a thriving market, a 
soccer field, and a primary school big enough for 2000 
children.  But resource constraints are biting into 
livelihoods even here.  The well water stored in black vinyl 
sacks has to be rationed.  One reason for the shortfall is 
because some villagers are using potable water for making 
bricks to build permanent huts. 
 
7.  (SBU)  The World Food Program (WFP) is supplying only a 
small fraction of the food needs of the refugees.  To make up 
the difference, the residents are growing sorghum, peanuts, 
and corn on plots set aside for their use by local 
authorities.  Unfortunately three quarters of the 2004 crop 
was wiped out by stray cattle when nomads passed through. 
Drought has slowed planting vegetable gardens to supply local 
markets.  The residents will have to return to their homes 
across the border or achieve self-sufficiency soon.  The WFP 
is preparing plans to phase out its support by the end of the 
year.  But in contrast to complaints voiced by local 
authorities over the continuing presence of the more than 
200,000 refugees in eastern Chad, officials near the border 
with the CAR told us the refugees there are welcome to stay. 
 
 
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Elephants 
--------- 
 
8.  (U)  The elephant carcass lay near the ashes of the brush 
fire poachers had set.  The ten-year old male still had its 
tusks attached.  The game warden, observing the bullet holes, 
said the elephant had probably been shot late in the day, 
managed to escape in the darkness, and finally collapsed. 
The elephant was one of thousands that gather in Zakouma 
National Park at this time of year.  During the rainy season 
they wander far into the surrounding countryside, sometimes 
destroying fields and raising the ire of the farmers.  But as 
water holes dry up, they congregate here in herds whose 
numbers rival those found anywhere else in Africa.  In this 
scarcely populated region, they have little to fear from 
farmers or herders.  But poachers are a deadly threat.  They 
earn fortunes smuggling ivory into Sudan.  Two game wardens 
had been ambushed and killed trying to stop them in January, 
our guide told us.  Giraffe and buffalo are also valuable 
prey.  Armed gangs ride in on horseback.  They butcher the 
animals in the fields and sell the meat clandestinely in 
nearby markets. 
 
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Comment 
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9.  (SBU)  Chad's civil wars happened too long ago for it to 
be seen now as a failed or even failing state.  But it is 
 
 
most definitely a fragile state.  Here, as in many other 
countries in similar straits, the inhabitants are 
overburdening the capacity of the land to support them. 
Environmental strains are making it ever more difficult to 
share what resources are available among them.  Ethnic 
divisions create further tensions.  Weak governance 
structures are barely able to keep them in check.  Meanwhile, 
Chad is being singed by the explosion across its eastern 
border with Sudan, a conflict ignited in part by a similar 
mix of pressures.  Chad is not Sudan.  Resentment against the 
overbearing role of some members of President Deby's 
Zaghawa/Bideyat clan continues to simmer.  But crucially, 
Chad's leadership has largely worked to dampen antagonisms 
over land and ethnicity.  For this and other reasons, we are 
not predicting a similar flare-up here.  But the ingredients 
are there. 
 
10.  (U) Khartoum Minimize Considered 
WALL 
 
 
NNNN 

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