Rural Development
The rural economies of the Sudano-Sahel are experiencing a dramatic upheaval, and the development and governance of rural rangelands are often a source of tension between pastoral groups and state governments. Many policymakers have viewed pastoralism... Read More
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The rural economies of the Sudano-Sahel are experiencing a dramatic upheaval, and the development and governance of rural rangelands are often a source of tension between pastoral groups and state governments. Many policymakers have viewed pastoralism as incompatible with a modern economy and a practice that should be phased out in favor of other forms of production. This attitude has further pushed pastoral voices to the margins (see Module – Governance and Rule of Law). Critics of pastoralism have cited overgrazing, soil erosion, and desertification as inevitable conclusions of pastoral practices, influenced by the prevailing narrative of the “Tragedy of the Commons.” Though these arguments have been widely challenged by many policymakers and scientists, they continue to inform development policies.

Formalized codes governing land ownership from the colonial-era onward did not recognize customary rights to access pasture or water, as many countries saw the expansion of large-scale agriculture as the key to growth and a settled population as an essential source of tax revenue. Development investments have focused on intensifying food production. This can be seen in the shift from smallholder farms to large private conglomerates, and the development of a market for animal genetic material and feed from foreign markets to increase the size and output of Sahelian cattle.

These changes often appear to benefit investors and economies overseas at the expense of local producers, and have increased competition between pastoralists, local farmers, and private investors for land. Loss of land means loss of subsistence for rural communities, yet such policies are imposed from above without due consideration of their consequences. The assumption is often made that privatization (or, in some cases, conservation and tourism) will generate employment for local pastoralists and farmers, creating a “win-win” for all parties. The results have been mixed.

Questions to Consider in Your Context
Strategies for Intervention
Land Tenure Reform

In much of the rural Sudano-Sahel, pastoralists depend on land and resources that are controlled by the State, even if these lands have historically been governed by customary leaders. Customary rights to land are not legally binding and may be upended by state institutions or companies when land is traded or loaned for private use. Legal reforms to land tenure laws can be one method for replacing zero-sum competition over land between farmers and pastoralists with equitable and easily understood regulatory frameworks. External interveners are frequently involved in providing technical assistance to these reform processes. When done well, interventions can reduce tension over land use by facilitating consultation with local communities, identifying points of conflict between state law and customary practice, and putting pressure on national or state governments to institute reforms that align with accepted principles for governance (see the African Union’s Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa or the FAO’s Improving Governance of Pastoral Lands).

What Makes Land Tenure Reforms Succeed?
What Makes Land Tenure Reforms Fail?
Case Study
Niger’s Rural Code
Infrastructure and Development Planning

Risks of conflict between pastoralists and local communities need to be considered in long-term local, national, and regional plans for development. The interventions outlined in this Toolkit will have limited impact unless they are reinforced by supportive institutions, funding, and political buy-in. Pastoralists depend on access to common resources, particularly water, during their migrations. Historically, watering and grazing sites are demarcated and maintained per local custom. Yet the traditional practices for negotiating access to public or shared resources have been strained by expanding livestock production, agriculture, and private rangeland development. Improved  physical infrastructure – such as markers for migration corridors or grazing reserves, public wells or other water access points, and checkpoints where herders can access veterinary care – can help prevent transhumance from becoming a source of confrontation and conflict.

What Makes Investments in Rural Development Succeed?
What Makes Investments in Rural Development Fail?
Case Study
Nigeria Sets Aside Land for Grazing Reserves
Natural Resource Management

In shared landscapes, proactive and participatory management of land and water resources is essential to preventing conflict. Instituting grazing agreements or demarcating transhumance corridors, for example, can help set boundaries between farmland and pastoral land. For these practices to be effective, they need to balance the interests of all stakeholders, including both community leaders and state authorities. Even well-designed management schemes can break down when they are not adhered to or when they disenfranchise one group (as has often happened with pastoralists). External interveners can play a crucial role in promoting participatory management by facilitating consultations with representatives of pastoralist and farming communities or providing technical training to local councils or customary leaders.

What Makes Community-Driven Resource Management Succeed?
What Makes Community-Driven Resource Management Fail?
Case Study
Local Farmers and Pastoralists Map Migration Corridors
Service Provision for Mobile Populations

Mobile pastoralist communities often lack access to basic social services – education, medical care, job training – that are typically provided in urban centers. The lack of access can create a society set apart, limiting opportunities for youth (or others) to pursue other livelihoods or move into new social systems. Targeted mobile service delivery programs, like the use of “field schools,” can connect remote and mobile populations with social services and even socialize good practices for cooperation with sedentary communities. In addition to the delivery of social services, there is also value in expanding access to financial services, which are an essential resource for transforming pastoral livelihoods and lifestyles that are generally inaccessible for nomadic populations.

What Makes Mobile Service Delivery Succeed?
What Makes Mobile Service Delivery Fail?
Case Study
Field Schools Provide Education to Remote Communities
Conflict Sensitivity Assessments

Development initiatives aimed at helping rural communities and pastoralists modernize their practices will inadvertently alter relationships between pastoralists and other communities sharing the landscape. Traditional assessments are often not suited to account for nomadic populations, as they tend to prioritize the permanent residents of a community who are more visible. Evaluating the socio-political, economic or environmental repercussions of any development effort, no matter its size or scale, is essential to any program design phase. This may require tapping the specialized expertise of anthropologists, political economy experts, or others who understand the nuances of engaging with pastoralist populations.

What Makes Conflict Sensitivity Assessments Succeed?
Case Study
World Bank Invests in Conflict Expertise