New horizons for nomads
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CTA. 2001. New horizons for nomads. Spore 93. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Living with uncertainty: new directions for pastoral development in Africa. I Scones (ed), IT Publications. 1995. 214 pp. CTA number 650. 20 credits points
Sedentary and pastoral lifestyles need not always collide, if policies can blend their complementary aspects. Thousands of years ago, long before we had ever planted a grain of wheat, we used to trek behind our herds from pasture to pasture, from watering hole to watering hole. Where the animals went, we followed. We tamed them and we learned how to milk them, how to spin their hair, how to steer their movements and how to improve their stock by cross-breeding. In those days we were forever on the move. On this mobility we built civilisations where wealth was measured by counting head in herds and where everybody was recognised by their belonging to a family or a tribe rather than by their place of birth. It takes two to tangle Nowadays relationships between nomads and other peoples are often marked by rivalries which derive from different perceptions of space and time. The farmer regards the territory which he works as his land. The nomad, on the contrary, does not see such demarcations. His points of reference are not the corners of a field, but a series of watering points; his lines on the map are the paths which lead there. His freedom is to move along these routes is paramount. Paramount, but not permanent, for the pastoralist s needs are subject to change. Nomads have always survived through opportunism: a drought, or unexpected rains, or a conflict in a region, many factors may provoke a change in direction. Agriculture is one such variable: population growth can lead to the cultivation of land that was formerly pastoralist routes (in Niger, the cultivated area grew by 50% between 1968 and 1980 see Spore 39). Of the many conflicts between farmers and pastoralists, some have reached alarming proportions: in Senegal in 1991, thousands of FulBe people had to abandon the forest of Mbegu to make way for groundnut farmers 'starved of land'. 'Nothing but trouble' Pastoral areas often span two, three, or even four, national borders. The mobility of pastoralists makes them hard to control, and they are often treated as foreigners wherever they go. In the eyes of governments, they seem to resist any moves which would rationalise their activity. Over the years, governments have tried various tactics to deal with the issue. The 1960s and 1970s saw attempts to set up private or public ranches . In vast enclosed areas the Ekrafan ranch in Niger covered 110,000 hectares! herds were shunted from one pasture to another in programmed moves. In Kenya, group ranches encouraged Masai herders to own plots of land that were previously communal. These were heavy-handed approaches and few of them survived the first years of drought they encountered. In Somalia, after the harsh drought of 1974, 120,000 camel herders were 'invited' to give up their herds and to set themselves up in coastal villages, switching to agriculture and fishing. Not surprisingly, this attempt at sudden settlement failed. During this period, it was the technicians who called the tune. While vets set up veterinary programmes, with costs forced up by the mobility of herds, engineers focussed on digging wells and installing pumps. 'It was an approach that benefitted the very rich because they could reduce labour costs, and the very poor who had unknown access to abundant water' says André Marty, of the French IRAM. Most normal pastoralists, accustomed to carefully choosing their herds paths, gained little: the rush of animals to poorly maintained wells literally crushed surrounding vegetation. A change came in 1975, when more emphasis was placed on organising pastoralists. Following examples taken from agriculture, they were encouraged to jointly manage watering holes and pastures, cereal stocks and veterinary products. Again it was an imported approach, and it failed. Pastoralists have a point The following decade was a troubled one in several Sahelian countries, marked by violence and prolonged unrest. When peace returned, there was a renewed appreciation of the benefits of nomad societies and of how they can complement a sedentary society. Equally the value of their agro-ecological insights was recognised, as was their mobility in aiding sustainable grazing of arid pastures. At long last, the messages of scientists about the favourable impact of pastoral practices on vegetation cover were finally heeded. Nowadays there is a more mature understanding of pastoral issues. So-called intermediate lifestyles are gaining in importance: in Niger and Mali, nomad families are cutting down their movements whilst in Senegal pastoralists are adding agriculture to their livelihoods, and in Kenya and in the Sahel, tourism. In Mali, meetings between sedentary and pastoral communities are part of the agenda of dialogue in a local development project as part of national decentralisation policies. Working together with pastoralists underscores the strategy of setting up national reserves in Chad (Binder Léré), Guinea and Mali (Bafing Falémé). Again in Mali, national land legislation has been amended to include a pastoral charter whilst in Chad, the Almy Braha project ('water for the herds') will provide the heart of the country with a network of wells. Could these recent initiatives signal, for nomads, a bright spot on the once-darkening horizon? Could it be the right to be different? [caption to illustrations] Nomads do not roam, they calculate their every move from point to point For more information: Iram Parc scientifique Agropolis, bât 14, 34397 Montpellier, France Living with uncertainty: new directions for pastoral development in Africa. I Scones (ed), IT Publications. 1995. 214 pp. CTA number 650. 20 credits points See also review of Introduction to Range Management in publications.
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