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New Perspectives on Natural Resource Management in the Sahel

Simon Bolwig, Kjeld Rasmussen, Ced Hesse, Thea Hilhorst and Malene Kauffmann Hansen

New Perspectives on Natural Resource Management in the Sahel Simon Bolwig, Kjeld Rasmussen, Ced Hesse, Thea

SEREIN - Occasional Paper N o 21

Sahel-Sudan Environmental Research Initiative

SEREIN Occasional Papers publish original research undertaken by SEREIN researchers and associated researchers. In addition, the series includes proceedings of symposia arranged by SEREIN researchers and later works addressing issues within the thematic area of the original research program.

The issues, continuously numbered, appear at irregular intervals.

SEREIN 2000 - The Sahel-Sudan Environmental Research Initiative - was a multidisciplinary research centre made up of individ ual researchers at different institutions. It was originally financed as a part of the Danish Environmental Research Programme (SMP) and from 1999 continued on more limited funds from RUF (Danida’s research council). Use and potential of natural resources in the West-African Sahel was the main topic for SEREIN research.

Editorial address:

Professor Anette Reenberg Institute of Geography and Geology University of Copenhagen Oster Voldgade 10 DK-1350 Copenhagen K DENMARK

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Copyright: Authors, 2011

New Perspectives on Natural Resource Management in the Sahel

Simon Bolwig Kjeld Rasmussen Ced Hesse Thea Hilhorst Malene Kauffmann Hansen

July 2011


Denmark has through the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) a long tradition for providing support to the countries in the Sahel region, starting with consider- able contributions to the United Nations Sudano -Sahelian Office (UNSO) under United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) during the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, but since then mainly as bilateral support to Burkina Faso and Niger and now Mali. The assistance to Burkina Faso is continuing, the assistance to Niger was increased in 2006, and in 2006 Mali was select ed as a new Programme Country with agriculture and natural resource management as priority sectors. Senegal has been the focus of support to the eco- logical monitoring centre, Centre de Suivi Écologique. In addition, Danida has supported regional organisati ons under the Comite Permanent Inter -Etats de Lutte Contre la Secher- esse dans le Sahel (CILLS) umbrella, such as the AGHRYMET agro -meteorological re- search and training centre in Niger. Furthermore, considerable Danish (and Danish funded) research has been carried out within natural resources management in the Sahel, e.g. the Sahel -Sudan Environmental Research Initiative (SEREIN), the People, Trees and Agriculture project (PETREA) and International Institute for Environment and Develo p- ment’s (IIED) Drylands programme, and several Danida -funded Enhancement of R e- search Capacity in Developing Countries projects (ENRECA) have contributed to capa c- ity building in research.

Harvesting the experience from development and research activities in the Sahel can be expect ed to inform the updating of the Danish development assistance programmes in the region. This is already done as part of the regular review activities and targeted reviews like the recent ‘lessons learned’ exercise of the Danish assistance within natural resources management (NRM) in Niger. Adding to these efforts, Danida decided to commission a study to the Department of Geography and Geology (DGG), University of Copenhagen, with the aim of establishing an overview of the lessons learnt from Danish (and to some extent international) activities within development assistance, capacity development and research within the broad field of natural resource management in the Sahel, focusing on Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. The study objectives were to:

  • i) Identify th e most important operational experiences from two decades of Da n- ish assistance to natural resources management in the Sahel. Extract from research findings recent trends as well as key problems and driv- ers related to natural resources management of relevan ce to development assi s- tance.


The study was carried out by Simon Bolwig (DTU Climate Centre at Risø, Technical University of Denmark) and Kjeld Rasmussen (DGG), with inputs from various individu- als (see below). The steering group of the study consisted of Hanne Carus and Henning Nøhr (Danida), Anette Reenberg (DGG), Henrik Secher Marcussen (Department of Geo g- raphy and International Development Studies, Roskilde University) and Michael Morti- more (Drylands Research, UK).


The study has two written outputs: T he first is the present publication, which reviews r e- search evidence and issues relating to natural resources management in the Sahel while making some references to operational experiences. It was edited by Simon Bolwig, Kjeld Rasmussen and Malene Kauffma nn Hansen (DTU Climate Centre at Risø, Technical Uni- versity of Denmark) with editorial assistance from Lars Jørgensen (Global Land Project, International Project Office, DGG), and reviewed by Anette Reenberg and Henrik Secher - Marcussen. The individual chap ters were written and peer reviewed by the following in- dividuals:



Peer reviewer

Chapter 1

Simon Bolwig


Kjeld Rasmussen

Chapter 2

Kjeld Rasmussen

Anne-Mette Lykke, Aarhus University

Chapter 3

Simon Bolwig

Anette Reenberg, University of Copenhagen Michael Mortimore, Drylands Research

Chapter 4

Ced Hesse 1

Simon Batterbury, University of Melbourne

Chapter 5

Simon Bolwig


Chapter 6

Thea Hilhorst 2

Lars Engberg Pedersen, Danish Institute for International Studies

Chapter 7

Simon Bolwig


1 International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 2 Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).

The second study output is a discussion paper, which focuses on selected issues within NRM in the Sahel, using material from this publication, reviews of other written material, and the results of an expert opinion survey carried out by the authors (See, S. Bolwig, S. Cold -Ravnkilde, K. Rasmussen, T. Breinholt and M. Mortimore, DIIS Report 2009:07, Furthermore, the results of the study were discussed at a seminar on 6 Oc- tober 2008 at DGG, University of Copenhagen, organised together with the Danish D e- velopment Research Network (the meeting minutes are available at ).




l'Association Construisons Ensemble – Recherche sur les Citoyen-


netés en Transformation Projet Appui Danois au Développement Rural de Zinder et Diffa


Centre Regional de Formation et d'Application en Agrométéorolo-


gie et Hydrologie Opérationnelle (Niger) African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses


Agence Nationale d’Investissement

des Collectivités Territoriales


Appui à la Sécurisation Foncière


Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer


A private international humanitarian organization


Centre de Conseil Communal or Municipal Advisory Centre


National Unit for the Co -ordination of Local Governments


Clean Development Mechanism


Currenzy zone which consists of two monetary unions between different African states.


Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research


Collaborative Historical African Rainfall Model


Comite Permanent Inter -Etats de Lutte Contre la Secheresse dans le Sahel


La recherche agronomique pour le développement


Commissions Inter Villageoises de Gestion de Terroir


Institut d’Economie Rurale; Centre National de Recherche Scienti- fique et Technologique


Commission Foncières


Commission Foncière Communale (Niger)


Commission Villageoise de Développement (Burkina Faso)


Commission villageoise de gestion de terroir (Burkina Faso)



Danish Agency for International Development


Department of Geography and Geology


Economic Community of West African States


Ecole Nationale d'Economie Appliquee


Enhancement of Research Capacity in Developing Countries


Earth Resources Observation Systems


Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations


FAO Sta tistical Database


Franc CFA.


Finnish International Development Agency


Global Climate Models


Gross Domestic Product


Green House Gas


Groupe de Recherche et d’Action sur le Foncier


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit


International Institute for Environment and Development


International Livestock Research Institute


Niger’s National Agricultural Research Institute


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 4

IRD/LASDEL Institut de Recherche pour le Développement/Laboratorie d’Etude et de Recherches sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local


Integrated Soil Fertility Management


Institut de Sciences Humaines


The World Conservation Union


Least Developed Countries


Loi d’Orientation Agricole (Mali)



Lettre de politique de développement rural decentralise


Millennium Development Goals


Mata Masu Dubara


Normalized Difference Vegetati on Index


Non -governmental Organization


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Net Primary Productivity


Natural Resource Management


Nutrient Monitoring


Projet Appui à la Gestion Conjointe des Ressources Sylvopastorales


Programme d’Appui à la Gestion de la Réserve Nationale de l’Aïr et du Ténéré


People,Trees and Agriculture


Projet de Gestion des Ressources Naturelles


Programme National de Gestion des Terroires


Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers


Reforme Agraire et Foncier (Burkina Faso)


Regional Agricultural Trade Intelligence Network


Regional Climate Model


Rain Use Efficiency


Sahel -Sudan Environmental Research Initiative



Fer tility



Soil Organic Matter


Secrétariat permanent du cadre national de concertation des partenaires du développement rural décentralisé


Technical Advisory Committee


Union des Groupements Villageois de l’Oudalan



United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification


United Nations Development Programme


United Nations Environment Programme


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


United Nations Population Fund


United Nations Sudano -Sahelian Office


U.S. Geological Survey


Table of contents




Abbreviations ...........................................................................................................................


Table of contents

Chapter 1. Introduction



  • 1.1 The Sahel .........................................................................................................................


  • 1.2 Study objectives ..............................................................................................................


  • 1.3 Visions for the Sahel


  • 1.4 Natural resource management and the ‘sectors’


  • 1.5 Approach and limitations of the study


Chapter 2. Trends in natural resources and the environment



  • 2.1 Introduction .....................................................................................................................


  • 2.2 Climate change



  • 2.3 Climate change mitigation and adaptation


  • 2.4 Desertification/land degradation ..................................................................................


  • 2.5 Climate change, desertification and security


  • 2.6 Bush fires


  • 2.7 Vegetation cover and biological/species diversity


  • 2.7.1 Changes in vegetation cover



  • 2.7.2 Equilibrium and disequilibrium ecosystem theories


  • 2.7.3 Implications for management



  • 2.8 Water resources and

water management



  • 2.8.1 Water resource characteristics ..............................................................................


  • 2.8.2 The significance of water management


  • 2.8.3 The large river basins



  • 2.8.4 Water management and governance at the river basin scale


  • 2.9 Conclusions and p olicy implications ...........................................................................


Chapter 3. Natural resource management in farmlands



  • 3.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................


  • 3.1.1 Population growth in the Sahel


  • 3.2 Soil nutrient depletion at a continental scale



  • 3.3 Soil

degradation and soil management ........................................................................


  • 3.3.1 Fundamental soil constraints


  • 3.3.2 Soil degradation .....................................................................................................


  • 3.3.3 Sustainable soil management


  • 3.3.4 Summary ................................................................................................................


  • 3.4 Livestock interactions in


  • 3.5 Changes in natural vegetation in farmlands



  • 3.5.1 Historica l transition from grazed woodlands to farmed parklands


  • 3.5.2 Deforestation and biodiversity loss



  • 3.5.3 Forest regeneration since the mid -1980s


  • 3.5.4 Causes of natural vegetation change


  • 3.5.5 Summary ................................................................................................................


  • 3.6 The economic performance of farmlands



  • 3.6.1 Farmland

productivity ...........................................................................................


  • 3.6.2 National food production and food self-sufficiency


  • 3.6.3 Income and investment


  • 3.6.4 Summary ................................................................................................................


  • 3.7 A new perspective on sustainable farmland management


  • 3.7.1 The African drylands success stories



  • 3.7.2 The central role of markets


  • 3.7.3 Critique of the success stories


  • 3.8 Conclusions ...................................................................................................................


  • 3.8.1 Desertification as an anomaly



  • 3.8.2 Farm management responses ................................................................................


  • 3.8.3 Changes in farmland components



  • 3.8.4 Changes in economic performance


  • 3.9 Policy implications


Chapter 4. Natural resource management in pastoral systems



  • 4.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................


  • 4.1.1 Defining pastoralism


  • 4.2 The importance of pastoralism in the Sahel


  • 4.3 Research findings


  • 4.3.1 Efficiency ...............................................................................................................


  • 4.3.2 environmental shocks

Resilience to


Pastoral land

  • 4.3.3 tenure



  • 4.3.4 ..................................................................................................................


Research gaps

  • 4.3.5 ........................................................................................................


4.4. Pastoral development


4.4.1. Sustainable management of the


  • 4.4.2 Good governance and pastoral civil society empowerment


  • 4.4.3 Pastoral credit


  • 4.5 A changing policy and legislative environment


  • 4.5.1 New pastoral legislation



  • 4.5.2 Regional transhumance agreements .....................................................................


  • 4.5.3 Decentralisation, PRSPs and agricultural sector reforms


  • 4.6 Key issues and priority intervention areas


  • 4.6.1 Political will and concerted effort


4.6.2. Strengthening civil society



  • 4.6.3 Developing appropriate institutions and tools for subsidiarity and flexibility


  • 4.6.4 Protecting livelihoods, promoting resilience and improving

market integration



  • 4.6.5 Capitalising and building on experience



  • 4.7 Conclusions and

policy implications ...........................................................................


Chapter 5. Markets and natural resource management



  • 5.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................


  • 5.2 Inclusive and equitable market institutions .................................................................


  • 5.3 Growing demand for food staples and wood products


  • 5.4 Local and regional market opportuniti


  • 5.4.1 urban markets ..............................................................................................



Coastal markets

  • 5.4.2 .....................................................................................................


  • 5.5 International niche markets for sustainable products



  • 5.6 Conclusions and policy implications ...........................................................................


Chapter 6. Local governance institutions and natural resource management


  • 6.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................


  • 6.1.1 Overview of research on natural resource governance


  • 6.2 Governance in relation to type of natural resource


  • 6.2.1 Institutions governing farmland



  • 6.2.2 Institutions governing common forest lands


  • 6.2.3 Expected changes in natural resource governance


  • 6.2.4 Policy implications ................................................................................................


  • 6.3 Current local governance institutions for NRM



  • 6.3.1 Customary authorities


  • 6.3.2 Village land management commissions


  • 6.3.3 Conventions locals (local by -laws)



  • 6.3.4 Policy implications ................................................................................................


  • 6.4 Democratic decentralisation


  • 6.4.1 The emergence of local go vernments


  • 6.4.2 Local governments and NRM


  • 6.4.3 Local governments and delegation



  • 6.4.4 Conflict prevention and management by local governments


  • 6.4.5 The role of local governments in unsustainable NRM


  • 6.4.6 The potential of decentralisation in relation to NRM


  • 6.4.7 Policy implications


  • 6.5 Conclusions and policy implicat ions


Chapter 7. Conclusions






Annex A. Trends in crop yields and farmland economic performance indicators



Chapter 1. Introduction

1.1 The Sahel

The ’Sahelian’ countries of West Africa – Senegal, Mauretania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – are located on the southern edge of the Sahara on a steep rainfall gradient from less than 100 mm/year to more than 800 mm/year of mean annual rainfall (Figure 1.1). Other countries such as Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria may be added to the list because they include areas that fall under some definitions of the Sahel. This study focuses on four countries: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and, to a lesser extent, Senegal, which have been the focus of Danish development assistance to ‘the Sahel’.

Figure 1.1 : West Africa, with the 150 mm/year and 700 mm/year annual isohyets shown.

Chapter 1. Introduction 1.1 The Sahel The ’Sahelian’ countries of West Africa – Senegal, Mauretania, Mali,

Note: The rainfall data are annual average rainfall for 1996 to 2007, based on a combination of rain gauge measurements, satellite-based estimates and numerical model outputs, drawn from the RFE data-set (Xie & Arkin, 1997).

The ‘Sahel proper’ may be defined and delimited in a number of ways, e.g. as the area between the 100/200 and 60 0/800 mm/year isohyets. For the purpose of this study we mainly use the term to denote the six countries mentioned above, even though large parts of them fall outside the standard definition because they are either too arid or too humid. While these countries differ widely in many respects, it is meaningful to consider them as a ‘region’ based on their climatic similarities: in the Sahel the potential for rainfed agricu l- ture is limited by the low mean annual rainfall, the short rainy season and the great spatial and temporal variability of rainfall. Because of the heavy reliance on rainfed agriculture, the climate gives rise to a common set of environmental conditions that influence local livelihoods as well as national economies in the Sahel. The climate al so determines the


zonal distribution of many natural ecosystems in the region, even though other factors such as soil conditions and terrain also give rise to important differences.

The common environmental conditions are reflected in similarities in production and land use throughout the region. In general one finds a dominance of pastoral systems in the arid north and greater relative importance of crop production towards the south; yet this zonal pattern is not uniform: population densities and the intensity of agricultural land use vary greatly, with particularly high values found in the ‘Peanut Basin’ of Senegal, around Ba- mako in Mali, in the ‘Mossi Plateau’ of Burkina Faso and the Zinder area of Niger, not to mention the ‘Kano close settlement zone’ o f northern Nigeria.

The four ‘study countries’ also share important socioeconomic characteristics: they are by any standard very poor, they rely heavily on the primary sector (in particular crop produ c- tion and animal husbandry), they are with the exception of Senegal landlocked with diffi- cult access to international markets, and regional and domestic trade likewise suffer from scattered populations and poor marketing infrastructure. The Sahel includes population groups of many ethnicities, and some groups such as the Fulani and the Touareg are found in several countries. The study countries are all francophone and formerly French col o- nies. To some extent they also share their policy efforts in: seeking to decentralise the manag ement of the natural resources within broader decentralisation efforts; the drafting of environmental strategies from the national to district and local lev els; the adoption of regulatory frameworks for the access to and management of natural resources; and in the establishment of conflict resolution mechanisms. At national levels, such policies are framed within broadly shared visions and attempts to improve governance, democratisa- tion and empowerment, allowing the more active political involvement of the institutions and organisations of civil society.

  • 1.2 Study objectives

The interlinked environmental, economic and policy characteristics of the Sahel are thus sufficiently similar to warrant a joint analysis of natural resources management (NRM) across the region, which can help inform strategic planning of development assistance. Denmark provides bilateral assistance to three of the Sahelian countries – Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – and it is worth considering how knowledge and experience from r e- search and development assistance pr ojects in the whole region can inform future deve l- opment efforts in these countries. Against this background, the objective of the study was to analyse recent trends as well as key problems and drivers related to NRM in the Sahel of relevance to Danish dev elopment assistance, emphasizing changes reported over the last couple of decades. The study reviewed mainly the research literature.

  • 1.3 Visions for the Sahel

The Sahel has been subject to many ’gloom and doom’ visions over the last three to four decades, i.e. since the onset of the ‘Sahel drought’ in the late sixties or early seventies. The region has, with some justification, been portrayed as one of the poorest in the world, hit by the strongest and most persistent climatic anomaly observed globally over the past


50 years, and threatened by devastating desertification. To this may be added other disad- vantages, such as high illiteracy rates, a general the lack of non -agricultural economic opportunities (aside mining in some areas), and difficult access to the world market due in part to poor infrastructure ( with Senegal as an exception). All this adds up to a ‘narrative’ of the Sahel as a region with little promise of economic development, with few competi- tive advantages, and placed in a ‘Malthusian trap’ of increasing human pressure on a scarce natural resource base causing irreversible environmental degradation.

A ‘counter -narrative’ exists as well, however: it portrays the Sahel as a region recovering surprisingly rapidly after the long drought that lasted up to the mid eighties. This process is characterized by improved management of water and land resources as well as by in- creases in vegetation productivity and crop yields. Compared to other parts of Africa, the political situation has been relatively stable, while inflation in the CFA currency zone – including Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – has been low over a long period. Ur- banization takes place at a high rate, causing slower growth in the rural population and a rising urban demand for agricu ltural and wild harvested products. The latter contributes to improved market incentives for agriculture, including livestock production, which may in turn contribute to the intensification, diversification and specialization of production.

1.4 Natural resource management and the ‘sectors’

In this report NRM refers to the sustainable utilization of major natural resources such as soils, water, air, minerals, forests, fisheries, and wild flora and fauna (biodiversity). T o- gether, these resources produce the goods and the ecosystem services that underpin human existence and welfare . This study focuses on the management of renewable resources – soils, water, forests and biodiversity for the purpose of food and income generation. NRM is intrinsically linked with poverty alleviation in the Sahel, where the majority of the poor depend on a combination of rain -fed crop farming and extensive livestock rearing, su p- plemented with the harvesting of wild biodiversity (wood, grasses, fruits, wild grains etc) and non -farm work. Fisheries are a key source of income in some areas, while small -scale mining (mainly of gold) is a common source of non -farm income. Hence, reducing food insecurity and raising income among the rural poor in the Sahel will necessarily involve changes in the use of natural resources, often as intensified use, with related risks of de g- radation.

Danish bilateral development assistance is mainly given to selected partner countries and – for each of these countries – to selected ‘sectors’. One problem of t he sector approach is that sectors overlap and are closely interlinked: agriculture in the Sahel is limited by water availability; hydropower production interacts with both water resource management, agri- culture and environment; and environmental concerns may conflict with agricultural and energy interests. The theme of this publication , natural resource management, cuts across most of these sectors, and addressing NRM rather than sector -specific questions may pr o- vide a means of avoiding certain pitfalls associated with a sector approach.

Looking at things from a NRM perspective implies a focus both on questions related to natural resources as such and on questions of how to manage these resources. This in turn


implies that the NRM approach must include both natural, technical and social science elements. This challenges the traditional academic division of labour, which is still clearly visible both in research and among development practitioners. We are aware of this prob- lem and have tried to span the wide spectrum of competences required to the best of our abilities; yet there are obvious differences in the depth of their knowledge of subjects within this spectrum.

1.5 Approach and limitations of the study

The study has adopted a multi -sectoral perspective to better reflect the realities of rural peoples’ lives, based on the synthesis of work from different disciplines. It was inspired by the grand inter -disciplinary studies of West Africa (OECD, 1998 ; Raynaut et al., 1997 ) but we did not attempt to match the thematic coverage and analytical depth of these works. Instead we tried to bring in new perspectives and to draw upon new research within a variety of fields. Emphasis was placed on linking analyses of trends in climate, vegetation, agriculture (the rearing of crops, livestock and trees) , local governance , and markets to produce a coherent and up -to -date picture of natural resource management in the region. Inevitably this involved questioning some of the assumptions underlying the ‘gloom and doom’ visions of the Sahel against the most recent evidence, while also pu t- ting the more optimistic ‘counter narrative’ to an empirical test. We hope that the result of this exercise will contribute to a more realistic and less dogmatic view of NRM in the Sa- hel.

The role of local governance in promoting sustainable NRM is a key theme of the study, which reflects the view that it is of great importance to NRM in the region and at the same time amenable to policy and project interventions. It also mirrors current trends in deve l- opment policy and it is a key element in Danida ’s assistance to Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Another important factor of sustainable NRM in the Sahel is markets, including those for agricultural products, inputs, services and labour. The role of markets in sustain- able NRM has generally been neglected by researchers, policy makers and development practitioners in the Sahel. We address this question to some extent, particularly in relation to urbanisation, but it is a subject that warrants more attention in future work. There are specific NRM issues related to pastoral systems, which often get inadequate attention or are inappropriately dealt with in policy and project design. It was ther e fore decided to place emphasis on this aspect of NRM in the present study.

The study has some limitations. Firstly, it is based mainly on a review of research find- ings, although the chapters on pastoral societies and local governance, also discuss opera- tional experiences. Secondly, o nly natural resource management pertaining to farmlands (land dominated by crop production) and pastoral systems (dominated by livestock gra z- ing) are considered, since these are the most important rural economic activities for the region as a whole. Hence NRM related to inland fisheries and mining are not discussed, while wild harvesting of natural resource-based products receives only limited attention. Systems dominated by export crops, in particular cotton, were omitted as they play a very minor role in Danish development a ssistance to the region.


Thirdly, the management of water resources poses a special problem of delimitation. The ‘water sector’ is often dealt with independently from ‘natural resource management’, yet the two are of course closely linked, especially in t he case of the Sahel. Since it is beyond the scope of the study to produce a thorough review of water resource management issues on all scales, we decided to take up the issue wherever appropriate, and to devote a section to it in Chapter 2. Here the empha sis is on the ‘macro scale’, related to water resource management at the scale of the large river basins, Senegal, Volta and Niger. We are aware of the inconsistencies that this choice involves, but have found no better alternatives within the given limita tions.

Fourthly, e conomic development and poverty reduction remain preconditions for achie v- ing an environmentally sustainable use of natural resources, but they are not the focus of this study. Migration, whether seasonal labour migration or more or less p ermanent relo- cations of households, is recognised as a key factor for NRM but was not analysed in depth. Finally, gender relations are recognised as being a key aspect of NRM in the Sahel and it is an important focus of Danish development assistance to the region. The large scope and scale of the present study, however, did not allow us to give this issue special treatment.

The remainder of the publication is structured as follows. Chapter 2 discusses the bi o- physical aspects of natural resources, focusing on recent trends in climate, land quality (degradation), vegetation and water resources. It also examines the validity of the ‘desert i- fication’ concept and links it to the emerging issues of climate change and security. Cha p- ters 3 and 4 examine natural resource management in Sahel’s two most important produ c- tion systems, respectively, i.e. farmlands (where land use is dominated by crop produ c- tion) and pastoral systems (where livestock grazing dominates land use). In chapters 5 and 6 we then zoom in on two o f the most important factors of sustainable NRM in the Sahel, markets and local governance. The latter factor is treated in more depth than the former, due mainly to time limitations. Each chapter ends with a brief discussion of the policy implications of the analyses presented. Chapter 7 concludes.


Chapter 2. Trends in natural resources and the environ- ment



The Sahel -Sudan has traditionally been portrayed as a region characterized by scarce and vulnerable natural resources, haunted by drought and desertification, and with a high and rising pressure on key natural resources, such as vegetation, soils and water. This picture of the Sahel -Sudan became the ‘acquired wisdom’ during the ‘Sahel crisis’ in the seve n- ties, and it has tended to stick to the region ever since. Much development assistance, Da- nish as well as from other donors, has been initiated on the basis of this perception. In the following we investigate whether this is still a valid description of the region , asking the followin g specific questions:

What are the current trends with respect to climate change, and what can be ex- pected from the future?

Is desertification, or preferably ‘land degradation’, a process still ongoing, has the trend been reversed or are the realities of the region more complex than can be captured by such generalizations?

Is agriculture in the Sahel -Sudan unsustainable, causing depletion of soil nutrients and accelerated soil erosion?

Are vegetation resources being depleted through unsustainable use of wo ody r e- sources for firewood and of herbaceous vegetation as livestock grazing?

Is indiscriminant burning of vegetation causing land degradation and loss of bi o- logical diversity?

Are water resources scarce and/or being over -used?

How do the answers to these questions impact on development assistance strat e- gies?

Some of these questions will be taken up in later chapters on crop production and pasto- ra lism. In this chapter the focus will be on climate change, land degradation, changes in vegetation cover and biological diversity, the effects of burning and water resources.


Climate change

The Sahel -Sudan zone has experienced one of the most significant and persistent climatic anomalies observed globally over the last half Century: The drought period, which started in the late sixties or early seventies and lasted at least up to the mid -eighties, is very well documented and caused great economic losses as well as dramatic environmental change.

An interesting and widely debated question concerns whether the r ecent increase in rain- fall may be interpreted as a return to earlier levels or whether it represents just natural variability not associated with an increase in the average. Since around 1986 rainfall has generally increased compared to the 1970 -85 period (OECD, 2006). Further, a comparison


of the 1998 -2003 period with period 1968 -97 showed that rainfall had recovered with re- spect to the preceding period in the southern parts of the Sahel zone (12 -16°N), but in the northern part (16 -20°N), the drought appea rs to have intensified. In the ‘southernmost Sahel’ (12 -14°N) conditions in the 1998 -2003 period seem to have been particularly fa- vourable and comparable to the very wet period in the 1950s and 1960s (Nicholson,


Several alternative data sets for rai nfall, covering the Sahel region, exist, and there are si g- nificant differences between them. The number of reliable rain gauge stations, functioning over a long period, in the Sahel is surprisingly low, and instead various methods, based on satellite data, from optical as well as microwave sensors, and a variety of analysis met h- ods are being used to produce these data sets. We have applied the CHARM (Collabora- tive Historical African Rainfall Model) dataset, (Funk & Verdin, 2003), based on a co m- bination of o ptical and microwave satellite data, calibrated by use of ground data, to iden- tify trends in rainfall over the period 1996 to 2006. The result is illustrated in Figure 2.1. It is evident that the Sahel and northern Sudan region has generally experienced in creases in rainfall.

Figure 2.1 : Trends in the development of rainfall in the period 1996 -2006, derived from the CHARM dataset.

of the 1998 -2003 period with period 1968 -97 showed that rainfall had recovered with re-

Note: Green colours denote a positive trend, red colours a negative trend.

Even more interesting is the question of whether rainfall may be expected to increase in the future as a consequence of global climate change. IPCC’s’ Fourth Assessment Report (4AR) (Christensen et al., 2007) is inconclusive on this point. The West -African region is actually one of the regions of the world where different global climate models (GCMs) agree the least in their predictions, and currently large research efforts are invested in u n- derstanding the West -African monsoon better and in representing the geo -bio -physical mechanisms better in the climate models. One example is the African Monsoon Multidi s- ciplinary Analyses ( AMMA) project (www.amma Further, attempts are made to obtain more detail in the projections by increasing the spatial resolution of the climate models, which involves dev eloping regional climate models (RCMs) for the region. The EU project ENSEMBLES presently works on developing ‘probabilistic’ projections of future climate change in the West -African region, by combining output from many GCMs and RCMs. At this point, what can be said is that while the overall future trend in rainfall remains uncertain, it is very probable that weather extremes will become more frequent and more extreme 1 (Tebaldi et al. , 2006).

The scientific literature on the causes of drought in the Sahel is large. In the seventies sev- eral hypotheses, relating drought to changes in local land surface conditions, were put


forward. The interesting characteristic of these theories is that they involve bio -geo - physical positive feedbacks, implying that once su rface conditions have changed, e.g. due to human action, this could in itself lead to drought, which would further accelerate changes in land surface conditions. None of these hypotheses have, however, been shown to be able to explain climatic variations i n the region fully. More recently it has been su g- gested that industrial pollution in Europe may have caused the drought. While this hypo- thesis cannot be said to be verified, it does have the attractive property that it provides an explanation why the drought has gradually faded out, since the industrial pollution has gradually decreased from the eighties and onwards. Other possible ‘explanations’ have been based on statistical correlations between rainfall in the Sahel -Sudan and sea tempera- tures in the Atla ntic and the Indian Ocean. While such correlations are interesting, and possibly useful as a basis for seasonal forecasting, they do not necessarily provide neither an explanation nor a basis for long -term climate change forecasts.

Seasonal forecasts of rainfall are of considerable potential utility, since they can provide farmers with information allowing them to choose the right time of sowing as well as the optimal crop variety. Also they can feed into early warning systems for crop failure and food in sufficiency. In addition, rainfall forecasts may be useful for managing water r e- sources in the large river basins, not the least management of the reservoirs behind the large dams, such as the Manantali on the Senegal River. As mentioned, IPCC’s AR4 (In- ter governmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 4 ) suggests that both droughts and extreme rainfall may become more frequent. The latter implies that flooding in the big river valleys may become an increasing risk, seriously aggravated by the fact that during the decades of lower rainfall, and following the construction of dams like Ma- nantali, much infrastructure and many villages have been constructed in the river valleys. In the context of projects like AMMA, the improvement of seasonal forecasts i s high on the agenda. It should be noted that farmers make their own forecasts, and that local kno w- ledge may be combined with scientifically based forecasts (Ingram et al., 2002 ; Roncoli et al., 2002).

In conclusion it may be stated that annual rainfall se ems to have increased somewhat since the mid -eighties, even though trends differ much across the Sahel, yet little can be said about the future trends. However, variability is likely to increase, and both prolonged droughts and extreme rainfall may become more frequent. Whether changes in land su r- face properties in the Sahel -Sudan will have significant feedback on climate is still uncer- tain.

2.3 Climate change mitigation and adaptation

The Sahel has contributed relatively little to the increase in the atmospheric concentration of Green House Gas’s (GHG). The small contribution comes from many sources:

Reduction in carbon storage in vegetation and soil due to clearing of woodlands and forests, cultivation and grazing (Elberling et al., 2003 ; Touré et al., 200 3).

Emissions of non -CO 2 GHGs from bush fires.

Emissions of CH 4 from livestock and irrigated rice fields.


Burning of fossil fuels in transportation and industry.

The per capita emission, measured in tons of CO 2 -equivalents, remains far below the global average, and the Sahel countries are not subjects to emissions caps. Efforts to r e- duce emissions are therefore either fully voluntary or organized as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. No CDM projects are presently approved, yet several are being validated, including one on reducing emissions from landfill in Senegal, one on replacing fossil fuels with hy dropower in Mali and on village-scale tree planting in Burk- ina Faso. All three projects are relatively small, and exactly the small size of projects a p- pear to constitute a problem, because transaction costs are high in the CDM system. It has been claimed that there are huge potentials for increasing carbon storage in vegetation and, even more so, in the soil in African savanna areas, yet it appears that this potential is not being utilized because the costs of increasing carbon storage are relatively high, whereas carbon credits are presently very inexpensive. As the inexpensive options for cutting GHG emissions – the so -called ‘low-hanging fruits’ – a re gradually used up, and major increases in demand for credits may be expected, this situation is likely to change. However, other parts of the world, e.g. areas where tropical rainforest is the natural veg e- tation type, may well have the comparative advantage for carbon storage relative to sa- vanna areas. One issue, presently being debat ed, is the proposition that CDM projects may, in the post -Kyoto period, include such non -actions as ‘avoided deforestation’, imply- ing that developing countries may be paid not to cut down forests that would otherwise have been cut. This may also have effects in the Sahel, where agriculture is still expanding into woodland/ forest. Generally, speaking CDM projects involving a fforestation, refore s- tation and, possibly in the fu ture , avoided deforestation all involve many problems, not the least associated with social and economic sustainability (Tschakert, 2004 ; Perez et al.,


Globally, one mitigation option is to replace fossil fuels by (more or less) CO 2 neutral bio - fuels. This option has been decided upon both by the US and the EU, and the decision may have considerable, yet still largely unknown, consequences in developing countries. As already evident, the result will be considerable increases in prices of all biomass pro d- ucts which may be converted into bio fuels. Currently, maize prices have been strongly affected. The extent to which this will have an impact on agriculture in the Sahel remains to be seen, and trade barriers and import taxes may influence the result profoundly. Never- theless, a higher demand for, and world market prices on, biomass for bio fuel purposes will, all other factors even, have stimulating impacts on Sahelian agriculture. On the other hand, it may lead to increases in food prices in urban areas, and cause unsustainable e x- pansion of agriculture into marginal areas. Several crops, e.g. sorghum, maize, cassava and sugar cane, presently grown in the region are suitable as feedstock for ethanol produ c- tion using existing technology, and others will become relevant as ‘2 nd generation tec h- nologies’ become available. Production of biodiesel from plant oils may be equally feasi- ble. In particular, the cultivation of Jatropha carcus (henceforth Jatropha ) is considered to have large potential, even though t he current state of knowledge of its yield potential and requirements with respect to water and nutrients is insufficient. Danish development assistance funding presently supports a Jatropha project in Mali, and a project in Burkina Faso is underway as well. The development of both ethanol and biodiesel production in


the region is still in its infancy, and there are good reasons to monitor closely the eco- nomic, social and environmental aspects of the sustainability of bio -fuel production sy s- tems. It should also be noted CDM projects and bio fuel expansion interact: Both are cli- mate change mitigation activities, yet they may act synergistically or be in conflict, since expan sion of crop production for bio fuel purposes may cause a decrease in the carbon stock in vegetation and soils. On the other hand, the cultivation of certain bio fuel crops, such as Jatropha , on poor and depleted soils may actually increase carbon stocks.

Adaptation to climate change has recently risen to the top of the agenda in the devel o p- ment assistance arena and in international negotiations in the context of the United Na- tions Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is widely acknowledged that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including the Sahelian countries, are the most vulnerable to climate change. Irrespective of the efforts to mitigate climate change, there will be considerable climate change taking place over the next Century, and developing countries should be assisted in developing National Action Plans for Adap tation, as well as in implementing them. However, adaptation to climate change remains relatively low on the agenda of many countries, mostly due to the time horizon, stretching far beyond the next election period. In the first generation of PRSPs (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers) , references to climate change and other environmental issues are few. Long - term planning taking climate change into considerations is likely to be an issue pushed by donors, rather than driven by governments of the Sahel countri es, unless win -win options, involving both adaptation to climate change and other benefits may be identified. One candidate for such co -benefits may be found in the domain of disaster preparedness, which overlaps consi d- erably with climate change adaptation , and which is generally higher on national agendas. The problem of bringing climate change adaptation into the forefront is shared by many LDCs, yet it may be particularly pronounced in the Sahel, since it is linked to the uncer- tainty of climate change. As long as climate change forecasts for the next Century are as diverging as they are for the Sahel, a ‘wait -and -see’ attitude is likely to develop, not the least in a situation where many other economic development issues appear more pressing.

The farmers themselves have always coped with climate change and variability, and any understanding of how they may adapt to future changes can be based on studies of how they have acted in the past. Adaptation and coping strategies are deeply embedded in local produ ction systems and cultures. Strategies include elements related to local land use and crop choices as well as non -local elements, such as migration (Roncoli, 2006 ; Mertz et al. , 2009 ). In the context of the AMMA project, a major comparative study of farmer s’ ada p- tation strategies is underway.

Seen from a development assistance perspective, donor agencies could review the activ i- ties supported by development assistance funds to make sure that they are ‘climate proof’. This process is underway in the Danish ‘partner countries’ in West Africa. It could be extended to actively promote activities related to adaptation to climate change, and in par- ticular those that represent win -win options by furthering other national and donor obje c- tives as well.


2.4 Desertification/land degradation

While the theme of desertification in the Sahel -Sudan has a long story, both in research and development circles, it has become a widely d iscussed issue after the ‘Sahel drought’ of the 70 s and early 80s and the UN Conference on Desertification in 1977. It was brought to the top of the agenda once again by the Rio Conference in 1992, followed by the sig n- ing of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1994. While it has become a global issue, it is still o ften associated with the Sahel -Sudan zone, and statements concerning its continued significance in the region occur frequently in both policy and scientific literature ( Adeel et al. , 2007 ; Millenium Ecosystem Assessment,


The contemporary UNCCD definition of desertification is as follows (UNCCD, 1994; pp.

  • 4 -5):

“"Desertification" means land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub -humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities;

"Land degradation" means reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rainfed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands resulting from land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns, such as:

  • (i) soil erosion caused by wind and/or water;

(ii) deterioration of the physical, chemical and biological or economic properties of soil; and (iii) long -term loss of natural vegetation;”

This definition, effectively equating desertification and land degradation, may be the most widely accepted, yet it is by no means the only one used. The great variation in meaning and interpretation of the terms may cause considerable confusion (Rasmussen, 1999 ; Mortimore & Turner, 2005).

Geist & Lambin (2004) summarizes 42 case studies of desertification in Africa, a consi d- erable part of them from the Sahel -Sudan, in order to identify causal patterns. Most of these studies report land degradation and supports the idea, that land degradation is a widespread phenomenon in the region. Geist & Lambin (2004) suggest that the analysis may serve as a basis for generalization to the regional level, policy formulation and pla n- ning of interve ntions.

Since land degradation is generally perceived as involving processes at time scales of dec- ades or longer, it is obvious that methods of monitoring the environment in a consistent manner over long periods are in demand. Few such methods and data sets are available in the Sahel -Sudan, yet satellite data offer certain possibilities. The recent availability of data sets, produced on the basis of satellite images from the NOAA/ AVHRR ( National Oc e- anic and Atmospheric Administration/ Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer) satel- lite/sensor system, covering the period 1982 to date and with near -global spatial coverage,


has allowed analysis of trends in vegetation productivity. Several papers (Eklundh & Ol s- son, 2003 ; Anyamba & Tucker, 2005 ; Olsson et al., 2 005) have over the last years r e- ported the results of such analyses. They generally agree that vegetation productivity has increased in the Sahel -Sudan zone over the period mentioned. The output from an anal y- sis, similar to the ones mentioned, is shown in Figure 2.2a and 2.2b 2 .

Trends in the ‘integrated Normalized Difference Vegetation Index’ (iNDVI), which is an indicator of ‘net primary productivity’ (NPP).

Figure 2.2a: Period 1982 -2006.

has allowed analysis of trends in vegetation productivity. Several papers (Eklundh & Ol s- son, 2003

Figure 2.2b: Period 1996 -2006.

has allowed analysis of trends in vegetation productivity. Several papers (Eklundh & Ol s- son, 2003

Note: Green colours denote a positive trend, red colours a negative trend.

In relation to the results shown in Figure 2.2 it should be noted that there are many uncer- tainties involved, the most important being that the time integral of Normalized Differ- ence Ve getation Index (NDVI) over the growing season is an imperfect proxy for net pr i- mary productivity (NPP), among other things because the relationship between integrated - NDVI (iNDVI) and vegetation productivity depends on vegetation type and species. Many attempts to improve the estimation of vegetation productivity using various types of satel- lite images are presently being made. Further it should be noted that NDVI does not say anything about the quality of the vegetation and thus about its ‘economic productivity and complexity’.

It is apparent from the definition on desertification/land degradation given above, that vegetation productivity is a key indicator of land degradation – y et not the only one b e- cause biological productivity may differ from economic productivity, also referred to in the definition. Thus the gloomy picture of persistent land degradation in the Sahel -Sudan, found in research papers as well as policy documents, seems to be contradicted by these findings, as exemplified by Figure 2.2. Whil e Figure 2.2a covers the entire period from which data is available (1982 -2006), this is from the end of the drought period. Figure


2.2b covers only the period from 1996, the same period for which rainfall data are shown in Figure 2.1. It appears that the ‘greening of the Sahel’ continues over the last decade.

The above -mentioned meta -study on desertification by Geist & Lambin (2004) has as its aim to extract information on 'immediate causes' and 'driving forces' of desertification from each of these, and use this as a basis for generalization. The meta-study approach employed is seen as a means of allowing generalizations to be made from numerous case studies, carried out using different methodologies and with different objectives. Briefly summarized the study reaches the main conclusions that;

  • 1. most case studies observe land degradation,

  • 2. this is mostly due to overgrazing, in combination with increased aridity, and

  • 3. a combination of climatic, demographic, economic and institutional factors are the most prominent ’underlying driving forces’.

The satellite-based studies, mentioned above, do not provide an explanation of the causes of the observed increase in vegetation productivity. However, the spatial scale of the o b- served phenomenon points in the direction of 'underlying driving forces' which have a similar 'operational scale'. It is difficult to imagine that other factors than rainfall change and increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO 2 , so -called CO 2 fertilization, can live up to this requirement. Other suggested causes include demographic change, improved NRM and land use changes, yet they hardly have the ‘operational scale’ required to pr o- duce the observed general ‘greening’.

It is obvious that the conclusions, at the sub -continental scale, extracted from the meta - study and from the macro -scale analysis of satellite images, appear to be contradictory. This may have a number of different explanations: Either the meta -study or the macro - scale studies may give a false picture, or they may a ctually deal with different things, use different definitions of key concepts, use different indicators and/or relate to different spa- tial or temporal scales. We suggest that two factors are the most important;

  • 1. biased selection of study areas and research design of micro -scale studies, over - representing areas where land degradation processes occur, and

  • 2. differences in the use of indicators of land degradation, reflecting different defin i- tions or emphasizing different aspects of the definition, given above.

The observed discrepancy would not be of great practical significance if it were not the basis for differences in practical approaches and policies, aimed at 'combating' desertifica- tion, to use the UNCCD term. It is clear, however, that such differences are likely to o c- cur. Much rhetoric, both by national governments, by UNCCD and by donors rely on the assumption that land degradation is an ongoing process in the Sahel -Sudan, and policies and projects are being designed on this basis. One example of a pr oject building largely on this perception is the revived ‘green belt project’ , proposing that one or two green belts should be planted across the Sahel from the Atlantic coast in Senegal or Mauretania and to Lake Chad. We are not going to debate the overal l costs and benefits of this project; rather we will question whether its rationale may be justified. Its rationale is that green belts are supposed to stop the threatening advance of the Sahara. This may (or may not) be justified


by the results of the meta -studies referred to, strongly suggesting that widespread land degradation is actually taking place, but it is obviously in conflict with the findings of the macro -scale studies.

As indicated above, alternative definitions and indicators of land degradation have been suggested. One indicator directly related to figure 2.1 and 2.2 is the ratio of annual net primary productivity (NPP) to annual rainfall, the so called rain use efficiency (RUE) (Prince et al., 1998; Hein & de Ridder, 2006 ; Prince et al., 2007 ). The logic behind this measure is that it represents the ability of the vegetation cover to make efficient use of the rainfall. It is obviously only relevant in cases where the vegetation productivity and thus ‘greenness’ is supposed to be limited by wat er availability, which is generally the case up to at least 700 mm of mean annual rainfall. The difference here is that changes in rainfall should not, from the outset, be expected to influence RUE, and any change in RUE may therefore be expected to reflect other factors, such as increased CO 2 -fertilization, change in land use, change in grazing pressure etc. This is questioned by Hein & de Ridder (2006), yet Prince et al. (2007) maintains that RUE may be used as an indicator of the effect of other variables than rainfall. Further, Prince et al. (2007) find that trends in RUE do not indicate non -rainfall related land degradation in the Sahel . This is further supported by Fensholt & Rasmussen (2011). This conclusion is, however, sensitive to several a s- sumptions: Firstly, the calculation of a meaningful and robust RUE assumes that NPP can be accurately estimated by using the iNDVI, determined from the NOAA AVHRR sensor, as a proxy for NPP, as discussed above. Secondly, a reliable rainfall dataset with suffi- cient spatial resolution is required. The CHARM data on annual rainfall, used above to analyze trends in annual rainfall, is one such dataset, yet the scarcity of ground data on rain fall makes it difficult to assess the qualities of various datasets objectively. We have used the data on iNDVI, illustrated in Figure 2.2b and the rainfall data, from the CHARM data set, used to produce Figure 2.1 to calculate RUE values, and to identify trends in RUE. The result is shown in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.3 : Trends in the ‘Rain Use Efficiency’ (RUE) over the period 1996 -2006.

by the results of the meta -studies referred to, strongly suggesting that widespread land degradation is

Note: Green colours indicate an increase, red colours a decrease.

Figure 2.3 shows that the observed increase in iNDVI, representing NPP, has, over the 11 years studied, not been able to keep up with the increase in annual rainfall. The result is a general decrease in RUE, in contrast to what is found by Prince et al. (1998, 2007), ho w- ever for a different time period. The main reason for the discrepancy appears to be differ- ences between the rainfall data sets used. Thus, if RUE is seen as an indicator of non - rainfall related land degradation, we arrive at the exact opposite conclusion of Prince et al.


(2007). It should be noted, however, that the use of RUE as a general land degradation indicator does not conform to the standard UNCCD definition.

  • 2.5 Climate change, desertification and security

Climate change, as well as other major environmental changes in drylands and water r e- source scarcity caused by climate change, are to an increasing extent described as interna- tional ‘security problems’. This may be exemplified by the recent session of UN’s Secu- rity Council dealing with climate change. It may be discussed if this ‘securitization’ of climate change is justified (Deudney, 1990 ; Barnett, 2003), and whether it serves to co n- tribute to the long -term solution of the problem. Considering climate change as a security problem is suggested to be especially relevant in parts of the worl d where the livelihoods of a large fraction of the population depend on climate dependent activities, such as in drylands exposed to rainfall decrease or increased rainfall variability and in coastal areas likely to be affected by sea level rise and greater risks of flooding. Increased frequency of climate change related disasters, as well as gradual decrease in resource availability, is thought to cause massive migration, leading to large flows of environmental refugees. These are, in turn, argued to constitute a security problem, both within the regions con- cerned and at global scale. Current refugee flows from sub -Saharan Africa to Europe are argued to be precursors of much greater pressure on Europe. The fact that it may be a r- gued that these refugee flows are caused by an environmental problem created by wealthy, western, industrialized and post -industrial countries, e.g. European countries, adds to the perception of climate change as a security problem. The extent to which this threat is real has not been thoroughly researched, yet there is little to suggest that present refugee flows are directly caused by climate change and associated environmental changes. The largest refugee problems remain those associated with international and civil wars, and whether or not some of these wars are partly caused by resource conflicts related to climate change is unclear.

  • 2.6 Bush fires

Burning of savannah areas is extremely widespread across West Africa in a belt stretching from the southern Sahel to the Guinean savannah. Bush fires are considered to be a major environmental problem in all countries in the region, and are claimed to cause loss of fo d- der and forest resources, degradation of soils, reductions in soil organic matter (SOM) and thus in carbon storage, loss of plant nutrients (in particular plant -available N), loss of species diversity and health problems such as respiratory diseases. Consequently fires have generally been banned, even though the enforcement of the ban has not always and everywhere been equally fierce (Wardell et al. , 2004 ; Laris & Wardell, 2006). There are a number of noticeable exceptions from the general ban: In national parks, the park mana g- ers often use fires, typically very early in the dry season, to reduce the danger of later, more destructive fires, to promote visibility of wildlife and to fight poachers. The same is sometimes the case in ‘protected forests’.

It is widely acknowledged, however, that fires are also a tool in natural resource manage- ment. The great majority of fires, in cultivated areas as well as rangelands, are set by local


people, and in most cases it is done for a reason. Possible rationales for setting fire i n- clude:

Burning, mostly by herders, of dry grasses at the start of the dry season as soon as burning is possible to promote re -growth of new, more nutritious grasses/herbs.

Burning used a tool in hunting and honey collection.

Burning of fallow vegetation, often in the late dry season, by cultivators as a means of preparing fields for sowing.

In the northern Sahel few fires occur, while further south almost the entire land surface is burnt annually. The reason is suggested to be that in the northern pastoral zone herders do not see a benefit from burning, since annuals dominate and no/little re -growth will occur after burning ( Mbow et al. , 2000 ; Nielsen et al., 2003). While benefits are in all these cas- es harvested by those deciding to set fire, the fires may have negative impacts on other groups and activities. The balance of benefits and costs associated with the use of fires is difficult to assess, and it is likely to differ between places and will depend on the timing of the fire. The optimal timing of fires, seen from the point of view of a specific fire use, is well -known to farmers and pastoralists. As in dicated above, most uses demand early burn- ing, which is also easier to control, since the soil and vegetation are still humid.

Due to the ban on fires outside national parks and protected/managed forests, few attempts to optimize the use of fires and few development projects focusing on management of fires exist. Two examples from the Sahel -Sudan are the FINNIDA ( Finnish International Development Agency) -funded ‘Bush Fire Management Project’ in Burkina Faso and the ECOPAS project in the W -Park in Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin.

2.7 Vegetation cover and biological/species diversity

Almost by definition the natural vegetation cover and productivity in the Sahel is con- trolled by water availability, yet human utilization pressure, both associated with pastoral- ism /livestock production, with crop production, with harvesting of wood fuel and with the use of fire, certainly plays a great role as well. While the uncultivated parts of the Sa- hel may appear to be ‘natural vegetation’, it is a cultural landscape, shape d by millennia of human use. Since climate has been extremely variable, at all time -scales from few years to millennia, the natural ecosystems are likely to be undergoing continuous change, rather than being in some state of equilibrium. Nevertheless, analysis of pollen records from sediment cores from lakes in the region shows that that the main elements of the vegeta- tion cov er have been present at least 7,000 years. A number of questions may be raised, concerning the question of persistence versus change of the vegetation cover:

Are there significant changes in the extent of the woody and herbaceous cover, and, if so, why?

May be the ecosystems of the Sahel be considered unstable and vulnerable, or, on the contrary, very resilient, and what are the impacts of livestock grazing?


What are the lessons learnt with respect to management of the vegetation cover, and protected areas specifically?

2.7.1 Changes in vegetation cover

With respect to woody cover, the general picture has been one of ‘deforestation’ and/ or gradual reduction in the crown cover percentage, and this suggested trend is most often attributed to

Expansion of the cultivated areas, involving clearing of savanna woodlands and replacing them with fields with very sparse populations of specific ‘field trees’, such as Faidherbia albida .

Logging forest and woodland areas to produce timber, wood fuel and/or charcoal, either for local use or for supplies for major cities.

Excessive browsing by livestock, not the least goats.

Climate change, or prolonged drought, causing widespread mortality of tree stands fed by secondary water tables, which are sensitive to drought.

A number of in situ botanical and ethno -botanical studies have reported consistent d e- clines in numbers of trees and shrubs for a large number of species in several countries in the Sahel (Lykke, 2000 ; Gonzalez et al., 2004; Kristensen, 2004 ; Wezel, 2004 ; Wezel & Lykke, 2006). It appears that the economically most important species are generally those mostly affected by the decrease, while less useful species, such as certain invasive shrubs, are reported to increase. It is acknowledged that the causes of the decline, and in certain cases disappearance, of woody species may be related both to climate change and to over- use, the human causes appear to dominate. The fact that Sudanian species are replaced with Sahelian ones speaks in favor of the climatic explanation, while the general decrease in numbers may be expected to be caused by human factors. The authors generally point to excessive browsing by goats, logging, collection of fuel wood, and excessive use of fire as the immediate causes. Also, they suggest that improved systems of management of woody species are required in order to avoid further losses.

The changes in herbaceous c over appear to be less researched from the botanical side, yet there is no doubt that in the drier parts, there has been a distinct change in species compo- sition from the pre -drought period until today. Perennial species used to play a much greater role, while annuals have now taken over. This transition is certainly a direct effect of the lower rainfall during the seventies and eighties, yet also increasing grazing pressure may have played a role. Many of the annuals have a short lifecycle, making them less sen- sitive to rainy -season grazing pressure, and they therefore have a competitive advantage during droughts and under high grazing pressure. The short lifecycle implies that they may not be able to make full use of rainfall late in the rainy season. The dominant species may vary greatly from year to year, due to differences in the start of the rains. Certain species are well adapted to multiple ‘false starts’ of the rainy season, while others are not. These inter -annual differences have considerable impli cations for the grazing resources available, adding to the purely rainfall -related variability.



Equilibrium and disequilibrium ecosystem theories

Traditional ecological and rangeland science accounts of dryland ecosystems have empha- sized the notion o f equilibrium, implying that ecosystems are in a steady state, which may be temporarily ‘disturbed’ by fire, grazing, drought etc, but will return to the steady state once the disturbance is gone. In practical terms, this may involve the concept of a ‘carr y- ing capacity’ or ‘optimal stocking rate’ for livestock. In recent decades this view has been challenged by ‘disequilibrium theories’, as will be elaborated upon in chapter 4. The a p- parent ‘recovery’ of the vegetation cover and productivity of the Sahelian ecosystems, discussed above, may be interpreted as indicative of a system in disequilibrium: While the NPP may increase to pre -drought levels, the species composition and ecosystem function are fundamentally altered. However, the consequence of this, sugg ested by Behnke et al. (1993), that the ecosystem is not affected in the longer term by grazing, and that a oppor- tunistic livestock management strategy, aiming at maximizing herd sizes, is preferable, may not be entirely valid: Certain components of the vegetation, and in particular the woody species may be quite sensitive to grazing/browsing pressure, due to the impact of grazing/browsing on regeneration (Lykke et al. , 2004).

  • 2.7.3 Implications for management

The management strategies suggested to counteract the loss of valuable woody species include the following:

Reliance on natural regeneration rather than planting (Gonzalez et al., 2004 ).

Involvement of the local people suffering from the losses of valuable species.

Modification of burning practices and active fighting of fires, not the least in pr o- tected areas and national parks.

The strategies may, however, be expected to vary greatly from place to place, reflecting the different causes of vegetation degradation. In grazing areas where browsing by goats can be a major factor, active herding of goats and fencing may be the only options, both of which imply considerable costs, both in terms of labour and capital. As mentioned above, modification of burning practices is hampered by the fact that burning is in most cases illegal altogether.

2.8 Water resources and water management

2.8 .1 Water resource characteristics

The availability of water in the Sahel is characterized by extreme spatial and temporal variability, which have a particularly strong influence on natural resource management, including soil management, as well as on livelihood strategies (Mortimore , 1998 ). Firstly, rainfall is low, it is distributed over a short period of typically 3 -4 months, and it falls as thunderstorms of limited spatial extent. This results in a low biological productivity, an extreme seasonality in productivity and thus in derived incomes and labour demands, and a high spatial variability in crop yields and fodder availability. Moreover, because water is such a dominant constraint (up to an average annual rainfall of about 700 mm), variations


in topography and in the water retention properties of soils give rise to a pronounced spa- tial variability in biological productivity at landscape scale and even within individual fields. Secondly, a few thunderstorms are responsible for the major part of the annual pr e- cipitation in any particular location in the Sahel. This means that rainfall is highly unrel i- able, resulting in high production risks, especially for rain -fed crops. It also implies that livestock production is in one sense less risky than crop production, since livestock can be moved to compensate for the spatial and temporal variability of rainfall – provided that the livestock management system allows for this mobility .

2.8.2 The significance of water management

The ‘Sahelian’ countries are a lmost by definition characterized by water scarcity. On a monthly basis, precipitation only exceeds potential evapotranspiration (the maximum

amount of water which could evaporate from the Earth’s surface and transpire from the vegetation cover) in between zero and four months of the year. This implies that rain -fed agricultural activities are limited to a very short period of the year, and that groundwater and surface water resources are subject to competition between different uses. Proper


of t hese scarce resources is

therefore extremely important. Technological

development and population growth have intensified this competition over the last 100 years. An example may illustrate this: the expansion of irrigated agriculture in the valleys of the large river systems (e.g. the Senegal, Niger and Volta systems), the building of dams for hydropower production and the increasing demands for urban water supply all impact on river water resources, giving rise to changes in both total di scharge and its di s- tribution over time. These changes may be detrimental to ‘traditional’ economic activities,

such as ‘recession agriculture’, grazing on dry season pastures in the river valleys, and use of the river for fisheries.

Management of water resources interacts with other NRM issues: the e stablishment of deep wells, providing water to livestock in rangelands that were not usable outside the rainy season before, allows the utilization of hitherto unused vegetation resources. It may, however, cause overuse of vegeta tion resources around the wells as well as conflicts over access to water and vegetation resources, if proper management systems are not esta b- lished.

Increased use of water resources may also have considerable environmental effects. Firstly, the o veruse of groundwater may cause groundwater tables to subside, which in turn may result in death of woody vegetation relying on such water tables. Secondly, r e- duction of the maximum discharge in rivers, caused by the building and operation of dams, may alter riparian ecosystems fundamentally, causing loss of species and ecosystem services.

It is not only the amount, but also the quality of water resources that may be altered. The increase in the use of river water for irrigated agriculture, relying on massive input s of mineral fertilizers and pesticides, inevitably influences water quality downstream. Also, the sediment loads of rivers are increasing because of increased erosion caused by


changes in land use/ cover and possibly by higher rainfall intensity. This cause s problems of siltation of reservoirs behind hydropower dams.

2.8.3 The large river basins

The wet period in the 1960s, the drought in the 1970s and early 1980 s, followed by an increase in rainfall over the last couple of decades are to some extent refle cted in the di s- charge of the major river systems. The major part of the West -African Sahel-Sudan belt is drained by three river systems, the Senegal, the Volta and the Niger systems. The two largest ones, the Senegal and Niger systems, both have their sour ces in the highlands of the Fouta Djalon mountains in the border region between Guinée, Mali and Senegal, and both pass through semi -arid and ari d areas where they lose water before reaching the sea. Water from all three river systems is used extensively for irrigation purposes. Only the upper parts of the Niger and Volta basins are , strictly speaking, relevant in a Sahelian co n- text. Some of the largest irrigated areas within the Sahel -Sudan zone in West Africa are found in the middle and lower valley s of t he Senegal River and in the inland delta of the Niger River in Mali. Dams have been built on tributaries to the Senegal River (the Mana n- tali Dam in Mali) and to the Niger River (th e Selingue Dam). Further south (and outside the zone considered here) in Gha na the Akosombo dam has been constructed on the Volta. All three dams produce significant amounts of hydropower, while Manantali is a multi - purpose dam that also serves the needs of the expanding irrigated agriculture in the Sen e- gal River valley.

The water resources of the three basins are subject to increasing competition between di f- ferent water uses, the quantitatively most prominent being irrigated agriculture. Yet also urban and industrial water supply are of increasing importance, and national capitals such as Dakar and Niamey are sensitive to variations in discharge and water quality in the ma- jor rivers. In the Senegal River the losers in the competition for water resources are, ho w- ever, ‘traditional’ recession agriculture and natural ecosystems, of wh ich some provide ecological services and vegetation resources to the livestock production (Rasmussen et al., 1999). Figure 2.4 shows the annual discharge measured at five stations along the Senegal River (Bakel) and its Bafing (Manantali and Dakka), Faleme (Gourbassa) and Baoule (Qualia) tri butaries over the period 1986 -2005. It is evident that in the period from 1994 to date the Senegal River has had substantially higher discharge than the period 1986 -1993.


Figure 2.4 : Annual discharge at five statio ns in the Senegal River basin .

30 Dakka Manantali 25 Bakel Gourbassa 20 Qualia 15 10 5 0 km 3 year -1
km 3 year -1

1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

Note: Bakel is on the main river in the middle valley, Manantali and Dakka are on the Bafing branch, Gour- bassa on the Faleme branch and Qualia on the Baoule branch. The discharge at Manantali is measured just downstream from the dam, while the input to the reservoir in represented by the discharge at Dakka. The calculation of annual discharge is for the hydrological year, i.e. from May 1 st in the year given to April 30 th the next year. Source: Simon Stisen, on the basis of data from Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Senegal (Organisation for the Development of the Senegal River - OMVS).


Box 2.1. Competing water uses in the Senegal River basin

The Manantali Dam is built on the Bafing tributary and the discharge at Manantali, shown in Figure 2.5 is the outflow from the dam, while Dakka is just upstream and represents the ‘natural flow’ in Bafing. The discharge at Bakel is the sum of contri- butions from the regulated Bafing and the un-regulated Faleme and Baoule tributaries, as shown in Figure 2.4. (Box 2.1 con- tinues on the next page.)

Figure 2.5. Daily discharge at the Bakel station on the main river in the middle valley and Manantali and Dakka sta-

tions on the Bafing branch in Mali. The discharge at Manantali is measured just downstream from the dam, while the input to the reservoir in represented by the discharge at Dakka.

Dakka [m^3/s]

2001 1991 1993 1995 1992 1999 1990 1997 1996 1989 1994 1988 0 2003 2005 2002
1986 1987

Manantali [m^3/s]

1988 1991 1993 1995 1992 1999 1990 1997 1996 1989 1994 1998 0 2001 2003 2005
1986 1987

Bakel [m^3/s]

1988 1991 1993 1995 1992 1999 1990 1997 1996 1989 1994 1998 0 2001 2003 2005
1986 1987

Source: Simon Stisen, on the basis of data from OMVS.


Box 2.1. Continued

It should be noted that the dam was completed in 1986, but it did start to produce hydropower until 2001. In the period 1987-1990 water was retained to fill up the reservoir. The management of the dam has at- tempted to balance conflicting interests, associated with (1) hydro-power production, (2) irrigated agricul- ture in the lower valley, (3) recession agriculture in the middle valley, (4) flooding of pasture areas, mak- ing them useful as dry-season grazing reserves, (5) conservation of wetland ecosystems of international significance, (6) all-year navigation on the river and (7) water supply for urban areas (including Dakar), as described in more detail in Rasmussen et al. (1999). It is clear from Figure 2.4 and 2.5 that the discharge varies greatly from year to year and within the year. The peak flow in 1999 gave rise to the largest flood- ing in the middle and lower valley for several decades. Careful analysis of Figure 2.5 discloses the balanc- ing of the competing water uses: the elevated minimum flow at Bakel in recent years is a consequence of the need to have a continuous power production, water availability for irrigation all year, and all-year navigation. The need to flood the lowest parts of the river valley annually is catered for by controlled ‘flushing’, as seen in the Bakel-curve for 1995-2003, yet in 2004 and 2005 no such ‘flushing’ took place (as can be seen in the Manantali curve). It is estimated that at least six consecutive days with a flow of at least 2500 m 3 /s is required to obtain flooding, supporting recession agriculture to a significant extent. Thus dam management criteria is a critical issue, determining to a great extent the losers and winners in the competition for scarce water resources. While located in Mali, Manantali is under the authority of the OMVS, of which Mali, Mauretania and Senegal, but not Guinée, are members.

In the Niger basin, the reduction in rainfall in the post -1960 s period combined with the increase in irrigated rice production, especially in the inland delta, have caused the down- stream discharge in dry years to be critically low, with negative consequences for both ecosystems and urban water supply. In the Volta basin, discharge has been going down as well, with great consequences for the power production at the Akosombo Dam. The causes of the decrease in discharge are claimed to be climatic as well as the increase in use of water for irrigation and other economic purposes (Rodgers et al., 200 7 ).

2.8.4 Water management and governance at the river basin scale

Water resources may be managed at a range of different scales:

  • a. At the scale of the large river basins, involving four states in the case of the Sen e- gal River, two states in the case of the Volta and four states in the case of the Ni- ger River, transnational institutions are required to avoid international conflicts and to assure a balanced allocation of water and energy resources between cou n- tries.

  • b. At the national scale, the elaboration of ‘water master plans’ has been the approach taken. These plans obviously interact and overlap thematically and geographically with planning and management at the river basin scale; but they also emphasize other issues, such as the provision of water for urban centres and villages, and the use of water for irrigation at the local level.

  • c. At the local scale (at the levels of village, farm or field), individual farmers and pastoralists manage water for household use, for the provision of drinking water to livestock and for increasing crop yiel d s. Again, water use at the local scale is a f-


fected by water management decisions at the coarser scales, and also feedback on them.

‘Good water governance’, including legislative frameworks and appropriate institutions, is required at all scales. At the transnational river basin scale, which is the focus of the be- low discussion, ‘river basin authorities’ have been established for the three basins men- tioned, yet their political, administrative and technical powers may not be sufficient to guarantee a fair a llocation of water resources. The result may be international disagree- ment or even conflict. Examples of actual and potential conflicts on water allocation may be found between Senegal and Mauretania. The scarcer the water resource is, the more likely such conflicts become: i f rainfall is reduced in the region or part of it, causing a reduction in river discharge, allocation conflicts will obviously be sharpened, both b e- cause less resources will be available and because the reliance on irrigated farming will increase, causing an increase in demand, all other factors even. Water management at river basin scale involves prioritizations, potentially causing conflict beyond those b e- tween states: a s discussed above, the management of the Manantali Dam on the Senegal River involves a trade -off between the interests associated with power generation, with year -round provision of water for ‘modern’ irrigation systems downstream, with assuring that navigation on the river is possible, and with assuring a yearly floodin g which is a pr e- requisite for maintenance of natural ecosystems in the valley and the ‘traditional’ reces- sion agriculture . Strengthening such river basin authorities, and assuring that they have the capacity to manage scarce water resources in a just and balanced manner, is therefore very important. Similarly, at the national and the local scales, there is potentially competition and conflict between different uses of water, and appropriate institutions, capable of ba l- ancing conflicting interests, need to b e in place. However, the distance from such supra - national institutions to the farmers affected by their decisions is great, and the top -down approach inherently associated with river basin water management needs to be combined with a bottom-up approach, based on the decentralized NRM institutions gaining i n- creased strength.

2.9 Conclusions and policy implications

The prolonged drought of the 1970s and 1980s has been followed by a certain increase in rainfall, accompanied by increasing variability; yet the outlook for the future is quite u n- certain. Some climate models predict increasing, others decreasing rainfall over the next 50 -100 years, but it is very likely that drought periods will become longer and rainfall events more intense at the same time. This implies that the future trend in the potential for both rain -fed and irrigated agriculture is uncertain, and increased variability of production may be expected. Thus, ‘climate proofing’ of development assistance activities should focus on risk and uncerta inty. In the Sahelian case there may be considerable synergies between activities contributing to adaptation to climate change and activities to improve disaster preparedness.

Climate change mitigation activities may have significant impacts on the Sahel countries:

This is true both for CDM projects and expansion of bio fuel production. There may be problematic sustainability issues associated with both categories. It is too early to say


whether the Sahel will prove to be attractive for such projects, yet careful monitoring of the development is suggested.

The reduction in NPP associated with the drought in the 1970s and 1980s appears to have been reversed: over the last 20 -25 years, a general and quite substantial increase in NPP may be inferred from satellite data. This conclusion applies to the region as a whole; yet the spatial variability is large, and in certain areas there is no observable trend and in some places even a negative trend.

While trends in the populations of economically important tree species in the Sahel vary between areas, this resource is often under pressure for a variety of reason s, including rainfall decrease as was the case up to the mid -80s or early 90s, cutting wood for timber and fuel, excessive burning, excessive browsing by livestock (especially goats) and ex- pansion of the cultivated area. Since improved management of woody species will also increase carbon storage in the vegetation and soils, there is a basis for synergies when combining conservation and carbon management objectives, e.g. in C lean Development Mechanism projects.

Water resources are subject to increa sing competition between uses: r ecession agriculture in river valleys, traditionally sustaining high population densities, generally loose out when dams are constructed to facilitate modern irrigated agriculture or for hydropower generation. Increases in the irrigated areas in the river valleys, consuming large quantities of water, threaten downstream water uses that are sometimes of greater economic value than the upstream uses. These conclusions point to the need for water management at the highest relevant level, that of the entire river basin, in order to avoid inefficient water a l- location that favour specific local or national interests. This applies particularly to large scale dam projects and expansion of irrigated agriculture. Transnational institutions, such as ‘river commissions’, are required to take this responsibility. The expected increase in very intense rainfall events, causing flooding in river valley s, adds to the necessity of e s- tablishing means of predicting river discharge. This river basin water management a p- proach is, however, top -down and does not cater for local autonomy in NRM or for de- mocratic involvement in decision making on competing water uses. Reconciliation of these two NRM approaches is needed in water management. This requires the develop- ment of a hierarchical institutional framework that combines overall river basin scale con- sistency and local democratic involvement.


Chapter 3. Natural resource management in farmlands

3.1 Introduction

In the Sahel the expansion of cropland onto pastures and forests followed by agricultural intensification means that the management of farmland is of increasing environmental and economic importance to t he region. Farmland is here defined as areas where land use is dominated by crop cultivation, while other land uses, particularly livestock rearing and tree cultivation, also frequently occur in farmlands, and often integrated with cropping.

An increasing share of the region’s natural resources are being managed by sedentary smallholder farmers, although often shared with semi -nomadic herders who themselves cultivate land. Likewise, an increasing share of the region’s livestock is owned by seden- tary farmer s and livestock densities have been observed to rise as agricultural land use intensifies (Mortimore et al. , 2005 ). And as grazed woodlands are being transformed into farmed parklands, an increasing share of Sahel’s trees is being managed by farmers for economic purposes, in close interaction with crops and livestock.

On this background this chapter asks whether agriculture in the Sahel is associated with an unsustainable use of natural resources, as suggested by the desertification narrative, or whether th ere is basis for more optimistic views? Relatedly, how does agricultural intensi- fication affect the management and productivity of natural resources – soils, water, trees and herbaceous vegetation? Lastly, what are the level and trends in the economic pe r- formance of Sahelian farmlands in terms of yield, food security and income? From the answers to these questions we derive some general lessons for policy and project design.

3.1.1 Population growth in the Sahel

Population growth is an important driver of changes in farmland management as it affects both agricultural expansion, the land: labour ratio and the demand for agricultural pro d- ucts. A brief overview of population growth is therefore given here. Looking at the last decade of the last millennium and t he first couple of years of the new as a whole, the Sa- helian countries have had annual populatio n growth rates ranging from 2.8 % in Burkina Faso to 3.3 % in Niger on average ( see Table 3.1). This means that the populations in these countries will double wit hin less than 25 years. As can be seen from the projections for the 2004 -2020 period, these rates are expected to stay within the same range in at least the coming decade. The changes in the rates are too small to safely conclude that the situation concern ing population growth will tend to slightly improve or worsen in this period. E x- pecting a similar development as the one observed in the previous period therefore seems reasonable. Note that the population growth rates shown in the table are not separated into rural and urban figures. The difference between the population growth rates in rural and urban areas is important in a NRM context. Projections of urban population growth rates are given in Table 5.1.


Table 3.1 : Average annual population growth rates in the Sahel.


1990 -2004

2004 -2020

Burkina Faso









Source: The World Bank Group (2006).

3.2 Soil nutrient depletion at a continental scale

Large -scale estimates of soil nutrient balances in sub -Saharan Africa (SSA) were done during the 1990s and they all suggest very high rates of soil nutrient loss 3 . Stoorvogel et al. (1993) found generally negative balances for 38 countries in SSA. On the basis of small samples they estimated that the annual average nutrient loss per ha arable land in 1982 -84 was 22 kg N, 2.5 kg P, and 15 kg K 4 . Henao & Baanante (1999), based on the work of Stoorvogel et al. (1993), calculated that the combined NPK nutrient depletion in SSA as whole was 60 -100 kg/ha/year and increasing (Mortimore & Harris, 2005). It is important to note that these nutrient balances were less negative (although increasing) for semi -arid countries due to their lower output, less intensive land use, gentle slopes, and low initial nutrient stocks 5 . In Mali, for example, the annual nutrient losses were only 8 kg N, 1 kg P, and 7 kg K per ha (i ncreasing to 11 kg N, 2 kg P, and 10 kg K in year 2000). There has been much controversy about the validity of these nutrient budgets at different scales and most observers now agree that they exaggerate nutrient losses (Mazzucato & Niemeijer, 2000 ; De Ridder et al., 2004 ; Koning & Smaling, 2005; Schlect et al., 2006) (see Box 3.1). The budgets have been used uncritically by authors such as Henao & Baan- ante to paint doomsdays scenarios of African agroecosystems, most especially desertifica- tion. And they have also been used to reinforce externally imposed solutions to a problem that is popularly conceived to be rooted in mismanagement of the natural resources by small farmers (Mortimore & Harris, 2005). The persistence of this prejudice was most lately evident at the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja in 2006 6 .


Box 3.1. Critiques of large -scale soil nutrient budgets for Africa

The large-scale nutrient budgets for Africa estimated by Stoorvogel et al. (1993) and others (Koning & Smaling, 2005) have been critiqued from different angles. One line of critique concerns the methods of calculation of nutrient inputs and outputs. Færge & Magid (2004) show that the transfer functions in the NUTMON (Nutrient Monitoring) model applied in the calculation of the budgets tend to overestimate nutrient losses through leaching, denitrification and erosion, resulting in substantially exaggerated nu- trient deficiencies. S imilarly, Schlect et al. (2006) observe that community-level agronomic and inter- disciplinary research published since the early 1990s has proven the large -scale nutrient budgets to be too pessimistic. Moreover, in low inputs systems like those of the Sahel, the nutrient flows estimated based on the aforementioned transfer functions are the most important ones, which makes the budgets highly uncertain (De Ridder et al., 2004). Many have also questioned the validity of aggregating nutri- ent budgets at country and continental scales given the high spatial variability in soil conditions and management systems.

The large-scale nutrient budgets have been used uncritically to reinforce assumptions about the wide- spread degradation of African agroecosystems. For example, economists have claimed that African soils during the 30 years up to 1996 lost 660-700 kg N/ha, 75-100 kg P/ha, and 450 kg K/ha. They came to this result by simply adding up the annual values estimated by Stoorvogel et al. (1993) (Mortimore & Harris, 2005). The budgets were also used in the World Atlas of Desertification (UNEP, 1997) which shows that soil degradation affects 28% of Sahel’s land area. The exaggerated N loss implied in the NUTMON model was also used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to derive similarly inflated figures for ‘dramatically’ decreasing carbon stocks in African soils (Færge & Magid, 2004).

3.3 Soil degradation and soil management

Since the early 1990s a large number of site -specific and community -level studies have been done in the Sahel relating to soil fertility, soil erosion, and land management in gen- eral. These small -scale and in -depth studies were initiated partly in response to the sweep- ing statements about soil degradation in Afri ca discussed above. Several reviews of this literature appeared recently, i.e. Bélieres et al. (2002), De Ridder et al. (2004), Geist & Lambin (2004), Koning & Smaling (2005), Mortimore & Harris (2005), and Schlect et al. (2006). They cover the agronomic (including soil science) literature that focuses on soil fertility and soil degradation, and the broader, interdisciplinary writing on farmland ma n- agement and farming systems dynamics.

3.3.1 Fundamental soil constraints

Sahelian soils are old, heavily lea ched (acid) and have a low clay content, all of which contribute to their low inherent fertility. Research has demonstrated that above 250 mm annual rainfall, plant production is primarily constrained by low SOM and by limited availability of plant nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen (Schlect et al., 2006) 7 . The low physical and chemical quality makes soil fertility highly dependent on SOM con- tent (Bationo et al., 1998 ; Breman et al., 2001) 8 . At the same time, high temperatures, low rainfall, and a very long dry season combine to severely constrain plant growth and


thereby the development of SOM. In other words, the combination of soil and climate in the Sahel is such that SOM status is the worst known for a major ecosystem, at the same time that other soil characteristics make SOM indispensable for effective nutrient use (Breman et al., 2001 ).

3.3.2 Soil degradation

Schlect et al. (2006) reviewed soils research conducted in the Sudan -Sahel since the 1970s. They conclude that ‘low soil organic matter and limited availability of plant nutri- ents, in particular phosphorus and nitrogen, are major bottlenecks to agricultural produ c- tivity, which is further hampered by substantial topsoil losses through wind and water erosion’. This is allegedly related to ‘the low adoption of improved management strategies and the lack of long -term investments in soil fertility’. Koning & Smaling (2005) came to a similar conclusion .

Physical soil erosion has received wide attention, in particular the topsoil loss and redi s- tribution processes caused by wind and water and their effects on soil nutrient status and soil productivity (Schlect et al. , 2006: 110). On sandy dune soils in southern Niger, Wa r- ren et al. (2001 b) found very high rates of erosion, ranging from 26 -46 tons/ha/year over the preceding 30 -year period ( see Box 3.2). Wind erosion during the first storms of the rainy season was the main form of erosion while water erosion occurred mainly at the edges of the cultivated dune. There were short -term effects of wind erosion on crop yields, while the long -term yield effects were relevant only for a small proportion of soils at the dune edge 9 .

Box 3.2. Wind erosion in southern Niger

An issue of ongoing concern in the Sahel is physical soil erosion, in particular the topsoil loss and re- distribution processes caused by wind and water erosion and their effects on the soils’ nutrient status and productivity (Schlect et al., 2006). In southern Niger, Warren et al. (2001b) studied the erosion of sandy ‘dune’ soils by measuring changes in soil depth as a result of wind and water erosion or deposi- tion. Average annual rainfall was 550 mm. Soil loss over a 30-year period was estimated on 16 village fields using the 137 Cs (caesium) method. They found very high rates of erosion, ranging from 26-46 tons/ha/year over the preceding 30- year period and a median value of 30 tons. Wind erosion during the first storms of the rainy season was the main form of erosion of these loose sandy soils while water erosion occurred mainly at the edges of the cultivated dune. The study moreover deduced that the rates of erosion had accelerated during last 30 years with the expansion and intensification of cropping. There were short-term effects of wind erosion on crop yields, related to the removal of organic matter and some nutrients and the unearthing and destruction of seedlings. The long-term yield effects were

deemed relevant only for a very small proportion of soils at the dune edge in that “soil depth generally does not have a significant effect on yield until the soil is so thin that its water holding capacity is no

longer sufficient to support the crop through the growing seasons” (ibid., p.10). The study did not measure changes in soil fertility but the assessment, supported by a study of indigenous soil fertility knowledge (Osbahr & Allan, 2002), was that fertility decline, if any, occurred only on outfields where there was little manuring and where fallows had been shortening.


Assessments of soil degradation depend on the scale of observation

The assessment of soil degradation is not only related to disciplinary orientation, but may also be a result of differences in the spatial and temporal scales at which soil processes are studied (Marcussen & Reenberg, 199 9). Regarding the spatial dimension, soil nutrient budgets estimated at the field and village scales in Burkina Faso revealed a low level of nutrient depletion, roughly of the same size as the large -scale estimates for semi -arid countries (Krogh, 1997) (se e Box 3.3). However, this was partly the result of low yields and limited crop sales that caused low nutrient exports out of the system. Hence low farm productivity contributed to a balanced system in terms of nutrients. This and other studies also found that soil fertility near villages and homesteads is often strongly supported by horizontal nutrient transfers of animal and green manures from pastures and bush fields (Krogh, 1997 ; De Ridder et al., 2004) 10 . This suggests increasingly negative nutrient ba l- a nces further away from human settlements. Nutrient balances at the landscape level may therefore be generally negative.

Considering the temporal scale, Koning & Smaling (2005) argue that long -term experi- ments under controlled conditions are the only way to derive a quantitative picture of changes in soil fertility. The few such studies from Africa show that under continuous cultivation with low external inputs, top SOM, a good proxy for soil productivity, tends to decline to no more than half the value it had under natural conditions in a period of just a few years (i bid). This in turn causes yields to decline. Yet others have argued that it is virtually impossible to determine the long -term dynamics of Sahelian soils, particularly changes in SOM (De Ridder et al. , 2004) 11 .

Box 3.3. Small and scale -dependent nutrient imbalances in Burkina Faso

The study reported in Krogh (1997) estimated soil nutrient balances at the field and village scale in northern Burkina Faso on sandy and clayey soils that were permanently cultivated with pearl millet, sometimes interplanted with sorghum and cowpeas. Average annual rainfall was 450 mm. The fields were fertilised with animal manure collected on the rangelands or deposited directly by livestock cor- ralling on the fields or feeding on millet residues. At the scale of individual fields, the calculated N and P balances were generally negative but mostly small, but certain fields manured intensively maintained a balance. However, when enlarging the nutrient circulation perspective to the scale of the village terri- tory, the nutrient balances became less negative as part of the nutrients lost from the fields were redis- tributed and conserved within the village. Moreover, if the effects of fallows and N fixation by Acacia trees and cowpeas were accounted for, both N and P balances would presumably be positive. This sug- gests that the production system is more sustainable than has been inferred from research conducted under controlled conditions on research stations. The study underlines the importance of integration of livestock in arable farming as rangelands used for grazing form a significant nutrient subsidy and to a lesser extent the importance of N fixation by crops and field trees. Millet yields were low, ranging from virtually zero to 500 kg per ha, with an average of 215 kg in the year considered. This was consistent with the low fertility of the soils. Due to the influence of other soil properties and management factors on yields, combined with the relatively low rate of nutrient depletion observed, the study could not predict longer term changes in yields, but observed that “yields are not likely to increase” (ibid: 157).


3.3.3 Sustainable soil management

Since the early 1990s a large interdisciplinary literature has emerged concerned with changes in the quality and management of farmlands in the Sahel. Many such studies adopt an actor or livelihoods perspective to bring out the rationality, knowledge, skills and adaptability of African farmers (Koning & Smaling, 2005) 12 . They highlight the intricate strategies and experimentation through which farmers cope with soil degradation, climate variability, market fluctuations, changing policies and other pressures and risks. And they emphasise the substantial in vestments of labour, and less so cash , that smallholders under- take to cope with these changes and risks, seize market opportunities, and build their liv e- lihoods (e.g. Tiffen, 2003). These studies also place greater emphasis on low external i n- put techniques, although few outright refuse the need for external inputs or for integrated soil fertility management. Finally, they seek to understand long -term system dynamics by studying entire production or livelihood systems on a larger time scale, often several de c- ades, and, in some cases, how changes in markets and policies shape these systems (Bol- wig, 1999 ; Warren et al., 2 001 a ; Mortimore & Harris, 2005). In comparison, agronomic research tends to focus on shorter term changes at the scale of fields and individua l crops.

Some of the interdisciplinary research aimed at challenging the view that land degradation is a result of local peoples’ unsustainable land management practices. This was done through in -depth and often longitudinal case studies. In most cases they showed that fa r- mers were able to maintain or increase the productivity of farmlands in the face of r e- duced rainfall, rapid population growth, adverse policies, and other risks and pressures (Cline -Cole, 1998; Reenberg et al., 1998; Bolwig, 1999; Mazzucato & Niemeijer, 2000; Warren et al., 2001a ; Mortimore & Turner, 2005; Reij et al., 2005, 2006) 13 . Farmers achieved this through the experimentation, adoption, or intensified use of improved tech- nologies and management practices, and through the labour and capital investments that embody these technologies 14 . The term ‘adaptation’ describes these processes, i.e. the cumulative decisions of smallholders in allocating their resources of land, labour and cap i- tal (Mortimore & Turner, 2005).

The research also showed that intensification in smallholder farming systems mainly o c- curs as small and incremental changes on individual land holdings, which cumulatively result in large -scale transformations in land use and cover (Mortimore et al., 2005). It moreover revealed that the management practices applied by smallholders are very varied, that they often generate multiple benefits (e.g. both soil and water conservation), and that synergies are often achieved. Most studies concerned erosion control, soil moisture co n- trol, soil fertility management, and farm tree management (see Box 3.4). Pest and disease management and post -harvest practices were given less attention. Livestock were found to be a key part of smallholder systems, especially regarding the fodder -manure linka ges, as a source of traction power in some cases, and as an object of investment and source of income. Farm trees were also a key element in land management as well as an important source of income and savings, particularly in the more intensive systems.


Box 3.4. The devil is in the detail: sustainable land management practices

A number of case studies of relatively densely populated areas in the Sahel reveal that sustainable land management is achievable through the employment of a number of relatively simple management practices, although not necessarily cheap in terms of labour and cash. Whether their use is technically feasible or economically desirable depends on the area, household and season in question.

Farm tree management Planting or assisted natural regeneration of selected woody plants species valued for the goods and services they provide, i.e. food and income, fodder, firewood, soil fertility, wind erosion control, etc. Assisted regeneration seems to be a more common practice than replanting, although a high incidence of the latter has been observed in some areas. A study from northern Nigeria revealed that only a minority of landholders did not plant trees and those who did planted between one and 20 per year (Cline- Cole, 1998). Two-thirds of landholders provided protection of seedlings that regenerate spontaneously, most commonly from livestock. Farm tree management also involves pruning and lopping for multiple purposes: harvest fuel or fodder; improve fruit yield; reduce shade on crops; prevent seed eating birds from roosting; provide cuttings for wind and water erosion control or to improve burnings on fields.

Control of wind and water erosion

Stone bunds, improved gully control, planted field boundaries, cover-

age of soils with branches and crop residues (reduces wind and water erosion and ‘traps’ sand and dust in

dry season and surface water in wet season), planting spreading intercrops (e.g. cowpea and groundnuts), and maintaining adequate densities of mature farm trees.

Soil moisture control

Improved planting pits (zaï), field ridging (by hand-hoeing or ox-ploughing), stone

bunds, increased cultivation of flat and lower lands, turning the soil before onset of rains rather than after

first rains, and more frequent weeding which reduces competition for water between weeds and crops.

Soil fertility management

Intensified use of animal manure (collection on rangelands and in animal pens

and distribution on fields), improved management of animal manure (e.g. dry compost, manure pits and stall feeding), intensified use of green manure, crop rotation and use of nitrogen-fixing intercrops such as cowpea and groundnuts, protecting or planting leguminous trees, ‘trapping’ dust in dry season, and in a few cases, chemical fertilizers. The availability of animal manure has increased through increasing livestock numbers, especially of small ruminants, and especially after the devaluation of the CFA in 1994, and the

closer integration of livestock with cropping (i.e. manure and fodder linkages).

Sources: Cline-Cole, 1998; Reenberg et al., 1998; Bolwig, 1999; Mazzucato & Niemeijer, 2000; Warren et al., 2001a; Mortimore & Turner, 2005; Reij et al., 2005, 2006.

3.3.4 Summary

The above review seems to suggest that the fertility of agricultural soils in the Sahel is low and possibly also slowly declining, especially on lands further from human settlement that tend to be less intensively managed. But one can argue that making such generalisations has little value in the Sahel where soil properties are highly dynamic and variable and strongly dependent on the history of use. Soils recently cleared naturally show a down ward trend in nutrients, while those under cultivation for years are subject to annual flu c- tuatio ns depending on inputs, rainfall, biomass harvested in the previous season, etc. No evidence could be found of farming systems being irreversibly degraded; many had in fact been able to support a rapidly growing number of people. Significantly, we identified


many examples where the productive capacity of farmlands had increased or been restored to former levels. This seemed to be the result of farmer investments, innovations, project support, and, possibly, better economic incentives induced by market development and structural adjustment policies. The degree of soil degradation or rehabilitation was also found to depend strongly on the temporal and spatial scales of observation. Lastly it is important to note that most of the soil fertility assessments revi ewed above depend on measurements of a few macro nutrients. But soil productivity depends on several other factors, particularly micro nutrients, soil biology and soil moisture and other physical properties that are rarely considered (Uphoff, 2006).

3.4 Livestock interactions in farmlands

Livestock production contributes to nutritional and food security as well as to poverty reduction in most of Africa. Livestock and poultry production repre sent an estimated 15 - 20 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in West Africa (Nianogo & Thomas, 2004). Livestock plays a very significant role in Sahelian production systems. They deserve a t- tention not only in connection with pastoral production systems, which are dealt with in a separate chapter, but also in terms of the role that the play in farmland production systems as well as in forest and agro -forest systems.

A principal challenge facing agriculture in many parts of Africa is how to achieve sustain- able increases in crop and livestock production with limited use of fe rtilizers and feed supplements. The high cost of these external nutrient sources, combined with low rural incomes among other factors, prevent their widespread use. The use of fertilizer is limited to small land areas devoted to cash crops. Hence, animal manure is perhaps the most i m- portant soil fertility amendment.

For a large part, livestock interact with the environment within a production system, such as grazing, mixed farming and industrial systems. In farmlands livestock and crop activi- ties are often integrated, and for agriculture in general this integration has been a signifi- cant road for intensification. The principal linkages between crops and livestock are i n- come, animal power, feed, and manure. Livestock’s role in nutrient cycling in farming systems is specifically interesting for low input agriculture as it is practiced in the Sahel. Most livestock derive their feed almost exclusively from natural rangeland and crop resi- dues, and livestock manure is an important soil fertility amendment. Hence, the productiv- ities of livestock, rangelands, and croplands are linked. Crop residues can be vital live- stock feeds during the dry season, and manure enhances soil fertility for crop production. Forage from rangelands and fallow lands provide important livestock feeds and, through manure, nutrients for cropland. A farmer obtains manure either from his own livestock or through exchange relationships with pastoralists. Manure contracts between farmers and pastoralists are still important in many West African dr yland areas.

Traditionally across the West African drylands, crops and livestock have been ethnically and operationally separate but functionally linked activities. The specialized forms of ag- ricultural production are under transition towards integrated c rop -livestock systems. Al-


though many crop -livestock interactions continue to be mediated by separate crop and livestock producers, they increasingly occur within closely integrated farm units.

As the pressure on land increases and more land is cultivated, many livestock are kept away from the cultivated zone to avoid crop damage. There is also evidence to suggest that beyond critical cultivation and livestock densities, competition increases between crops and livestock for scarce resources, particularly lab our and land. As these cultivation densities are approached, it is expected that extensive crop -livestock production systems will gradually give way to more intensive, integrated mixed farming systems.

Population increase in the Sahel has led to the expan sion, intensification, and often closer integration of crop and livestock production systems. The transition of crop and livestock production from an extensive, low input/output mode of production to a more intensive mode, however, challenges the achievement of required long -term production increases from these farming systems. Approaches to improving the productivity of mixed farming systems differ considerably. For example, grazing -based feeding operations make limited use of external inputs and rely almo st exclusively on pastures and crop residues for animal feed, on manual labour for crop production, and on manure as the main soil fertility amendment. For a sustainable future development it will be critical to strike a balance between food and feed suppl y, nutrient input and output, and human and livestock popula- tions (Powell et al., 2004).

3.5 Changes in natural vegetation in farmlands

An important dimension of land change is reduction in the density and composition of herbaceous and woody vegetation, in short, natural vegetation degradation (or the reverse, regeneration). There are four central issues related to the degradation of natural vegetation on farmlands in the Sahel: feedback effects on other ecosystem components (e.g. reduced infiltration and a ccelerated runoff erosion), the loss of biodiversity, the loss of standing biomass, and the loss of plant productivity or recurrent biomass production (Mortimore & Adams, 1999). Key factors in the regeneration of natural vegetation on farmlands are the planting of commercial woodlots, the regeneration of trees on farmland through protective measures, and the regeneration of woodlands on abandoned farmland. Below we review the evidence on the degradation and regeneration of natural vegetation on Sahel’s far m- lands, in respect of changes in biodiversity, woody biomass and plant productivity. The focus is on woody as opposed to herbaceous vegetation.

3.5.1 Historical transition from grazed woodlands to farmed parklands

Considering the landscape as whole, longitudinal studies of areas of high population de n- sity suggest that agricultural intensification eventually transforms natural woodlands into a ‘farmed parkland’ landscape characterised by permanent cultivation with evenly spaced mature trees preserved for their economic importance (Pullan, 1974; Cline -Cole, 1998) 15 . These parklands are characterised by beneficial and close interactions between trees, soil fertility, and livestock. It has been estimated that aerial biomass production of crops, fa l- lows, wee ds, and woody plants in farmed parklands may be similar or even higher than in


grazed woodlands or shrub grasslands (Mortimore & Adams, 1999). This suggests that agricultural intensification does not necessarily result in reduced plant productivity 16 .

  • 3.5.2 Deforestation and biodiversity loss

Many small -scale studies spanning the period before and after 1970 (the start of the dry period) conclude that there has been a general degradation in the woody vegetation. Wezel & Lykke (200 6 ) reviewed participatory su rv eys of changes over the last 20 -50 years in woody plants in 25 villages in Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal. They found a significant reduction in biodiversity. In total, 111 woody species were mentioned by local informants as having changed compared to t he past. Of these 79% had decreased in numbers or di s- appeared, while 11% was classified as increasing or new. The latter were mainly exotic species 17 . Scientific vegetation surveys largely confirm local peoples’ perceptions that woody biodiversity is decrea sing (Lykke, 2000) 18 . Analyses of satellite images and aerial photos covering the pre -1995 period also showed a general decrease in woody biomass at the local scale, but they did not assess changes in species diversity (Lykke et al., 2004 ). Several studies show that deforestation was more pronounced in valley bottoms than on the flat plateaus and dune areas. It is important to remember, however, that quantitative assessments are rare, and that crude species frequencies irrespective of growth stage may not te ll us all. More significant by far than numerical species scoring would be an assess- ment of the regeneration status of species alongside an analysis of total tree densities and timber volumes. Loss of biodiversity does not necessarily mean loss of woody status, and anyway, species frequencies are bound to adjust to changes in rainfall. Some species of sub -humid provenance that invaded the Sahel in wet periods before 1970 would be ex- pected to retreat over the last two or three decades.

  • 3.5.3 Forest regenera tion since the mid-1980s

Studies of vegetation change since the mid -1980s suggest that a recovery of woody bio- mass may be taking place, at least within farmlands. Research from Niger suggests that this could be a large scale trend: in the Tillaberi, Tahoua and Maradi regions, the promo- tion of natural regeneration of farm trees in conjunction with improved rainfall conditions have been associated with an increase in tree density on more than two million has during the period 1985 -2005. In the Zinder region the increase in density affected about one mil- lion ha s (Reij et al. , 2006 ; Wezel & Lykke, 2006; McGahuey & Winterbottom, 2007 ) (see Box 3.5). Densities in these areas now range from 20 -150 stems per ha (not all mature trees), a 10 -20 fold increase since 1975 19 . On the Central Plateau in Burkina Faso, on - farm protection of natural vegetation, combined with investments in soil and water con- servation, likewise contributed to increased farm tree density after the mid -1980s (Reij et al., 2005). But outside the cultivated lands the vegetation continued to degrade. Contrast- ing the latter observation, Rasmussen et al. (2001) found that the vegetation cover in northern Burkina Faso had recovered since the drought year of 1984. This study was based on satellite data and covered both cropland and rangelands.

Large -scale assessments of changes in vegetation productivity exist for the period after 1982 where consistent satellite data became available. During the perio d 1982 -2000 u n- iformly positive trends in vegetation productivity were observed across the Sahel -Sudan


(Olsson et al., 2005 ; Rasmussen et al., 2006). Yet most changes occurred in the northern fringes of cultivation where rangeland rather than cropland dominates, suggesting that improved farmland management was not a strong factor at this scale, although it cannot be ruled out either. This important puzzle needs further investigation 20 .

Box 3.5. Farm tree regeneration in Niger, 1985 -2005

Famine and hardships in the 1970s and 1980s in Niger led to losses of livestock, erosion, and decreased agricultural production. Experts even feared that the droughts had done permanent damage to the coun- try’s fragile ecosystems. More recently, however, positive news has been surfacing from Niger. A re- cently completed study of three regions in Niger shows that 250,000 has of eroded, unproductive land has been reclaimed since the mid 1980s by farmers and projects using soil and water conservation and other natural resource management techniques. The study, sponsored by USAID/FRAME and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, used satellite images and interviews with farmers to assess the extent and impact of farmer - managed natural regeneration in the Tillaberi, Tahoua, and Maradi re- gions in Niger. The study was conducted by the University of Niger in collaboration with INRAN (Ni- ger’s National Agricultural Research Institute), the USGS ( U.S. Geological Survey) Data Center for EROS (Earth Resources Observation Systems), and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In interviews, the farmers indicated that the environmental crisis of the 1970s and 1980s had triggered them to protect natural regeneration on their fields. In difficult times, such as the recent drought in 2005, farmers were able to cut trees and leaves and sell firewood and fodder, which allowed them to then buy grains on the market. Improved rainfall conditions after 1985 were likely a conducive factor too.

Improved livelihoods

In addition to food security, the farmer- managed natural regeneration also increased agricultural yields and fodder and livestock production; it reduced erosion and produced a much greener landscape. Over- all, the farmer- managed natural regeneration has led to improved and more sustainable livelihoods and a

reduction of poverty in rural areas.

Local empowerment

One striking result that the researchers noted was the sense of empowerment among local farmers. A

feeling of helplessness and dependence on external projects had been replaced by an active management of trees and land. Farmers expressed confidence that they have some control over their own livelihoods, even in the light of a harsh climate and a political landscape characterized by powerful institutions.

Large-scale impacts

The scale of the development is spectacular. While initially supported by external projects, the process turned into a spontaneous movement that spread through Niger, further supported by policy changes to allow tree ownership and regulate decentralization. Conservative estimates suggest investments by farm- ers have increased tree density on more than two million has of agricultural land in the three studied regions and on another one million has in the Zinder region in Niger. The most profound changes, in fact, are noted in the Zinder and Maradi areas where the population density is over 100 people per square

kilometre. “More people” has indeed resulted in “more trees”.

Source: McGahuey & Winterbottom (2007)


3.5.4 Causes of natural vegetation change

The review of literature leads us to identify a number of factors and processes causing changes in the natural vegetation cover in the Sahel. We discuss these below following an important reminder about the problems of making generalisati ons in this area.

Up-scaling problems

There are serious methodological problems involved in generalising , i.e. up-scaling, the findings of small -scale studies to larger spatial scales although the evidence from Niger represents a medium-scale trend. The re search that has attempted to synthesize these stu d- ies has tended to produce biased conclusions (see Box 3.6).

Cropland expansion

The conversion of ‘natural’ grasslands and woodlands into cropland is clearly the domi- nant cause of vegetation change in the Sa hel and elsewhere. The spatial patterns of cro p- land expansion and intensification is important for the impact of agriculture on species richness and biomass, implying that how these processes are regulated is a factor for co n- servation.

Management changes under agricultural intensification A ‘U’ shaped relationship has been observed between the intensity of agricultural land use and woody biomass. With land use intensity on the horizontal axis and woody biomass on the vertical axis, the U shape represents first a decline in biomass under increasing land use intensity, up to a certain level of intensity when biomass levels stabilize and start ris- ing again. In the first phases of intensification, woody biomass declines dramatically as pristine forests and sec ondary fallow vegetation are cleared to allow for the expansion of cropland. At later stages, as permanent cultivation becomes established and natural veg e- tation and farmland get scarcer, farmers begin to conserve and intensify the management of trees growing on farmlands, thereby reversing the negative vegetation trend (Bolwig et al., 2006; Place & Otsuka, 2000; Wezel & Haigis, 2000). For example, in eastern Niger the most profound positive changes were noted in th e most densely populated areas Zinder and Maradi with more than 100 people/km 2 .

Economic incentives

Farmers manage and protect trees mainly economic reasons. As woody plant products and services – firewood, timber, fodder, fruits, nuts, nutrients stored in leaves and branches, shade etc. – become scarcer and thereby more valuable, the returns to investing in them increases. Increased population densities also mean expanding markets for tree products, which further induces conservation and management. These processes also result in a change in tre e composition towards species with higher economic value, many of which tend to be exotic species.


Project support

Endogenous processes cannot explain everything. For example was project support a key factor of the recent tree regeneration in both Niger and on the Central Plateau in Burkina Faso (Wezel & Lykke, 2006 ; Reij, 2006; McGahuey & Winterbottom, 2007).

Livestock grazing

A review of 42 case studies from dryland Africa on land degradation by Geist & Lambin

(2004 ) concludes that extensive (over)grazi ng, in combination with increased aridity, is the most prominent ‘proxi mate’ cause of desertification, followed by the expansion of crop production (Rasmussen et al., 2006) 21 . Conservation biologi sts often blame livestock overgrazing for vegetation degradation, often without seriously analysing the former. For example, among the many possible causes of the decline in woody vegetation in northern Burkina Faso, Lykke et al. (2004) emphasise increased animal density and reduced herd mobility, but they do not provide evidence of this causality. These factors, they argue, combine to place a higher and more constant pressure on woody resources, which do not get sufficient time to regenerate and rejuvenate.

Extraction of wood and other natural products

Wood extraction ( e.g. cutting, lopping and collection) by local communities was me n- tioned as a cause of desertification by only by 40% of the 42 case studies reviewed by Geist & Lambin (2004). In contrast, the commercial cutting of green wood for firewood and charcoal production, often with the help of corrupt forestry officers, was identified as a major factor by several studies from Niger and Senegal (Wezel & Haigis, 2000; Cline - Cole, 1998 ). Wezel & Rath (2002) and others have observed that certain tree species have been degraded as a result of unsustainable harvesting of non -fuel forest products by local people for food, income and other uses.

Climate change

It is worth noting that the time period studied by most ethno -botanic studies, scientific vegetation surveys and remotely sensed data -based studies referred to above covers both the very wet period (1950s and 1960s) and the following dry period (1970s and 1980s). It would therefore seem that reduced precipitation has been a major factor in the negative trends in some woody vegetation change indicators since the early 1970s. Increased ari d- ity was also mentioned as a cause of desertification by 93% of th e African dryland case studies surveyed by Geist & Lambin (2004), although the validity of this study is highly qu estionable ( see Box 3.6). The large -scale evidence of a ‘greening’ of the Sahel after 1982 also suggests that rainfall is a dominant factor of vegetation productivity at the co n- tinental scale (Rasmussen et al., 2006). Thus, Olsson et al. (2005) found a positive corr e- lation between increasing vegetation greenness and increased rainfall in the period 1982 - 1999, although rainfall did not fully explain this relationship.


Box 3.6. Problems of up-scaling evidence on vegetation change

Many local-level studies of vegetation change that span the period before and after the early 1970s, which was the start of the dry period, found a general degradation in woody vegetation. Yet there are problems of generalizing these findings to larger spatial scales. Firstly, the extreme spatial heterogene- ity of biophysical and socioeconomic conditions in the Sahel poses general problems of making repre- sentative observations of environmental change. Secondly, no studies exist that use representative samples covering larger areas. Thirdly, the locations of most local-level studies were often selected to best illustrate a particular process or issue, typically strong environmental degradation or its opposite, rather than to be representative of a particular geographical area. It is therefore not valid to make gen e- ralizations about the extent as opposed to the causes/processes of environmental change based on a synthesis of these studies, as done for example by Geist & Lambin (2004) or Wezel & Lykke (2006). The result will be invalid at best, or seriously biased due to selection bias in the choice of case studies. The review by Geist & Lambin (2004) is in reality a poll; opinions scored may reflect staring assump- tions, repetition and dogma and justify themselves. Fourthly, remotely-sensed data, particularly satel- lite images, do not suffer from the same problems of geographical representativity and selection bias as do field surveys. However, consistent data for the Sahel as a whole are only available from 1982 onwards, so large-s cale assessments of vegetation change before that period are not reliable/not avail- able. Hence it is not possible to compare the positive trend in vegetation change over the 1982-2000 period with trends in previous periods.

3.5.5 Summary

In very general terms, it may be justified to talk about two overlapping trends:

  • (i) A long term transition from natural (grazed) woodlands to farmed parklands accompanied by a reduction in biodiversity but not necessarily in woody bio- mass. This dynamic is possibly driven by population growth and to a lesser ex- tent market growth, which induce intensified management, although demon- strating this causality is beyond the scope of this study.

(ii) A medium term shift in the vegetation dynamics from a general de cline during the period 1970 -1985 to a general increase in plant productivity – but not ne c- essarily biodiversity – a fter 1985. Improved rainfall has likely been the most important driver of this dynamic at the regional scale. Improved management has been a central factor in some farmland areas, induced by increased scarcity and enabled by project support and in some cases improved tree tenure. Whether improved rangeland management has contributed to the greening of the Sahel is an open question worth explor ing.

This characterization of the development trend is based on four major findings:



There is relatively consistent evidence of biodiversity and biomass loss at the local scale, especially before 1985, but it is highly problematic to make generalizations at larger spatial scales based upon this evidence.

  • 2. Large -scale assessments show a consistent increase in vegetation productivity after 1982, while similar analyses from earlier time periods are ambiguous or non - existent.

  • 3. Vegetation dynamics seem to differ radically between rangelands and farmlands. While biodiversity and woody biomass loss are nearly always observed for grazing areas, many have observed positive or level trends in woody vegetation on culti- vated lands 22 .

  • 4. Most of the Sahel, except the north ern most zone and a few areas undergoing ex- tensification, is being rapidly transformed into a more intensively managed ‘farmed parkland’ landscape as woodlands and grasslands are brought under pe r- manent or nearly permanent cultivation. This large-scale tra nsition in land use and land cover does not necessarily reduce plant productivity, but it does seriously a f- fect biodiversity. Significantly, the intensified management increases the ec onomic value of the vegetation. It also means that vegetation dynamics o n, and at the fron- tier of, farmlands are getting increasingly important for biodiversity conservation, relative to dynamics in grasslands and woodlands. The latter areas have so far been the focus of attention of biologists and conservationists.

In other words, what we observe is adaptation – both that of natural ecosystems to changes in rainfall and that of land use systems adjusting to both rainfall and ecosystem change, with the added drivers of markets and population and technology change.

3.6 The econ omic performance of farmlands

Several indicators may be used to assess the economic performance of farmlands in the Sahel, i.e. poverty, income, value of agricultural production, food security, employment, etc. Yet data that allow for generalisations only exist for a few of these. Our assessment is therefore limited to considering farm productivity, national food production and food self- sufficiency, and other economic performance indicators – mainly income and investment. The evidence on these indicators a re presented in Annex A and discussed below.

3.6.1 Farmland productivity

The productivity of Sahelian farmlands may be assessed through the following indicators:

The combined yield per ha of crops, livestock and trees; the monetary value per ha of these ou tputs; and the share of the value of these outputs that is sold, i.e. the level of mar- ket integration. The increasing importance of livestock and farm trees in Sahelian farm- lands implies a need for including the products of these assets in total productivity esti- mates. Unfortunately, insufficient data means that we could only consider crop yield, i m- plying a general underestimation of the level and increases in farmland productivity.


Crop yields Yield provides the link between the condition and the economic performance of far m- lands. Yields in the Sahel are low by any standard, typically ranging from 300 -800 kg/ha and with very large spatial and temporal variations ( see Annex A, Table A1) 23 . Contrary to the orthodoxy, yields per ha appear to have increased or remained constant since the 1960s. An analysis of national F AOSTAT (Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations Statistical Database) data for the period 1961 -2001 revealed positive trends in yield per ha for millet and maize for all Sahelian countries except for Niger (Mortimore, 2003) (see Annex A, Table A1). Long -term data at the sub -national level for mi l- let/sorghum, irrigated rice, groundnuts and cowpeas likewise suggest that yields over the last 20 -40 years in most cases have increased or remained constant, and only rarely de- creased ( see Annex A, Table A1) 24 . These trends obviously mask great short -term and medium-term variations, mainly related to rainfall. The poor quality of FAO ( Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations) and official government data for Africa have been noted by many (e.g. Tiffen, 2003) so there is reason to treat these results with ca u- tion 25 .

Disregarding for a moment data quality issues and the ‘noise’ from short -term variability, we can conclude that the available evidence does not support the view that the producti v- ity of Sahelian farmlands has decreased over the last decades, if productivity is assessed in terms of food crop yields. This conclusion would likely be even more positive if tree and livestock yields were taken into account, as their relative contribution s to farmland pr o- duct ion tend to increase over time.

The improved rainfall conditions after around 1986 may be part of the explanation. An- other factor may be an improved policy environment related to structural adjustment poli- cies starting from the mid to late 1980s. Lastly, increasing population densities may have started to induce the positive intensification dynamics (falling land/labour ratio, market development, institutional development) hypothesised by Boserup (1965) 26 .

Crop yield potential

Research over the last 30 years has greatly increased our knowledge about the technical options for increasing crop yields in the Sahel. It is now widely agreed that the most effe c- tive approach for raising yields in the Sahel, broadly speaking, is integrated soil fertility management (ISFM). This involves various combinations of animal and green manure, rotated or intercropped legumes, farm trees, and inorganic fertilizers, as well as the com- bination local and external knowledge. The results of agronomic experiments with these technologies have been reviewed by several authors (Schlect et al., 2006; Kaboré & Reij, 2004; Breman et al., 2001; Boyd & Slaymaker, 2000; Bationo et al. , 199 8). A large litera- ture moreover documents land management practices and land productivity in real -world situations (e.g. Milleville, 1980; Reenberg et al., 1998; Mortimore & Adams, 1999; Bol- wig, 1999; Mazzucato & Niemeijer, 2000; Reij et al., 2005). It is beyond the scope of this study to discuss this work thoroughly, but it is clear that technologies already exist ‘on the shelf’ to substantially raise yields in the Sahel. Breman et al. (2001) thus assess that agri- cultural intensification based on ISFM can easily raise rain -fed crop yields in the Sahel


from the current 0.5 -1.0 ton to 2.5 -5.0 ton per ha . This involves applying both organic and inorganic fertilisers in a sequenced and targeted fashion.

Research also shows that simple, cheap and widely accessi ble technologies, especially when intelligently applied and combined, can have a big yield impact, although not as large as that predicted by Breman et al. (2001). For example, several on -farm trials with improved planting pits (zaï) combined with animal c ompost or manure all showed sy s- tematic yield gains for millet and sorghum in the order of 400 kg/ha (Kaboré & Reij, 2004) 27 . The yield gain increased to 710 kg/ha when this technology was combined with contour bunds 28 .

3.6.2 National food production and food self-sufficiency

Food production per capita is an indicator of the extent of food self-sufficiency achieved at the national or regional level. In the Sahel where the population is mainly grain co n- suming, 200 kg/capita is roughly the level required for average food sufficiency.

Mortimore (2003) examined trends in overa ll food sufficiency during 1961 -2001 for Senegal, Mali, Ni ger and Nigeria, using the FAO food net in dex 29 . This analysis showed that food sufficiency in Nigeria fell to a trough in the early 1 980s and recovered thereafter to levels above those in the 1960s. The positive trend was however strongly influenced by sub humid and humid zone crops while trends for staple Sahel grains were more sluggish.

Senegal and Niger experienced a steep downwar d trend during 1961 -1980 and stayed at this lower level thereafter. Mali experienced a small decline after 1971 and displayed a level trend thereafter. For the Sahel as a whole, there was an overall decline in food suffi- ciency during the 1970s and early 1980s but there is no discernible trend thereafter. Ho w- ever, a more recent analysis of population and production data in the CILSS (Comite Permanent Inter -Etats de Lutte Contre la Secheresse dans le Sahel) countries reveals an increase in per capita g rain availability over the 1987 -2004 period, and a nearly constant share of grain imports in consumption, except for Senegal and Mauritania where imports rose sharply (OECD, 2006) 30 .

Mortimore (2003) also examined trends in the per capita production of individu al crops during the period 1961 -1999 for the same countries. We focus here on recent trends (1981 -1999) for millet which is the major food staple in the region. Senegal experienced a reduction in millet production, from around 100 kg to 50 -70 kg, reflecting the effects of competition from cheap imported rice. In Niger, millet production fluctuated around the notional 200 kg/capita requirement, with several dips below 150 kg, indicating a high threat of food insecurity in poorer households. In Mali, millet product ion increased after 1981 but declined again during the 1990s. Maize and rice displayed steady increases after 1981 and by 1999 they had recovered beyond the early 1960s level. In 1999 the four grains contributed almost equal shares to Mali’s food sufficien cy. Cowpeas, an important source of cash and protein, showed impressive growth rates in Senegal and Niger, 33% and 131% respectively, between 1961 -63 and 1997 -99 31 .


The above analyses rely on FAO production data, which are the only ones available at this spatial and temporal scale. While not completely reliable, these data do not support the view that the productivity of Sahelian farmlands have been decreasing everywhere since the early 1970s. Rather, the conclusion is that most countries reached a deep crisis in food sufficiency in the early 1980s, but recovered during the 1990s to levels comparable to or better than those of the early 1960s, with the exception of Senegal and less so Niger. The causes of these trends were possibly related to policy and to th e wider economic enviro n- ment rather than to population trends. Great inter -annual fluctuations in food sufficiency were observed and these were attributable to rainfall as well as to economic factors such as cross-border trade in grain 32 .

  • 3.6.3 Income and investment

Changes in economic performance indicators for farming communities in the Sahel, fo- cu sing on trends after 1990 (see Annex A, Table A2) were assessed from a literature r e- view 33 . Firstly, it is striking that in only one instance – per capita output of millet and groundnuts in Senegal – was there a clear negative change in an indicator after 1990 34 . Secondly, food self-sufficiency appears to have improved or remained stable in most areas during this period. Thirdly, there are signs of an increased co mmercialisation of produ c- tion and of increased farm investments. Increased sales occurred especially for high -value farm products, i.e. livestock (fattening of sheep and goats), irrigated rice, cowpeas, fruits and vegetables, and other products (e.g. hibiscus) for urban niche markets. Most of these products are regionally tradable. This pattern is confirmed by national -level analyses showing that fruit, vegetable and meat production increased substantially for the Sahel as whole during the period 1987 -2004 (OECD, 2006) 35, 36 .

  • 3.6.4 Summary

Farmlands in the Sahel seem to have sustained their level of economic performance over the last twenty years, in terms of farm productivity, food sufficiency, and income and i n- vestment. While based on relatively weak and scattered data, this finding runs counter to the orthodox view of a general failure of the region’s production systems. An increased market integration can also be detected, particularly in respect of urban food markets for high -value products. Seen over the last 40 years, there was a clear downward trend in most indicators during the 1970s and early 1980s compared to the 1960s, followed by a period of recovery or stabilisation after the mid 1980s. Groundnuts and food staples in Senegal have performed worst in large part due to policy factors. The highest growth rates were experienced by productions destined for higher -value urban markets – meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, and cowpeas – although in absolute terms their value remains is small compared to staples.

That said, the absolute level of economic performance is clearly low by any standard and no significant improvements over the last 40 years can be detected. Average crop yields remain far below those that can be obtained through modest improvements in manage- ment. That farmlands are now supporting many more people than 40 years ago is proof of strong and positive dynamics, but they have not been sufficient to raise economic welfare significantly.


3.7 A new perspective on sustainable farmland management

3.7.1 The African drylands success stories

A series of longitudinal studies of agricultural intensification in the Sahel and in Kenya have been done over the last twenty years (e.g., Tiffen et al., 1994 ; Mortimore, 19 9 8 ; Mortimore & Harris, 2005; Mortimore & Turner, 2005; Reij et al., 2005 , 2006). This re- search has improved our understanding of the characteristics and dynamics of farmland management in African drylands. It argues that significant improvements in land ma n- agement and land conditions have occurred over the last several decades, and in most cases also during relatively dry periods. It further postulates a ‘U’ shaped relationship between population pressure and land management, which in the long er term leads to im- proved land quality. The ‘U’ shape is a model for the temporal relationship between popu- lation density (a proxy for land use intensity) and land quality (indicated e.g. by output per ha ) where population density is along the horizontal a xis and land quality on the vertical axis (Mortimore, 1995). It represents first a decline in land quality (land degradation) as population density increases up to a certain level, at which point the land quality stabilizes and then starts increasing as th e population density continues to rise (land regeneration).

The basic mechanism seen to govern the relationship is relative factor costs. In the studies referred to above it is often observed that land degradation followed from rational farmer choices in a first phase of human settlement when the land: labour ratio was high and cap ital was scarce. But as population pressure increased and land became scarcer relative to other production factors, farmers shifted to more sustainable practices thereby increa s- in g the quality and productivity of their land. This process involves both the water and soil properties of farmland as well as farm trees.

The studies suggest a long term development pathway where population growth and the related expansion of product and, less so , factor markets are the key drivers of land use change, which induce and enable farmers to intensify land management through invest- ments and innovations, while conserving or restoring natural resources. They emphasises the role of technology, priva te investments, the economic rationality of farmers – who manage resources based on relative factor costs which depend strongly on population den- sity – a nd market demand in shaping land management. By examining the long -term dy- namics of these factors and mechanisms in specific areas many of these studies arrive at more optimistic accounts of farmland performance than the conventional desertification narratives. A central notion is human agency, often expressed as adaptive capacity – i.e., the ability of far mers to cope with risks and adapt to changes in institutional, economic and natural conditions. Another key idea is the interactions over time between markets, production system (including technology) and labour, all of which show strong temporal dynamics. A third important argument is that economic incentives are a prerequisite for land investments, and that such incentives are best provided through the development and appropriate regulation of markets.



The central role of markets

While many studies have emphasised the role of population pressure in inducing intensifi- cation, an equally important lesson is that the prospect of ‘more cash’ through the e n- gagement with product markets is a central incentive for investing in the land, as demo n- strated for example by the Machakos study (Tiffen et al., 1994). Effective factor markets, on the other hand, are key for enabling farmers to respond effectively to these incentives. But effective markets that can support sustainable land management in a pro -poor mann er do not evolve automatically or overnight. This is particularly true in poor and sparsely areas with relatively low levels of economic activity – still common characteristics in much of rural Sahel – where markets are usually thin or absent (OECD, 1998 ). In the Sa- hel, public and private policies and investments are therefore critical for agricultural ma r- ket development. A first step here is to identify the elements that make up ‘markets’, in- cluding transport infrastructure, access to market information an d knowledge, physical market access, barriers to regional trade, quality standards, quality control, price policies, import policies, etc. A second one is to identify and help develop specific marketing a r- rangements of relevance and benefit to small producers.

  • 3.7.3 Critique of the success stories

The ‘success’ stories of positive land change have been criticised o n methodological grounds and with respect to their limited geographical representativity ( see Box 3.7). The critique is largely misplaced, however. Firstly, it misses the point that these stories pr o- vide important lessons about the factors that enable or induce sustainable land manage- ment anywhere rather than about how common sustainable land management is. Sec- ondly, and relatedly, the studies lend themselves to generalisations along the temporal rather the spatial dimension because they represent areas with dense populations, high land use intensity and proximity to urban centres. Rapid population growth and the devel- opment of infrastructure across the Sahel mean that these conditions are becoming more widespread (Cour, 2001), although we emphasise that distance is only one of many factors determining market access.


Box 3.7. Critiques of the success stories of land change in the Sahel

Recent studies argue that the evidence is insufficient to claim that endogenous processes and knowledge alone can drive land use systems towards higher productivity and sustainability (Koning & Smaling, 2005; Schlect et al., 2006). They criticise the optimistic interpretations of land change in the Sahel for being based on a few success stories that represent very favourable conditions for sustainable agricultural intensification, which few areas in the Sahel are likely to meet. These conditions are strong market incentives for land in- vestments combined with high intensification pressures, and, in some cases, favourable access to off-farm income.

Boyd & Slaymaker (2000) report on six ‘new’ case studies of intensification in Africa – of which four were in drylands – designed to test the ‘more people, less erosion’ hypothesis. They conclude that “…there are few examples of a reversal of natural resource degradation and no evidence of a wider trend towards envi-

ronmental recovery. In most case, ‘success’ involves the adoption of soil and water conservation practices designed to raise yields of high value crops on selected parcels of land” (ibid., p.1). It is questionable, how- ever, whether the methods employed by these case studies were sufficient to adequately examine the co m- plex and long-term dynamics that the ‘more people, less erosion’ hypothesis describes. Hence it is noticeable

that the study was never published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Several authors have also questioned the methodology applied by some of the successful case studies, which they argue bias the results in favour of positive changes in soil fertility and yields. The study by Harris (1998) from northern Nigeria has been criticised for ignoring nutrient exports through leaching, which other research in an even drier climate found to be important (Koning and Smaling, 2005). The study by Mazzu- cato & Niemeijer (2000) has been criticised for partly basing their positive results on yield and soil fertility changes over 10-15 years on an invalid comparison of soil samples taken at an interval of 30 years in the same region but from lands with different uses (ibid; Schlect et al., 2006). It has also been observed fre- quently that farming systems in the Sahel rely on a horizontal concentration of nutrients around villages, so- called ’niche’ management, on small parcels for high value crops, and where livestock have been corralled. This obviously means an export of nutrients from surrounding fields, fallows and rangelands, which must also be taken account of in nutrient budgets. This could partly explain why, on the Central Plateau in Burk- ina Faso, soil fertility on cultivated fields has been increasing as a result of improved management, while the vegetation outside the cultivated fields has continued to degrad e (Reij et al., 2005). However, nutrients are also exported from fields to adjacent fallows and rangelands. Krogh (1997) thus found that when enlarging the nutrient circulation perspective to the scale of the village territory, the nutrient balances became less negative as part of the nutrients lost from the fields were redistributed and conserved within the village.

3.8 Conclusions

3.8.1 Desertification as an anomaly

Returning to our discussion in the beginning of this publication, then the central conclu- sion is that the widespread idea that Sahel’s farmlands are on a Malthusian pathway t o- wards irreversible land degradation and falling productivity simply does not stand the em- pirical test. It is true that many performance indicators sho wed negative trends during 1970 -85 and that the several and severe droughts during this period, together with the general climatic anomaly, caused serious crop failures and the loss of valuable livestock in many farming communities. And droughts continue t o be a major and constant threat to


rural livelihoods, as witnessed most lately in Niger in 2005. However, during the last 20 years, where rainfall has been closer to the long -term post -1930 average, on balance the evidence suggests a more promising pathwa y of agricultural intensification with a general stability in soil fertility and farm productivity and income.

3.8.2 Farm management responses

Feeding the rapidly growing population of the Sahel has been achieved mainly through the expansion of intensi ve crop -livestock farming systems onto lands previously used as pastures and bush fields, or through the establishment of bush fields on pasture lands. These systems depend strongly on horizontal nutrient transfers from the surrounding land- scape (aside in situ soil and water conservation), implying intensified pressure on the re- maining grasslands and woodlands. The spatial dynamics of land use is thus central for understanding changes in the management and performance of Sahelian farmlands (as well as for crop -livestock interactions).

A notable exception to this dominant pattern is the highly populated areas such as nort h- ern Nigeria and the Central Plateau in Burkina Faso where the agricultural frontier was closed long ago and with it the scope for ‘spatial’ management responses. Here production increases in response to diminishing land holdings and market demand have been achieved through the adoption of ‘deep’ intensification technologies on existing lands. Successful farming is characterised by very close crop -livestock -tree interactions and very high inputs of labour and, less so , cash per ha . It is also marked by a high level of integra- tion in both input and output markets. Since the rest of the Sahel will soon face similar conditions as found in these a reas, there are important lessons to be learned from how farmers here manage natural resources and from what determines their NRM strategies. One important factor here is the important flow of remittances to the area earned in mi- grant work, formerly in Ivory Coast but now more widespread and including North Af- rica.

The other important exception is the irrigated lands of the Senegal River Valley and O f- fice du Niger in Mali. In the latter area, farmers have in recent years successfully intensi- fied and commer cialised production on existing irrigated lands in response to improve- ments in the economic and institutional environment as well as technical support (Bélieres et al., 2002). Improved urban market conditions for meat, rice, fruits and vegetables have been an important driver that has induced increased farmer capital investments in for ex- ample canal rehabilitation and animal traction. Further development of this system now depends on public support to the expansion of the irrigated area as existing plots ar e u n- dergoing fragmentation. In the Senegal river valley in recent years, small rice farmers have intensified production and raised productivity and income on a reduced or stable irrigated land area (ibid). This was in response to recent improvements in institutions and output markets as well as to reduced access to cheap credit. Changes in farm management involved especially increased labour inputs, more efficient input use (e.g. of urea) and other technical improvements (e.g. tighter compliance to cropping schedules).



Changes in farmland components

The last decades have witnessed important changes in the major components of Sahel’s farmlands – crops, livestock and trees. The production of staple crops – mainly millet and sorghum – has increased at approximate the same rate as the farming population, mainly through area expansion, implying a doubling of the cultivated area in about 25 years. Ex- pansion has occurred mainly on the heavier, low-lying soils, as opposed to the lighter sandy soils, implying an increased importance of sorghum relative to millet. Overall there are no indications of declining crop yields. Over the last 20 years significant yield i n- creases for millet and sorghum have been observed in a few areas, such as on the Central Plateau in Burkina Faso, partly due to project assistance within SWC. The other important exceptions are the irrigated lands of the Senegal River Valley and the Office du Niger in Mali (Bélières et al., 2002). But in most areas, it seems, the substantial yield potential demonstrated in on -farm experiments remains largely untapped. The biggest qualitative change in food crop farming seems to be the increasing production of high - value crops for the growing urban national and regional markets – especially vegetables, cow peas, groundnuts, sesame and tiger nuts. Improved water management, especially small -scale irrigation, water harvesting techniques, and dry season cultivation of low-lands, has been a central factor. This trend is in theory stronger in areas with ‘easier’ access to urban mar- kets (in terms of travel time, costs and risks), but this assumption seems to be contradicted by observations of high levels of commercialisation in quite remote – in distance terms – areas. This suggests a need for a more nuanced view o f market access.

As land use has intensified, farm trees have come to occupy an increasingly important role for crop nutrients, livestock fodder, food and income. And in some areas fundamental changes in tree management and tree cover have been achieved o ver the course of one decade. Trees are also increasingly managed for cash income, earned e. g. through the sale of fruits, shea nut, firewood and animal fodder. Sedentary livestock rearing has likewise experienced high growth and an increasing share of the region’s livestock is reared within farmlands. There has also been a qualitative change in livestock production; from a focus on cattle as a long -term saving or investment – a s well as a source of status and milk – towards the short -term fattening of sheep and goats targeted at high -value urban niche markets, serving as a regular source of income.

  • 3.8.4 Changes in economic performance

Farmlands in the Sahel appear to have sustained their level of economic performance over the last twenty years, in terms o f productivity, food sufficiency and income generation. Farmlands are now supporting many more people than 40 years ago and this suggests the existence of strong and positive dynamics. An increased market integration can also be detected, particularly in r espect of urban food markets for high -value products. These findings challenge the orthodox view of a general failure of the region’s production sy s- tems. There was a clear downward trend in most indicators during the 1970s and early 1980s, followed by a period of recovery or stabilisation after the mid 1980s. The highest growth rates were experienced by high -value products for domestic markets. Despite the positive trends of the last 20 years, the level of economic performance of Sahelian far m-


lands is still low by any standard, however. Average crop yields remain far below those that can be obtained through modest improvements in management. And the extent of recovery has not been sufficient to raise economic welfare significantly or compared to the situatio n 40 years ago.

3.9 Policy implications

Redefining the ‘Sahel problem’

Rather than continue to discuss the direction of trends in the management and perfor m- ance of Sahel farmlands, a more fruitful approach might be redefine these problems as a question of how to design policies and interventions that are sufficiently flexible to r e- spond to the great temporal and spatial variability in economic and environmental condi- tions, i.e. that are continuously tuned into adaptive processes ‘on the ground’. In other words, policy targeted at improving poverty levels while safeguarding the ecosystems must itself be an adaptive process. It should make use of indigenous achievement as well as new knowledge and provide guidance on how to replicate past successes.

From reg ulation to incentives

It would also greatly improve our understanding of natural resource management in the Sahel if the recent possible positive trend in farmland performance came to be seen as the norm and the perio d 1970 -85 as the anomaly due to a conju nction of several severe droughts, below average rainfall and adverse policies that for a time interfered with a

long -term trend of sustainable intensification. This change in perception implies that rather than combating land degradation through regulatio n, development policy should focus on raising productivity and income in Sahel’s farmlands. This should be done through the provision of economic incentives for investment and through the strengthe n- ing of productive capacities that induce and enable farmla nd intensification while raising returns to labour. Building on and supporting diversity and resilience in rural livelihoods as well as in ecosystems should be key underlying principles guiding policy making and public investment decisions in this area.

Integrated NRM technologies and strategies

While many assessments of soil degradation are not empirically substantiated, it should not be ignored that the inherent properties of Sahelian soils are very poor. We also empha- sise that the productivity of Sahelian soils is not only a function of their nutrient status, but depends strongly on biological and physical properties. Raising crop yields will ther e- fore require an integrated approach to soil fertility management (SFM) that addresses all these aspects. This means combining external inputs (synthetic fertilizers, rock phosphate) with biologically -based methods (organic matter, biological fixation) and with measures against wind and water erosion control. The project interventions and on -farm experi- ments discu ssed in this chapter show that such an approach can significantly increase both yields per ha as well as labour productivity. However, for these technologies to pay, pr o- jects and policies must focus on providing incentives. Experiences also indicate that S FM strategies should consider and seek to integrate all the major farmlands components – trees, crops and livestock – rather than focusing on crops alone. When comparing the costs and benefits of SFM strategies it is likewise important to take account of t ree and


livestock production and not only crops (the relative importance of the former two tends to increase with intensification). Finally, the substantial horizontal nutrient flows in many farmlands means that SFM strategies should include all the major landscape elements i n- volved in these flows – forests, pastures, fields etc – and not be limited to the field or farm level.

Direct investment support

Sustainable farmland intensification in the Sahel clearly requires substantial investments

of cash and labour at the farm and community levels as well as the mobilisation of exter-

nal knowledge and resources. Several of the dryland ‘ success stories’

discussed earlier

suggest that project -type support can be a relevant and effective way of providing the critical resources needed to raise farmland productivity sustainably. This must involve both technical support as well as assistance that relax cash and labour constraints to farm investments given that both resources are very scarce in rural households. It is moreover central for adoption rates that the technologies – including new products – promoted by projects are in accordance with local relative factor costs (roughly the land/labour ratio) as well as with cost -benefit ratios for key products since both influence farmers’ investment decisions. Most important perhaps, they must take account of the opportunity cost of la- bour in non -farm activities, as rural livelihoods in the Sahel are highly diversified – a l- though this partly reflects poor alternatives within farming, which investment support is meant to address. A note of caution is needed through: many NRM projects in the Sahel have been mixed blessings or direct failures so realising the potential of direct investment support requires careful design that av oids past mistakes. Finally, the use of government

or donor funds for project -type support, rather than more broad -based institutional and infrastructural investments, must take account of broader considerations relating to public sector resource allocatio n, including questions of subsidies versus services and public ver- sus private good provision. Projects should also be designed in accordance with overall poverty reduction and other national policies.

Market development

In recent years it has moreover bec ome clear that broader economic and sectoral policies can have significant and widespread effects on sustainable intensification by gene rally increasing the returns to, and reduce the risks of, investment in agriculture. It is generally accepted that marke t incentives are key for such inve stments to occur. But markets in support of sustainable land management do not evolve automatically but must be pr o- moted through public investments in marketing infrastructure and the development of appropriate regulatory frameworks. Macroeconomic policies – e specially the currency devaluation – a nd general market liberalisation have already contributed to higher pr o- ducer prices in some cases (e.g. rice and meat) but reforms alone are not sufficient. There is now a need for more targeted policies and investments that reduce marketing costs and market risks and that improve farmers’ access to market information on price and quality for specific pro duct groups. In other words, interventions are needed that support the de- velop ment of specific marketing arrangements or value chains of relevance and benefit to small producers.


Chapter 4. Natural resource management in pastoral sys- tems

4.1 Introduction

This chapter discusses NRM in pastoral societies and economies in the Sahel. Its purpose is to ensure that NRM issues pertaining to pastoralism receive adequate attention in the broader study. It specifically aims to;

  • (i) discuss from a NRM perspective research and interventions done on/in pastoral

societies and economies in the West African Sahel over the last 10 years or so, focusing on Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali; and, (ii) based on this review, identify and discuss the most promising NRM policies, strategies and specific interventions for pastoral societies/groups in the region.

4.1.1 Defining pastoralism

Pastoral systems in the Sahel are highly diverse and dynamic as pastoralists have histor i- cally adapted to evolving environmental, social, economic and political conditions at l o- cal, national and regional levels. They include the highly mobile WoDaaBe of Niger largely dependent on livestock, the more sedentary and agro -pastoral Fulani of the inner Niger Delta in Mali or northern Burkina Faso practising regular seasonal transhumance, the predominately camel -rearing Toubou of eastern Niger , the relatively sedentary Tuareg of northern Mali and Niger involved in diverse livestock and other activities including long -distance trade.

Defining pastoralism in the face of this diversity is problematic. It is also not helped by the loose use of vari ous terms, often interchangeably, to de scribe this form of livelihood and the people who practice it – for example, nomads, nomadism, transhumants, transhu- mance, herders, pastoralists, agro -pastoralists, etc. Whereas in the past, there was in cer- tain areas a degree of livelihood specialisation along ethnic lines, increasingly this is no longer the case. Pastoralism and farming are now practiced to varying degrees by most communities in the Sahel. Thébaud (2002) analyses the historical advance of agro - pastoralism over the 19 th century in the Yagha in north eastern Burkina Faso with the Fu- lani taking up farming and the Gurmantche investing in livestock. Beeler (2006) describes a similar situation in north -western Mali where Soninké farmers have been investing in livestock since the beginning of the 20 th century. The merging of these livelihood systems has weakened former relations of interdependence between groups, and heightened co m- petition for access to natural resources between them (Hussein, 1998). Conflic t is increa s- ingly a feature of their relationshi ps exacerbated by national policies and laws that have weakened pastoral tenure rights over land and water, resulting in increasing loss of pasture land to agriculture.

There is a need to differentiate betwe en different pastoral systems as well as the different livestock keeping systems in terms of the relative importance of livestock to families’ overall livelihood portfolio, the objectives and manner of production, labour, access to resources and decision -making institutions. The definition should allow for distinctions to


be made between those families or communities who depend to a significant level on liv e- stock for their livelihoods with other groups who generally purchase livestock as a form of insurance, investment or savings to complement other livelihood options.

There is also a need to recognise the dynamism of pastoralism as a livelihood system, par- ticularly its gender and class dimensions that characterise significant differences in wealth, status and power within pastoral communities 37 . Though frequently viewed as a archaic system locked in the past, there is evidence demonstrating how pastoralism does adapt to the opportunities and constraints of present -day economies often while minimi s- ing environmental costs (Homewood, 1993).

A commonly used definition in the literature is that advanced by Swift (1988) in which he defines pastoral production systems as those “ …in which at least 50% of the gross in- comes from households (i.e. the value of market production and the estimated value of subsistence production consumed by households) comes from pastoralism or its related activities, or else, where more that 15% of household's food energy consumption involves the milk or dairy products they produce”. Baxter (1994) focuses less on economic criteria and emphasises the ethnic dimension of pastoral communities, irrespective of whether all members actually keep livestock or not.

Any definition is subjective to some degree. Hence, for the purposes of this stu dy it is proposed to use a set of characteristics, common to most pastoral systems in the Sahel ( see Table 4.1 ) rather than a single all -encompassing definition 38 . By way of comparison, some key characteristics of ranching, which though not a major activity in the Sahel is one often perceived by government to represent a more effective use of rangelands than pa s- toralism, are also presented.


Table 4.1 : Key characteristics of pastoralism and ranching in the Sahel.




Families depend on livestock for a significant proportion of their food

Livestock are grazed

within de-

and income.

fined and fixed boundaries (usu-

Many pastoralists cultivate crops and carry out other economic activi-

Livestock are raised for a mix of subsistence (particularly milk) and

ally fenced).


ties to meet their subsistence needs.

market needs (e.g. livestock sales to buy food, to pay taxes, etc.).

• Natural resources are managed through private regimes – re- sources within fenced boundaries

Livestock herds are composed mainly of indigenous breeds.

are privately owned.

Livestock represent more than just economic assets. They are social, cultural and spiritual assets too. They define and provide social iden- tity and security.

• Ranching is commercially oriented (mainly beef) for the national economy (domestic, export mar- kets).

Livestock depend on natural pastures for their diets including crop residues.

• Livestock represent an economic asset.

Pastoralism depends on the work and expertise of all family me m- bers, usually divided by gender and age.

• Livestock depend on natural pas- tures as well as purchased feeds.

Key livestock management strategies include: herd mobility, raising several species of animals, active management of age structure and sex ratio, herd splitting, and maintenance of a high proportion of fe- male livestock.

• Ranching mainly depends on hired labour: both technical (e.g. vets, range managers) and manual (e.g. ranch hands, labourers).

Natural resources are managed through a mix of common property

Pastoralism is characterised by adaptation and evolution to constraints

Pastoralism is also characterised by its ability to realise economic





and private regimes where access to pastures and water are negotiated and dependent on reciprocal arrangements.

of climate, economic, political change and opportunities facing them.

benefits from otherwise marginal lands not suited to crop cultivation due to climatic constraints (low opportunity costs).

strategy involves herd splitting through separation using fences and controlled stocking rates.

• In most of the areas where ranch- ing is practiced, the rainfall re- gime allows for rain-fed cultiva- tion (some opportunity costs).

Source: Author’s literature review and assessment

4.2 The importance of pastoralism in the Sahel

Determining the current status and trends in pastoral production and trade, its contribution to local, national and regional economies, the levels of pastoral poverty, the degree to which pastoralists engage with markets and have established links with farming communi- ties is fraught with difficulty.

There are no official statistics on pastoral population numbers in the Sahel since national census figures do not disaggregate by ethnic group or livelihood. Various attempts have been made at estimating pastoral population numbers by using proxy indicators such as agro -ecological zones and classifications of different livestock production systems (ILRI, 2002 ; Rass, 2006). Table 4.2 presents data from ILRI (2002) estimating the tota l number of pastoral households by country on the basis of their production system in 2000 and 2050 39 , while Table 4.3 disaggregates this data by degree of poverty according to differ- ent four different data sets.


Table 4.2 : Estimates of total pastoral population by country and production system in 2000 and 2050 .






Total pastoral

Pastoralists as a

Total pastoral

Pastoralists as a

population by

% of total popula-

population by

% of total popula-

production system


production system






Burkina Faso




















Source: ILRI (2002).

Table 4.3 : Estimates of the number of poor pastoral people by production system a .


Technical Advi-

World Bank rural

Less than US$ 1/

Less than US$ 2/


sory Committee

poverty threshold

day poverty

day poverty

(TAC) defined



poverty threshold

Burkina Faso




















Source: ILRI (2002). Notes: a Four different data sets and poverty lines were used: two international lines (less than US$ 1/day and less than US$ 2/day) and two national lines, one from the ILRI priority-setting exercise based on Tech- nical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) data (Gryseels et al., 1997) and one for the rural.

Notwithstanding the accuracy or the pertinence of the data in both tables, they do demon- strate that a significant proportion of the population of the Sahel are past oral, ranging from 7% in Burkina Faso to almost a fifth of the population in Mali, and that the majority are poor subsisting off less than US$ 2 a day 40 . Although the PRSPs of Mali and Burkina Faso do not make any specific reference to pastoralists, they d o identify those areas with large pastoral populations as being among the poorest. In Mali, for example, the regions of Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal are classified as having significantly higher levels of poverty than the national average (Republic of Mali, 2002). In Niger the situation is less clear cut where it is the western and southern regions of Tillabery, Dosso and Maradi that are considered to have the greatest intensity of poverty. Although these areas are home to many pastoral communities, they do not, with the possible exception of Tillabery, make up the majority of the population.

National level statistics fail to capture pastoralism’s contribution to national economic production and growth. This is largely because actual methodologies of data collection and summation are not adapted to assessing a sector with a significant informal dimension such as pastoralism (Hesse & MacGregor, 2006). For example, pastoral labour in the maintenance of key resources such as livestock, wells or the enviro nment is rarely r e- corded. Unreliable or inaccurate data on pastoral population numbers makes it difficult to determine the value added of pastoralism and its contribution to national economic growth. Obtaining a complete picture of the pastoral economy requires estimating house-


hold outputs produced for home use, sales in informal markets, barter exchanges and ill e- gal or deliberately unreported activities.

However, governments do collect some data on the livestock sector as a sub -component of the agricultu ral sector. Table 4.4 illustrates the relative importance of both sectors to GDP in the Sahel, with agriculture contributing between 17.6% and 39.9% of overall GDP while livestock represents between 24.7% and 41.6% of agricultural GDP. Although these data fail to disaggregate the relative contributions of the different livestock production systems, and do not capture the significant proportion of the pastoral economy that does not pass through official channels, they nonetheless give some indication of the great i m- portance of livestock to national economies in the Sahel. Work by Rass (2006 ) using proxy indicators to try and establish the importance of pastoralism within the national livestock sectors indicates great differentiation between countries in the Sahel 41 . For e x- ample, while pastoral cattle only represent 16% of Burkina Faso’s national herd they make up 76% of Niger’s total cattle population.

Table 4.4 : Estimates of the contribution of pastoralism to national economies in the Sahel.


Burkina Faso





% Contribution of agriculture to GDP






Share of livestock as % of agricultural GDP






Pastoral cattle as a % of the national herd






Share of pastoral beef as a % of total production







2 nd after cotton

3 rd after


nd after


Livestock as a source of export earning




Source: Data compiled by the author from different sources

Recent and comprehensive data on pastoralism is, however, lacking. That data which does exist tends to focus on livestock failing to disaggregate between livestock systems. It also ignores the wider livelihood dimensions of pastoralism, which though centred on liv e- stock -keeping includes a diversity of other economic activ ities including farming, harvest- ing of non -forest timber products, trade, paid manual labour and migration. Data also tends to focus on cattle ignoring or minimising the contributions of other livestock species central to the different pastoral livelihood systems such as camels, donkeys and small stock. And there is very little, if any, recognition of the indirect contribution of pastora l- ism to other sectors of the economy in the Sahel. A recent study carried out in Arusha town, northern Tanzania , on the value added of the nyama choma (roast meat) informal economy, over 90% dependent on pastoral meat, indicates that it supports 601 meat roast- ing businesses, employing 5,600 people with an estimated 25,000 dependents (Letara et al., 2006). None of this contr ibution is captured in official data sets.

The absence of an appropriate system to track the dynamics of pastoralism and its contri- bution to local and national economies is one reason why governments continue to under- value it and promote policies that seek to change or replace it with other land use systems.


Improving the conceptual and methodological framework and methods for the collection of data on pastoralism is thus critical.

4.3 Research findings

Ecological research over the past twenty years has sh own how rangeland dynamics in dryland environments are very different to those in areas that are more humid. Seminal work by Ellis & Swift (1988), Benkhe (1992), Benkhe et al. (1993), Scoones (1995) among others show that in non -equilibrium environments where precipitation is unpr e- dictable and highly scattered in time and space and where droughts are a normal feature, rainfall has a greater influence on the dynamics of pastures in the rangelands than grazing pressure. And that the determining issue when considering the risk of overgrazing is not the number of livestock per se, but the intensity of grazing that can occur. In such env i- ronments, the value of such concepts as carrying capacity, imported from the USA and widely used by governments in many African countries to regulate livestock numbers to match biomass production, have been questioned particularly when applied to pastoral production systems ( see Box 4.1 ). This research has also confirmed the high level of resil- ience of dryland ecosystems and the ir capacity to adapt to changing rainfall patterns. For example, in drier periods short -cycle annuals dominate pastures with perennial grasses returning once rainfall conditions improve. Similarly, formerly degraded areas have self re -generated under impro ved rainfall conditions as seeds lying dormant in the soil have germinated as a result of the greater humidity. Mortimore (1998) through his work in northern Nigeria has challenged the conventional view that Africa’s drylands are in a self- perpetuating cycle of increasing land degradation and desertification.

Livestock mobility is now increasingly recognised to be a far more effective strategy for ensuring the sustainable use of the environment in dryland environments while making the best use of dispersed and uncertain pastures with few other economic uses (Sandford, 1983 ; Niamir Fuller, 1999). It allows animal numbers to be regulated according to the available fodder in an opportunistic and flexible manner, thereby reducing the risks of overgrazing and environmental degradation. An experiment conducted by GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) in northern Senegal in which relative costs and benefits of privatising the land and using carrying capacity as a tool to regulate liv e- st ock numbers on pastures confirmed the inappropriateness of such a tool in non - equilibrium environments (see Box 4.1 ) .


Box 4.1. Controlled grazing scheme in Senegal

In the early 80s, GTZ collaborated with the Senegalese Forest and Water service to test a model for the sustainable management of rangelands around the borehole of Widou Thiengoli in northern Senegal. The model was based on trying to find the optimum carrying capacity of the range in this Sahelian environment. In order to do this, the project privatised what had been common rangeland, and divided the area into a number of grazing paddocks with direct water delivery in which different stocking le v- els were maintained. The project provided special benefits to those few families who were allowed to use the pasture and water in the enclosed areas, protected by barbed wire fencing.

After over 15 years of implementation and a very rigorous process of scientific monitoring, the project was deemed a failure. In environmental terms, the quality of the pasture for livestock within the pad- docks was worse than at the beginning of the project and in comparison to the surrounding communal land. In years of high rainfall, insufficient consumption and trampling of dry season biomass and soils led to the disappearance of those grasses most sought after by the animals. Economically, the proposal to sell animals soon after weaning (so as to maintain the fixed stocking rate) was found to be unprofit- able, and that animals that had gained weight in good years by remaining within the paddocks were at a distinct disadvantage in years of poor rainfall when there was no choice but to leave the controlled rangeland behind. Socially, the fact of fencing some families in, and others out, of what had been a common pool resource, created social tensions. Those herders who had benefited from the project in good years when they could remain within the fenced paddocks, found themselves rejected by the others in the bad years when they had to cut the barbed wire and let their animals pasture on the co m- mon land.

The project’s failure was largely a result of its desire to impose technical and infrastructural blueprints designed for wetter and ecologically more stable environments on a non-equilibrium environment characterised by high levels of spatial and temporal variability in vegetation production.

Source: Thebaud et al. (1995).

4.3.1 Efficiency

Mobility enables animals to be driven to where the most nutritious and abundant pastures exist, thereby optimising weight gain and milk production in the wet season and limiting weight loss in the dry season. Research conducted by Breman & de Wit (1983), De Vries (1983), Boudet (1987) and Breman & De Ridder (1991) demonstrat e how pastures found in the northern Sahel though less abundant than those in the south, are far more nutritious that the latter. This is well known to pastoral communities, who regularly move their ani- mals north during the rainy season to fatten their liv estock in preparation for the difficult dry season. De Verdière’s (1995) research in Niger in which he compares the productivity of livestock raised under sedentary, transhumant and nomadic conditions demonstrate how sedentary livestock are 20% less productive than nomadic cattle in terms of annual reproduction, levels of calf mortality, and annual milk production. Earlier research carried out by Breman et al. (1978) confirmed that animals taken on seasonal transhumance from the inner Niger delta in Mali to Mauritania (over 1,000 kilometres) generally were in bet- ter shape than those that remained throughout the year in the villages. Similar work ca r- ried out by Breman & de Wit (1983) and Wilson et al. (1983) in Mali demonstrate how


transhumant pastoral systems yield on average at least twice the amount of protein per ha per year compared to both sedentary agro -pastoralists and ranchers in the USA and Au s- tralia (quoted in Scoones (1995 )) 42 .

4.3.2 Resilience to environmental shocks

Livestock mobility remains a key strategy in responding to drought, disease and other natural crises. With no alternative policies to protect their capital base, particularly the breeding animals that allow them to reconstitute their herd after a drought, families opt to move, sometimes travelling hundreds of kilometres across several countries in search of pastures and water. Research carried out by Thébaud in 1987 in the region of Diffa in eastern Niger in which she contrasts the herd structures of 350 Fu lani families found that those that moved with their animals to Nigeria and even Cameroon during the 1984 drought, not only had on average much larger herd sizes, but also more viable herd stru c- tures (Thébaud, 2002). Fulani families who had not managed to move long distances du r- ing the drought had on average between two and seven cattle per family compared to the more highly mobile WoDaaBe who had on average 44 cattle per family two years after the drought (ibid).

Total herd sizes, however, do not reflect the full picture. A balanced herd structure is also critical if families are to live off their herds in a sustainable manner. Adult cows are needed to produce milk in the short -term term and give birth to calves that will grow into adults, thereby ensuri ng the future survival of the herd and thus the family. Adult steers are needed for sale to buy other foods and services or for major ceremonial purposes ce n- tral to maintaining social capital. A bull is needed to inseminate the cows. Heifers are needed to replace the cows while young steers need to be fattened for future sale 43 . Thé- baud’s research shows how herd structures among the more mobile WoDaaBe were also far more balanced with a more even spread of male (40%) and female (60%) animals and a good distribution of both sexes across the ages, than those among the Fulani who had been unable or unwilling to move before or during the drought. Having access to adult male cattle after the drought when livestock prices are high and grain prices low, allowed the WoDaaBe to sell one or two steers to buy the grain they needed. This allowed them to preserve their breeding females thereby ensuring a supply of milk and calves for the r e- generation of the herd. At the end of the drought, the Fulani not only had fewer animals but an imbalanced herd structure dominated by female stock – between 72% and 84% of their total cattle herd (ibid). Consequently, the Fulani were being forced into distress sales of their female stock thereby compromising their ability to reconstitute their herds after the drought.

Although the long -term impacts of climate change are difficult to predict, most climate change models agree that rainfall is likely to become increasingly erratic and unpredict- able, with more severe weather events such as drought and floods. This will have a pr o- found effect on the availability and distribution of natural pastures and water points, pa r- ticularly during the dry season (Hesse & Cotula, 2006; WISP, 2007). In this changing and ever more unstable environment, h erd mobility will become increasingly important. In this changing and ever more unstable environment, herd mobility will become an increa s-


ingly important strategy in the drier regions of the Sahel. In more southerly regions (e.g. northern Nigeria) other strategies such as stall -feeding of key reproductive stock may pr e- vail as demonstrated by Mortimore et al. (2001).

4.3.3 Pastoral land tenure

Our understanding of how pastoralists view land and organise themselves in relation to land has greatly improved over the past twenty years. Colonial and post -colonial gover n- ment views that pastoralists have no land or that the areas they occupy are empty and sans maître (i.e. without owner or master) , which in part gave reason to their desire for mobil- ity, have now be en challenged. Work by Benkhe (1992), Lane & Moorehead (1995), Turner (1999a ; 1999 b), Thébaud (2002) among many others show how pastoral land is held under controlled access tenure re gimes, often in communal form. Contrary to the ‘tragedy of the commons’ a rgument advanced by Hardin (1968), pastoral land is not open access and thus open to all, but carefully managed by well -defined groups, according to a set of rules and regulations in which everyone is aware of their rights and duties.

Pastoral land tenure is fundamentally different to the terms and conditions under which agricultural land and resources are held and used. Not only are pastoral resources such as grasslands, browse, water and salt pans shared and used by many pastoral communities, but the land on which they are found may also be used by other people for different pu r- poses at different times of the year. For example, millet and sorghum fields cultivated by Gourmantche and RimaayBe farmers in northern Burkina Faso the wet season become pastures during the dry season for both resident and transhumant livestock (Thébaud, 2002). Similarly, in the inner Niger delta of Mali, dry season pastoral grasslands become wet season fishing grounds with the annual flooding of the river. Furthermore, b ecause of the spatial and temporal variability of natural resources, many pastoral groups use a spec- trum of tenure regimes in which access to resources is increasingly restricted and subject to greater levels of control depending on the prevailing environmental conditions and the strategic value of that resource in any given year (Benkhe, 1992 ; Lane & Moorehead , 1995 ; Scoones, 1995). Thus, one finds access to traditional hand dug wells, a critical r e- source in the dry season, is very carefully managed by the family or clan that dug them; limiting “outsiders” use of that water according to the availabity of surrounding pastures and the amount of water in the well in any given year.

The work of Turner (1999b), Zeidane (1999) and Thébaud (2002) show how customary land tenure systems, for all their apparent ‘ messiness’, allow pastoralists to respond in a very flexible and opportunistic manner to the unpredictable Sahelian environment where pastures and water resources are highly dispersed in time and space. Social networks and offers of reciprocal arrangements allow herders to negotiate access to a wide range of re- sources in any given year, while maintaining their social capital.

Recent research has clarified the critical relationship that exists between land an d water rights in pastoral systems (Cotula, 2006). For Sahelian pastoralists, control over water is not only necessary to enable them to meet the basic needs of their livestock and families, it is decisive in enabling them to manage the speed at which pastures are grazed by live-


stock during the dry season. By controlling access to water, pastoralists are able to ma n- age the number of livestock that are watered and thus the number of animals that then graze the pastures within the water point’s grazing circumference. In many respects, water is the key to the ma nagement of pastoral resources. Thébaud (2002) shows how in eastern Niger, Fulani families strictly control access of their hand -dug wells in their terroir d’attache (home areas) dry season to non -resi dent livestock as a strategy of controlling stocking rates. This enables them to manage the speed at which the surrounding pastures are grazed thereby ensuring sufficient feed for their own livestock until the arrival of the next rains. Controlling access to water is a critical feature of good range management. The failure of modern water infrastructure programmes and national water and/or land laws to recognise the interconnectivity of water and land rights, has meant that many well - intentioned water pro grammes have ended up undermining local resource management arrangements, fostering resource conflicts and contributing to range degradation (Cotula, 2006) (see Box 4.2 ).


Box 4.2. Confusing legislation

The relationship between the Rural Code and the Water Code in Niger illustrates the confusion between land and water rights. The Water Code governs water resources while the Rural Code governs all re- sources and socioeconomic activities in rural areas, including rangelands and water points.

The Rural Code states that herders have a right to use rangelands in common and have priority rights in their home areas. This includes both land and water rights. Outsiders may gain access to water and graz- ing resources on the basis of negotiations with the right holders. These provisions imply that the creation of modern wells must be associated with priority rights to water and grazing resources, and that open- access wells are possible only in no- man’s-land situations or on transhumance routes.

On the other hand, the principles underlying the Water Code are:

Access to water for livestock is open to all, including outsiders such as transhumant herders.

Construction of water points with an output equal to or exceeding 40 m 3 per day must be authorized by the regional ad ministration and follow a set of rules.

Public water points have to be managed by Management Committees, formally established by the administration and composed of a President, a Secretary- General, a Treasurer and one person re- sponsible for the hygiene of the well and its surrounding area. The total number of Committee members should not be greater than nine persons.

Management Committees are responsible for the general maintenance of the wells and the collection of users’ fees.

Such principles have created a number of problems. The Water Code does not establish a functional link between access to water and access to grazing, as if these resources were independent of each other. The role of Management Committees is limited to surveillance of the water infrastructure, excluding the use of grazing resources or control over the number of livestock using the well. Their capacity to control access to water and grazing resources is limited. When problems arise, the regional administration inter- venes and, if necessary, closes the well. The Code gives almost no recognition to the controlled access systems developed by pastoral communities, and traditional wells are not even mentioned. The texts do not take into account the specific circumstances characterising pastoral life. For instance, mobile com- munities are not always in a position to maintain their members around the well throughout the year, and the election of additional treasurers and committee members would often be necessary. But the law al- lows only nine members.

Source: Cotula (2006).

4.3.4 Markets

Work by Swift (1979; 1984; 1986) and Kerven (1992) show that contrary to popular b e- lief, pastoralists in the Sahel and elsewhere in Africa have always been integrated with local and regional markets, and have a long history of involvement in livestock trade ou t- side their co mmunities well before colonialisation.


Pastoralists are very dependent on markets, both formal and informal, to acquire a su b- stantial portion of their food as well as other products (Swift 1979; 1986). Swift argues that it is in their interests to exchange surplus livestock or milk for cereals when the terms of trade are such that they can obtain more food energy by selling a nima ls or milk to buy cereals. This is usually the case in good years when cereal prices are low and livestock prices high. In drought years, however, when food prices soar and livestock prices plunge, the terms of trade swing violently against pastoral house holds (Swift, 1986). In such years, pastoralists lose a significant proportion of their animals as they are forced to sell more and more animals, in increasingly poor conditions, to meet their food requir e- ments.

Kerven (1992) in her analysis of pastoral marketing in Niger describes how in pre - colonial times in addition to long -distance trade across the Sahara, pastoralists were also heavily involved in regional trading networks between pastoral and agricultural econ o- mies where animals were largely exchang ed for grain linking the arid north to th e coastal areas of West Africa. These links grew rapidly in importance over the 20 th and 21 st centu- ries as an urban -based consumer market developed alongside improved transport systems. In the 1990s, the EU revised its subsidies policies for exports to West and central Africa, and, as a consequence, cattle meat imports from Europe dropped substantially to be re- placed by an increase in live animal imports from the Sahel. In 2003, the share of the Sa- hel’s exports in t he regional livestock trade was 95% for cattle and 79% for small rumi- nants (OECD, 2007a ). The devaluation of the FCFA in 1994 also contributed to the co m- petitiveness of Sahelian reared beef, although with some undesirable consequences. In Burkina Faso, for example, the devaluation of the FCFA led to an increase in beef exports and a subsequent meat shortage on the domestic market (Hoffmann & Bernhard, 200 7 ).


Box 4.3. Costs incurred in transporting 21 cattle by lorry from Dori to Ouag a- dougou in 1994




Lorry hire (4,000 CFA/head)


Certificate of origin


Total cost:

445,725 FCFA

Hire of patent


Mats (to act as sun-screen)


Cost per head of cattle:

21,225 FCFA

Laisser passer (travel document)


Police post at Dori


Total cost of illegal ‘taxes’:

73,500 (16%)

Gendarnmerie at Dori


Police post at Kaya


Police post at Ouagadougou


Watchman at the abattoir


An entry ticket at the abattoir


Costs of unloading the animals






Source: Rochette (1997)

The potential for regional trade in livestock to grow is huge. A 250% growth in demand for livestock products is anticipated for the Sahel and West Africa region by 2025 due largely to a growing urban population particu larly in the coastal countries (Delgado et al., 1999 ; OECD, 2006 ). Ensuring that pastoralists and agro -pastoralists from the Sahel rather than imports from Europe and Latin America meet this demand is critical for West Af- rica’s economic growth and for local livelihoods. Competing imports need to be properly regulated and cross border trade policies and practices need to be improved. According to some estimates, transport, handling costs and illegal taxes represent 54% of the costs of cross-border trade in live cattle (OECD, 2007b). Rochette (1997) reports on the actual costs the Union des Groupements Villageois de l’Oudalan (UGVO) paid in transporting a lorry load of 21 cattle from Dori to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso (250 kilometres) on their way to the coa stal markets of Accra and Lomé (see Box 4.3).

4.3.5 Research gaps

Gender, class and resource tenure and pastoral economics are two key issues that have not received the attention they deserve over the past 20 -30 years.

There has been a tendency among researchers to assume a high degree of homogeneity within pastoral communities, and a subsequent failure to distinguish between different interest groups and classes of people within society. The impact of changing tenure rela-


tions on the social, economic and political status of pastoral women is not yet fully under- stood, nor is their role in natural resource management. There is some evidence, particu- larly from East Africa, that shows that the vulnerability of women’s access to resources is compounded by the progressive alienation of rangelands away from community -based structures, as privatisation tends to break up mutual support groups, particularly of women (Horowitz & Jowkar, 1992). Furthering our understanding of these processes, particularly in West Africa is an important area for future research.

While there has been considerable research on the advantages and difficulties associated with common property resource management systems, relatively little economic analysis has been done on the benefits and costs of this, compared with other tenure arrangements or land use options in the Sahel. The one outstanding exception to this is the very detailed monitoring carried out by GTZ on their project in northern Senegal, which has been documented by Thébau d et al. (1995). As Sahelian governments seek to modernise their agricultural sector as the pathway out of poverty, it is critical that we develop a better u n- derstanding of the links between productivity, incentives and investment in the rangelands under c ommon property regimes, versus more restrictive forms of tenure. This is neces- sary in order to test the widely held assumption that privatisation is essential to provide the security required for investment and conservation management of the rangelands.

There is also need, as argued above, to develop an appropriate conceptual framework and data collection system to identify and track the true and various contributions of pastora l- ism to local, national and regional economies in West Africa.

Although a lon g held belief by governments, the potential detrimental impact of livestock on the environment is an area requiring further research particularly in countries with growing livestock populations as a result of improved veterinary care and water provision. Key questions that merit further investigation include: the extent to which changing pa t- terns of ownership in livestock, particularly cattle, as civil servants, traders, rich pastoral- ists and business men increasingly invest in livestock for short -term inve stment, are re- sulting in changing management practices (e.g. reduced mobility) which are having a negative impact on the environment as well the wider pastoral economy. Another key i s- sue is the extent to which the premises underpinning the conclusions of a recent report by FAO (Steinfeld et al., 2006), entitle d ‘The long shadow of livestock’, are relevant to low- input pastoral livelihood systems in the Sahel. The notion of ‘ virtual water’ embodied in a cow is another emerging issue in the context of growing concern about climate change. Although Sahelian pastoralism has very low opportunity costs, questions are being raised about the relative cost -benefits of using water for livestock versus other forms of ec o- nomic production.

4.4. Pastoral development interventions

Environmental degradation and desertification narratives have informed and driven policy interventions in Africa’s rangelands over the past fifty or more years. Despite the wealth of empirical research on the dynamics of dryland ecosystems, conventional wisdom still holds that the rangelands in the drylands of Africa are suffering land degradation and d e-


sertification as a result of increasing aridity exacerbated by traditional land use practices that promote overstocking and overgrazing. Although Hardin’s (1968) ‘tragedy of the commons’ theory has been largely discredited 44 , it has become “…the dominant frame- work within which social scientists portray environmental and resource issues” (Godwin & Shepard, 1979) and continues to have tremendous influence in development policy di s- course with respect to natural resources generally and livestock and range policy in pa r- ticular.

Policy interventions seeking environmental sustainability and development in Sahel’s rangelands have sought either to reform or mo dernise pastoral systems or to convert pa s- toral land to other uses (e.g. farming) deemed to be more productive and efficient. In ei- ther case, the policy interventions have undermined pastoral systems and institutions, and compromised the security of pastoral livelihoods without offering a ny other significant benefits. Attempt s to limit overstocking and avoid overgrazing are now recognised to have had little positive effect and in many cases to have exacerbated land degradation and fuelled conflicts through ill -conceived and poorly implemented interventions (Sandford, 1983; Homewood, 1994; Niamir -Fuller, 1999 ; Oxby, 1999) ( see Box 4.1 ).

In contrast to many other donors, Danida ’s support to pastoral development and range management in the Sahel has been innovative and broadly positive, and by and large i n- formed by research findings on the dynamics of dryland ecosystems and pastoral liveli- hood strategies. Programme interventions have tended to be over a sustained period with projects being implemented in a number of successive phases in recognition of the co m- plexities of ecological systems and the dynamics and interconnectedness of social and political processes in ensuring sustainable and equitable environmental management. Danida support has combined a regional approach (e.g. Centre Regional de Formation et d'Application en Agrométéorologie et Hydrologie Opérationnelle (Niger) - AGRHYMET) with specific inter ventions at the local level that offer a high potential of replicability on a wider scale (e.g. Projet Appui à la Gestion Conjointe des Ressources Sylvopastorales - PAGCRSP).

Over the past ten years, programme interventions have focused on three broad areas: the sustainable management of the commons, good governance and pastoral civil society em- powerment, and pastoral credit. Table 4.5 presents a selection of key projects supported by Danida , which have or have had a significant pastoral component. Below a number of case studies on a few of these projects is presented to capture the key features of Danish support to pastoralism in the Sahel.

4.4.1. Sustainable management of the commons

The Programme d’Appui à la Gestion de la Réserve Nationale de l’Aïr et du Ténéré (PAGRNAT), the Projet d'Appui à la Gestion Conjointe des Ressources Sylvo Pastorales (PAGCRSP) and the project L'Appui à la Sécurisation Foncière II (ASEF II) are three projects that all present a number of very innovative features that offer huge potential for ensuring the sustainable and equitable management of rangelands in the Sahel. Central to these projects is the issue of land tenure, and promoting livestock mobility either within


pastoral areas (PAGRNAT) or between the pastoral zone and more southerly ar eas (PAGCRSP, ASEF II), while securing pastoral access to and control over strategic re- sources, particularly in the dry season (water, grazing lands) both in the pastoral and agr i- cultural zones on Niger. All projects have also sought to institutionalise decentralised management with due regard to subsidiarity within the context of Niger’s local govern- ment reform programme.

A major achievement of PAGRNAT was to develop an approach to sustainable rangeland management based on customary practice that promoted livestock mobility and thereby the opportunistic tracking of resources in a highly unpredictable environment. Using the Tuareg concept of echiwel 45 , the project identified up to twenty terrain de parcours, i.e. socially defined areas regularly used by a group of families and their livestock with prior- ity rights of access over key resources (e.g. dry season water, grazing). The overlapping and fluid nature of these areas’ boundaries as well as the practice of negotiated access by the inhabitants of the di fferent terrain de parcours enabled the local population to make optimal use of the available resources and match livestock numbers to available forage in most years. The project’s decision to base its operational approach on the notion of te r- rain de parcours ensured a high degree of appropriation by the local community as well as a strong basis for the design of a model for decentralised natural resource management and local development within the Aïr -Ténéré reserve (PAGRNAT 2001; 2002). A key objective o f PAGRNAT was to establish a management committee for each terrain de parcours, which would in time form an umbrella group which responsibilities for the overall management of the reserve within the context of Niger’s decentralisation reforms. The project was actively working on the development of a series of local conventions to institutionalise local natural resource management regulations when the donors withdrew support due to internal political conflicts within the project area and poor project man- agement.

Two projects currently being implemented with the Projet Appui Danois au Développ e- ment Rural de Zinder et Diffa ( ADDR) programme in the regions of Zinder and Diffa in Niger, PAGCRSP II and ASEF II, are experimenting with how best to secure common pro perty land and resources within the context of decentralisation. Both projects work in the south of the country characterised by increasing land shortages, particularly fertile and higher -potential land for rain -fed agriculture, as a re sult of rising population. Existing common property areas such as rangelands and non -protected forests used by a range of actors for different livelihoods are coming under increasing pressure and in many cases are being converted into fields. The absence of an appropriate policy and legal framework to protect grazing land and limited local capacity to implement those provisions within the law that are favourable to pastoralism (e.g. provisions for giving herders priority rights over land in their home areas), is exacerbating t he situation, often leading to conflict b e- tween far mers and herders.


Table 4.5: Summary of selected Danida projects in support of pastoralism in the Sahel.



Key features


Centre Régional AGRHYMET

Research and regional knowledge management on the dynamics


Created in 1974, the Centre is a specialized agency of the Comité Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS).

and trends of: climatology, hydrology, agrometeorology, agri- culture, pastoralism, agricultural and animal statistics, demogra- phy. Mainteance of regional data bases, modelling of climate and environmental trends using saterlite imagery.

Danida funding:1998-2007

Training on: monitoring agro- meteorological and hydrology trends; collectionm of statistics on agricultural systemsand yields.

Making Decentralisation Work

Design and implementation of a training programme on Pastor-

Implemented by the International Institutefor Environment and Development (IIED)

alisme au Sahel in French and Pulaar. The training is designed to to build the capacity of pastoral groups to understand, engage with and ultimately challenge the overall policy framework

Danida funding: 1999-2004

regulating their livelihood systems, and to enable policy make rs better understand the rationale underpinning pastoral systems.


Projet Sahel Burkina

Testing of the Gestion de Terroir approach in an agro-pastoral


Danida funding: 1999-2000

setting in northern Burkina Faso.


No projects with a pastoral focus



Projet Appui Danois au Développement Rural de Zinder et Diffa (ADDR I and II)

The Projet d'Appui à la Gestion Conjointe des Ressources Sylvo Pastorales (PAGCRSP) uses action-research to identify how common property rsources can best be managed in a sus- tainable and equitable manner in the context of decentralisation.

Overarching programme in sup- port of Niger’s agricultural devel- opment strategy composed of a

L'Appui à la Sécurisation Foncière II (ASEF II) builds the capacity of the Commission Foncière of Myrriah to clarify and thereby secure rural land tenure holding, including critical pas- toral resources such as livestock corridors.

series of sub-projects imple- mented by national and interna- tional non-governmental organi- zations (NGOs) and government depart ments.

Mata Masu Dubara (MMD) builds the capacity of women’s groups to manage credit and savings to enable women to fund income generation activities. Adapted the MMD concept to pastoral areas.

Danida funding:

Projet de Gestion des Ressources Naturelles (PGRN) builds the

Phase I: 1999-2002

capacity of local communities to manage key strategic resource

Phase II: 2003-2007 (extended till

areas (e.g. wetlands) in a sustainable and equitable manner.






Key features


Projet Hydraulique

Development of water points and the establishment of water

Village water supply programme implemented by the Ministry of Water.

management comities in the agro-pastoral and pastoral zones of Diffa and Zinder.

Danida funding: 2001-2006

Programme d’Appui à la Ges- tion de la Réserve Nationale de l’Aïr et du Ténéré (PAGRNAT)

Design and implementation of participatory pastoral land use management systems based on customary institutions and prac- tice – terrains de parcours. Developed a comprehensive data-

Multiple land use programme implemented by The World Con- servation Union ( IUCN) to con- serve the wildlife of the Aïr- Ténéré while providing sustain- able livelihoods for local popula- tion.

base and tracking system to monitor pastoral land use, mobility and social organisation.

Danida funding: 1990-2000


Centre Suivi Ecologique

Long-term environmental monitoring through staelite imagery


Created in the 1970s as a public body within the Ministry of Envi- ronment.

and on-ground truthing. Maintainence of databases and produc- tion of maps and other information on land use and environ- mental trends, including rangelands. Two key projects:

Danida funding:1985-1999


Training and management of natural resources and food


safety Using new information and communication tools to en- able pastoral communities to track transhumance.

Source: Author’s review of various project documents

PAGCRSP’s approach to addressing this problem rests on the principle of building the capacities of all those with direct and indirect interests in the land to come together to n e- gotiate on an equal footing and in an informed way on how best to reconcile their often divergent interests over the use of common land (PAGCRSP I, 2004 ; PAGCRSP II, 2006). Using a process of social communication, the project has invested considerable time and energy in facilitating meetings at various levels, ensuring through training and the dissemination of information in local languages (e.g. local radio) that all the actors attend and are at the same level of under standing of the stakes at play. PAGCRSP’s deci- sion to invest first in building the capacities of negotiation of all stakeholders before fund- ing any form of infrastructure (e.g. wells, demarcation of livestock routes, etc.) is in re c- ognition that the greate st challenges of securing common land, including the rangelands, is largely social and political in nature. And that in the long run, it is essential to invest time and resources in such processes and establishing local institutions for their continued management, if future capital investments are to be sustainable and conflict -free.

The project by facilitating the establishment of a number of local conventions for the management of the commons by the actors themselves, while valorising local natural r e-


source management knowledge has also contributed to building the capacity of stak e- holders (local government bodies, customary chiefs, community associations, etc.) to de- velop rules and regulations on a consensual and continous basis, which respond to the preva iling environmental, economic or social conditions in any given year. Building insti- tutional capacity for flexible and opportunistic management of the environment is esse n- tial to reinforcing local coping strategies and increasing resilience to environmental and institutional change, particularly in a context of global climate change.

The PAGCRSP has also been very effective in ensuring the participation of all actors i n- cluding transhumant pastoralists. This reflects not only the project’s desire for equitable resource management, but also demonstrates their recognition of the interconnectivity and interdependence between the more northerly pastoral areas and southerly farming zones. The future of Sahelian pastoralism lies in part on its continued access to the more sout h- erly farming zones, particularly in years of drought. Ensuring the participation of tran s- humant pastoral communities in the management of common property resources in sout h- erly farming areas is thus critical in securing their continued access over time. With the support of the Commission Foncière of Myrriah (supported by ASEF II), the project has successfully delimited and officially registered key pastoral resources such as livestock corridors. The PAGCRSP and ASEF II offer valuable experie nce in how this can be done.

Building the capacity of local government to manage natural resources and secure co m- mon land in their jurisdictions is a major issue in Niger and the Sahel more broadly. This capacity has to extend from communal level land boards (Commission Foncière Co m- munale - COFOCOM ) to higher -level land boards at the departmental level in order to ensure subsidiarity when planning for pastoral development, particularly the facilitation of livestock mobility across long distances. PAGCRSP’s and ASEF II’s experience of work- ing both with local government bodies and hig h er l evel stakeholder committees at the departmental level in securing common land provides important lessons in such processes.

Danish support to the water sector in Niger ha s largely focused on improving village wa- ter supply in th e regions of Zinder and Diffa. Implemented by the regional government water departments, the Projet Hydraulique while developing many water points failed adequately to address the specificities of wa ter development in pastoral areas. Not only did the project fail to ensure the participation of pastoral communities in the water ma n- agement committees established for the maintenance of the water points (BCD, 2006), but it ignored the tenure implications of water development thereby undermining pastoral resource management arrangements, which contributed to fuelling conflicts, particularly in the Diffa region (Cotula, 2006). Danida’s new water programme in Niger, PASHEA, specifically states it will not ad dress pastoral water development for lack of a clear pa s- toral strategy (BCD, 2006). Yet, developing such a strategy in which the dynamics be- tween land and water rights are properly addressed is critical given the water needs in pastoral areas and the project’s central objective to improve water access in eastern Niger.


Box 4.4. Key features of training on Pastoralism in the Sahel

Multi-disciplinary The training capitalises the last 20-30 years of research that has been con- ducted on pastoral systems and dryland ecology. It explicitly brings together information on ecosys- tem biology and the social sciences. It demonstrates the close links between dryland ecosystem re- silience and livelihood resilience, and how pastoral livelihood strategies (e.g. mobility) directly con- tribute not only to good environmental management but also improved pastoral production and pro- ductivity. It also addresses the policy environment in the Sahel analysing the impacts of past at- tempts to modernise pastoral systems and the current opportunities that decentralisation and pas- toral legislation offer.

Principle of self-discovery The training is not a lecture. It uses participants existing knowledge base as its starting point, adding new scientific and legal information only once they have presented their own analysis. In this way traditional knowledge and experience is validated when appropriate.

Challenges enduring preconceptions By using evidence based arguments, the training builds the capacity of pastoral participants to challenge government officials’ and others’ misperceptions of pastoralism based more on ignorance or prejudice than scientific evidence.

Visual aids Are central features of the training enabling non-literate participants to follow and remember the line of arguments and data that is presented.

4.4.2 Good governance and pastoral civil society empowerment

The absence of a representative and effective pastoral civil society movement capable of articulating its members’ vision of their development is a key factor explaining why poli- cies for pastoral development continue to fail, and poverty and conflict still characterise many pastoral communities in the Sahel. Development experience over the last forty years has clearly shown that pastoral people tend to lack th e knowledge, political clout and resources with which to fight their own cause, and thus remain vulnerable to other people’s interpretation of what is best for them. Improving policy makers’ understanding of the rationale behind pastoralism could help improve policy design, although informa- tion alone is unlikely to bring substantial changes, since policy formulation is essentially a state -driven political process that tends to favour domina nt groups. In the eyes of the state, pastoralists represent a minority vote, occupy marginal land of low economic poten- tial and practice a livelihood system many consider economically inefficient and envi- ronmentally destructive.

Since 1998, the Drylands programme of the International Institute for Environment and Develop ment (IIED) has been supporting a process to build the capacity of pastoral groups in the Sahel to understand, engage with and ultimately challenge the overall policy framework regulating their livelihood systems. This process has focused on the design and implementation of a training course on pastoralism and policy in French, which was subsequently adapted into Pulaar (a language widely spoken in Sahel) within the context of a regional programme, Making Decentralisation Work, jointly funded by Danida and Sida (see Box 4.4) 46 .


An external evaluation of the programme in 2003 commended the training for its rel e- vance and capaci ty to equip pastoral communities with the skills to argue the case for pa s- toralism within current policy debates and reform processes on land, natural resources, decentralisation and private investment. The evaluation also found evidence of how cer- tain participants had used the elements from the training to directly challenge some of the deep -seated misunderstandings and prejudices widely held by policy makers on pastoral- ism. It is in this sense that the course is empowering .


4.4.3 Pastoral credit

The MMD project in Niger implemented by the international humanitarian organisation CARE since 1991 is widely credited with successfully ena bling women in farming co m- munities to save and fund their own income -generating activities thereby improving their incomes and status in society. Based on a traditional form of self-help known as tontine, the approach consists of a group of women agreeing to form a credit and savings group and to loan their collective savings to one member of their group for a specified time to enable her to finance an income generating activity. While the MMD concept works well in sedentary situations and although it has been successfully exported to other countries (e.g. Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana), it had never been applied in pastoral areas. Between 2003 and 2005, with funding from Danida, CARE -DK tested the concept among 62 pastoral credit and savings groups in t he regions of Diffa and Zinder (CARE, 2002).

The results were subsequently documented (Banzhaf, 2005) revealing that while the cla s- sic MMD model was inappropriate in pastoral areas, demand for credit and savings was very high, and the pastoral communities in which the model was tested displayed a high capacity of adapt the basic concept to accommodate their mobile lifestyles and the rela- tively low levels of mon etisation of their economies. The impact of the pastoral credit and savings groups was significant. Although most women did not use loans to generate i n- come, as is the case in the farming areas, the credit they received allowed the family to meet their immediate needs (food, medicine, etc.) without having to sell their animals at times when the terms of trade for livestock were unfavourable. The MMD system thus enabled them to ride out the seasonal and inter -annual fluctuations in market prices for livestock and grain, thereby contributing to their capacity to maintain their herds. Loans were thus re imbursed when livestock prices improved. MMD in pastoral areas has the potential to play a significant role in protecting pastoral livelihood assets, particularly their livestock, thereby reinforcing their capacity to respond not only to seasonal stress bu t also periodic droughts.

4.5 A changing policy and legislative environment

Over the past 10 -15 years, governments in the Sahel have become increasingly aware of the critical role of decentralisa tion and community -based natural resource management, land tenure reform and livestock mobility in managing dryland ecosystems, maximising livestock productivity in environments characterised by dispersed and unpredictable rain- fall, and accessing distant markets, often in neighbouring countries. These reforms are


introducing a radical new agenda involving civil society and the private sector in areas traditionally controlled by government.

Although these reforms offer genuine opportunities, there are in practice many challenges to be overcome. Despite the rh etoric of participation, the top -down nature of the reforms severely limit their appropriation and use by ordinary citizens to effect governance changes at the local or national levels. Most rural people, particularly in pastoral areas, have little awarene ss of the policy and legislative framework governing access to the r e- sources on which they depend for their livelihoods or the obligations government authori- ties have with respect to the good governance of these resources. There continues to be a gap betwe en policy and legislative stipulations on the one hand and practice on the other. Governments while emphasising their commitment to democracy, decentralisation and poverty reduction are showing little willingness to entrust control over key resources to lo cal government authorities and citizens.

4.5.1 New pastoral legislation

Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Mauritania have recently passed pastoral legislation de- fining pastoralists’ rights to move their animals within and across countries 47 , while Niger is in the process of devising specific legislation to regulate the pastoral sector. The Afri- can Union is developing a continent -wide pastoral policy framework, which is likely to support a more positive attitude towards pastoral mobility as an integral componen t of an efficient livelihood system.

These laws do represent a major step forward. The formal recognition of pastoralism is in itself significant, and in many respects these laws do provide an improved institutional framework for the better management of rangeland resources in the Sahel. Whereas go v- ernments have in the past been hostile to herd mobility, the new wave of pastoral legisla- tion recognises it as a key feature of pastoral systems in the Sahel 48 . The pastoral laws include other positive features. There are provisions for giving herders’ rights over the common use of rangelands, priority – a lbeit not exclusive – rights over resources in their home areas as well as rights to compensation in the event of losing their lands to public interest needs 49 . These provisions are an enormous improvement on past legislation, which not only failed to recognise pastoral land use but also gave priority land -use rights to agricultural production, to the detriment of pastoralism. Greater recognition of custo m- ary tenure arrangements, including the principle of decentralised natural resource ma n- agement, the multiple and sequential use of resources by different actors at different times of the year (e.g. herders’ access to harvested fields) and the need to manage conflict at the local level, are other innovative features of significance (Hesse & Thébaud, 2006).

Although these laws and policies do mark a major step forward, the limited understanding among policy -makers ab out the dynamics of pastoral systems and lack of an organised pastoral constituency in their governments still pose serious conceptual and practical pro blems (ibid.). First, the pastoral laws are not implemented – either because there are no regulations en suring their application, or because of insufficient government funding. Guinea, Mali and Mauritania have formulated and passed regulations, but have not yet


allocated sufficient funds in central or local government budgets for their implementation. Most pastoral communities are also unaware of the existence or provisions within these laws. Second, while some pastoral legislation has been linked to decentralisation – in Mali, for example, local government bodies have been the given the authority to manage livestock corridors – g overnments in other countries are unwilling to relinquish central control over land and other natural resources. Third, despite the many innovative features in these laws (recognition of customary tenure practices or priority rights for herders over resources in their home areas), many of their provisions take an unduly technocratic and centralised approach to the key issue of pastoralists’ access to or control over land and other resources (e.g. the regulations governing the zones pastorales aménages (managed pastoral zones) in Burkina Faso, the limited understanding of what constitutes mise en valeur pastorale (pastoral development) in Mali and Niger) . If implemented, these provi- sions will further curtail livestock mobility, thereby threatening the future of pastoral and agro -pastoral livelihoods and fuelling land -related conflicts.

  • 4.5.2 Regional transhumance agreements

Cross-border transhumance relies on regional integration processes based on the free movement of people and goods. In addition to the transhumance agreements established between two or more countries, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) introduced an International Transhumance Certificate in 1998 to facilitate livestock movement in West Africa. But despite these provisions there are many difficu l- ties with the free flow of livestock between countries: most pastoralists are either unaware of the law and its requirements (such as the need to have a certificate confirming that their animals have been vaccinated), and even if they do comply with the law they still face intimidation from customs officials and the border police (see Bo x 4.3 ).

  • 4.5.3 Decentralisation, PRSPs and agricultural sector reforms

Decentralisation promises greater efficiency in the del ivery of appropriate services ta i- lored to local needs, coupled with the furtherance of local democracy and democratisation, better management of natural resources and the more active involvement of local people in the management of their affairs. Together, these benefits are expected to contribute significantly to poverty reduction through better representation of the poor and improved targeting of service delivery.

In practice, however, decentralisation raises a number of challenges, particularly for pa s- toral communities in the Sahel. Elected local government bodies often have a poor under- standing of the rationale behind pastoral systems, and therefore have little interest in su p- porting a land use system that, to their understanding, brings few economic returns. The relatively low level of representation of pastoral communities on local councils exacer- bates this situation. This is particularly true for women who are universally underrepr e- sented in local government bodies. Even in areas where pastoral peopl e are a majority, issues of class and political affinity can further marginalize pastoral communities as local government councils are often dominated by local elites such as customary leaders, retired politicians, businessmen or former civil servants. Fu nding pastoral development through local taxation raises many difficulties in the context of pastoral mobility.


Poverty Reduction Strategies are the defining framework used by all Sahelian countries for development and poverty alleviation, and although they are by and large driven exter- nally by donors, they have opened up the policy making process to participation by citi- zens even though the quality of that participation is still an issue. For example, none of the PRSPs in the Sahel recognise or tailor their strategies to the specificities of pastora l- ism. This raises not only serious questions about the degree of citizen ownership and pa r- ticipation in the design of the strategies, but also concerns about their effectiveness for pastoral and rangeland development in a broader institutional context that considers the modernisation of the agricultural sector and private, often foreign, investment, particularly in land, as the pathway out of poverty (e.g. Loi d’Orientation Agricole (LOA) in Mali and the Loi Agro -Sylvo -Pastoral in Senegal). Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal are reviewing their land laws with a view to making the land sector attractive to foreign investors. These interventions show an apparent disconnect between the promise of citizen empo w- erment and participatory democracy in decentralisation and the possible alienation of citi- zens from their natural resource base that comes with the promotion of privatisation, for- malisation and foreign direct investment in the natural resources sector. While decentrali- sation articulates the spirit of devolution of authority and decision making over resources to local governments, the ‘modernisation’ approach tends to institutionalise the reverse. The pace of these policy reforms is too fast for most citizens, let al one poorly educated and distant pastoral groups who risk losing crucial dry season resources such as wet lands to other u ses, especially agri -business. It also raises questions about the sustainable ma n- agement of the environment in a context where privatisa tion may limit or hamper regular seasonal livestock movements between wet and dry season pastures.

4.6 Key issues and priority intervention areas

Pastoralism needs to be addressed in the broader context of ensuring the sustainable man- agement of the envir onment, securing pastoral and agro -pastoral livelihoods in the Sahel, facilitating national and regional trade, and building resilience to the likely impacts of climate change. Future interventions need to recognise and build on the existing dece n- tralisation processes under way across the Sahel, where authority for the management of land, natural resources and social services is being devolved from central government to locally elected government bodies.

4.6.1 Political will and concerted effort

Securing pastoralism as a livelihood system will require a strong political constituency, concerted support and coordination between governments in West Africa. This is a major challenge. Despite the existence of a broadly enabling policy environment in some cou n- tries, and a regional commitment to support livestock mobility, the overriding perception of pastoralism among Sahelian decision -makers at all levels is negative. It is seen as an inefficient use of land that does not contribute to national growth, poverty r eduction or sustainable environmental management. These perceptions have a direct impact on policy, leading many policy -makers to conclude that there is no place for mobile livestock -rearing in modern Africa because it does not provide economic benefits on a scale commensurate with its land use requirements. Indeed, recent reforms in the agricultural sector in Mali


and Senegal, and Niger’s livestock policy, for example, favour a reformed livestock sector based on Western models of animal husbandry (ranching , stall feeding, improved bree d- ing, etc.) as key plank of their modernisation strategy. The growth in numbers of national Members of Parliament representing pastoral areas is encouraging, representing one area where campaigners can make some progress in changing attitudes and policies towards pastoralism.

Changing policy -makers’ perceptions of pastoralism is a long and complex process, which will involve improving their understanding of its dy namics and economic rationale – pa r- ticularly the comparative ad vantages of mobile livestock -rearing over alternative methods of animal husbandry like ranching or land use activities such as irrigated farming. The economic benefits of pastoralism have never been adequately captured or articulated. E x- isting national statistics are inadequate, inaccurate and fail to capture the nature and range of contributions that pastoralism makes to West African economies. There is an urgent need to develop a dynamic economic model that can track and assess pastoralism’s full and varied contribution to society and national economies, as a prerequisite to any pr o- gramme seeking to promote livestock mobility.

Specific interventions that contribute to changing national and local government attitudes and perceptions of pastoralism and buil ding a political constituency in support of pastoral- ism, and which build on Danida ’s past and current work, include:

Institutionalising the existing Pastoralism in the Sahel training programme within national and regional training centres and universities (e.g. Ecole d’Elevage and Ecole Nationale d'Economie Appliquee (ENEA) in Senegal) to reach current and future policy makers and practitioners.

Research to design an appropriate economic valuation framework that permits an accurate assessment of pastoralism to national economies that is affordable to go v- ernment, and which assesses the relative costs and benefits of communal versus private tenure arrangements in the Sahel’s drylands.

Broader training and policy advocacy on the rationale of pastoralism as a viable land use system, particularly in the context of climate change.

Collaborative advocacy to influence key policy processes, such as the planned Af- rican Union policy on pastoralism.

4.6.2. Strengthening civil society

Although information is a central element of policy -making processes, it is not enough to induce policy -ma kers to change their policies. Policy design is essentially a state-driven political process aimed at reconciling the divergent needs of multiple stakeholders. As with all processes involving conflicting and diverging interests, it is those that are backed by political and/or economic power that prevail.

Although pastoral civil society groups are beginning to occupy a prominent place in the Sahelian development scene and are commanding an increasing proportion of develop- ment aid, they remain weak. They lack the skills to articulate and defend their members’


interests, have difficulty in establishing a common front with each other or forging strong institutional links with other groups, and have limited financial resources and management skills. Almost exclusively established by an educated elite, many organisations lack a strong rural constituency and have weak links with customary pastoral authorities.

But despite these problems, a pastoral civil society movement is gradually emerging – particularly in Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal. Some of these groups are the product of an endogenous process of self-determination; as such, they represent the beginnings of a civil society movement and a way for local people to participate in the decision -making processes that affect their lives, particularly in the context of decentralisation.

Strengthening these and other civil society organisations is essential if they are to engage wi th government and play a meaningful role in the design and implementation of policies that support livestock mobility. Pastoral communities need to better understand their rights and responsibilities, and how to assert these rights within existing policy and legi s- lation. They also need to understand the issues at stake and learn how to engage in all the policy debates and decision -making processes that have a bearing on their lives. At the moment, these are still dominated by government officials and economic elites, due to substantial gaps in education, information, income and wealth. Addressing this imbalance and finding ways of giving a real voice to people whose views may not be well - formulated and who are usually not listened to i s thus critical. Althou gh it will take time and require long -term commitment and creativity, such a process-driven approach is es- sential to the successful design and implementation of policies to secure pastoralism.

Key activities to build the capacity of pastoral civil society organisations to play a mea n- ingful role in the design and implementation of policies that pastoral livelihoods and su s- tainable environmental management include:

Adapting the training on pastoralism in the Sahel into additional local languages, including those widely spoken by agricultural communities in order to create a critical mass of well -informed rural people.

Broader institutional capacity building processes that help civil society groups r e- flect on and improve their accountability to and representation of pastoral commu- nities.

4.6.3 Developing appropriate institutions and tools for subsidiarity and flexi- bility

Sustaining pastoralism and sound environmental management in the Sahel will entail se- curing key pastoral resources and developing and maintaining a network of livestock routes linking limited local movements accessing seasonal water or pastures with higher - order movements at the national or regional level. Such routes will link seasonal grazing areas and markets. The entire complex of routes, grazing areas, water and other point r e- sources, and markets, needs to be bound together with the appropriate legislation and gov- ernance structures.


It will only be possible to maintain livestock routes with adequate water points and live- stock -holding grounds at local, national and international level if the roles and responsi- bilities involved are clearly established and apportioned. Governance institutions and rules need to be established through negotiation and reciprocity as the critical principles which enable pastoralists to respond flexibly and opportunistically to highly variable and unpr e- dictable dryland environments.

At the local level, this involves strengthening the customary institutions and legal pra c- tices that govern access to common property resources, and clarifying their relationship to the formal institutions and legal processes of the state. These customary institutions and legal processes play a central role in managing the competing priorities and needs of di f- ferent user groups and therefore in sustaining peace. However, customary institutions have long been and are still under pressure for a variety of reasons, including the pre - eminence of the formal institutions and laws of the state. However, forma l institutions do not work well on their own either. Thus, the pastoral areas operate under two competing sets of institutions and laws – formal and customary – n either of which work well. The challenge is to integrate them into a more efficient legal and administrative background that can provide a satisfactory environment for the development of a dynamic mobile pa s- toral livelihood system.

Processes of negotiating rules and regulations must be guided by the principle of subsid i- arity to ensure that the most appropriate bodies are responsible. Decentralisation offers real opp ortunities to institutionalise these features in local and national development pla n- ning. However, local government authorities need support to implement the provisions of decentralisation, and affordable tools to enabl e them to apply participatory planning pro c- esses and accommodate the needs of mobile pastoral communities.

Building on the achievements of PAGRNAT, PAGCRSP I and II and ASEF II, specific interventions that contribute to developing appropriate institution s and frameworks i n- clude:

Building the capacity of local, national and regional actors to negotiate and institu- tionalise peaceful and sustainable ways of managing common property resources and facilitating livestock transhumance and access to strategic resources, particu- larly in drought years, while also protecting livelihood assets.

Supporting decentralised authorities (e.g. rural councils and local land boards) to further test and develop innovative models and approaches for securing strategic pastoral resources and enhancing livestock mobility that are appropriate for differ- ent contexts.

Supporting legal reform that clarifies and harmonises t he relationship between formal and customary laws and institutions.


4.6.4 Protecting livelihoods, promoting resilience and improving market inte- gration

Pastoralism supports between 7% and 19 % of the national population in the Sahel (see Table 4.2) while making a significant contribution to national and regional economies (see Table 4.4). The costs of providing alternative livelihoods and the economic and enviro n- mental benefits foregone in failing to support pastorali sm are potentially huge. Currently, Sahelian government investment in pastoral areas is very low. Most pastoral areas have below average coverage in basic services; in additional, health, education and marketing provisions are inappropriate to mobile pastoral lifestyles. It will be especially difficult for governments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for pastoralists because of their low density and mobile way of life. Given that they are a sufficiently large propor- tion of the national population in many countries, this failure will j eopardise wider achievement of the goals. If countries are to reach them, something must be done to e n- sure that they are met in pastoral livelihood systems.

In addition to providing adapted services, serious consideration must also be given to en- hancing and protecting pastoralists’ livelihood assets, particularly livestock and reinfor c- ing both household diversification and drought coping strategies. A differentiated ap- proach is required depending on the degree to which individual households are able to co ntinue to lead a pastoral life. Some families are heavily dependent on livestock for their livelihoods, others less so. In some cases, there are households who practice a predomi- nantly livestock based livelihood; others who are diversifying while retaining some liv e- stock; while some require exit options which do not end in destitution (e.g. urban based trade and migration). Although climate change models for the Sahel are inclusive, it is broadly felt that rainfall is likely to become increasingly irregular. It is thus critical to r e- inforce local coping strategies (e.g. mobility and investments in indigenous breeds) while protecting significant livestock losses from death or unfavourable market terms of trade. Accelerating urbanisation, particularly in coastal West Africa, is creating a rising demand for livestock products such as milk and meat. Enabling Sahelian pastoralism to meet this demand through more effective and efficient marketing processes will greatly contribute to securing livelihoods and promoti ng greater regional trade and development.

Key activities in support of pastoral livelihoods and regional integration and which build on Danida ’s past experience include:

Direct support to pastoral livelihoods at the household and wider community level including inputs into the pastoral system as well as support to broader livelihood diversification when appropriate.

Investments in infrastructure (e.g. roads and communications) to ensure a reliable demand, to provide timely market information and to reduce transport costs will maximise prices for the producer.

Design of appropriate decentralised service provision that accommodates mobility (e.g. community -based animal health ca re and mobile schools).


Building on the experience of MMD in pastoral areas, the e xtension of credit and saving schemes to enable communities to flatten out the seasonal highs and lows in the terms of trade between livestock and other goods, particularly cereals.

The design of appropriate emergency aid assistance in the envent of drought that actively protect livelihood assests and thus the ability of populations to maintain their way of life after a drought or other natural shock (e.g. destocking for cash, delivery of fodder or veterinary care).

4.6.5 Capitalising and building on exp erience

Networking and learning are essential to capitalise on existing experience. Despite the plethora of organisations working to secure livestock mobility, there is relatively little exchange of experience, particularly between countries in the Sahel or between East and West Africa. Danida and other actors have amassed a considerable body of experience in support of pastoralism and sustainable environmental management. The lessons and i m- plications of these need drawing together to provide a broad founda tion of credible ex- perience which a network of activists and practitioners can then draw upon to influence policy and its implementation. Learning networks also need to cross institutional bounda- ries, bringing together policy -makers, civil society organisations, and local associations in ways that build a stronger consensus about the importance of livestock mobility and the most appropriate strategies to enhance it.

Activities that leverage change at a wider level, for example by:

Documenting good practic e and further learning .

Building greater awareness of and engagement with the issue of pastoralism across a wide range of groups.

Supporting the advocacy plans of civil society networks on these issues.

4.7 Conclusions and policy implications

Pastoralism i s critical for livelihoods, for trade, and for making use of areas which other- wise have few other uses, particularly in a context of increasingly climatic variability. It needs to be secured locally, nationally and cross-border, and between pa storal and non - pastoral areas. Despite its importance, pastoralism faces serious obstacles largely because of an inappropriate policy environment.

Government policies have failed to protect key pastoral resources such as wetlands and livestock corridors from agricultu ral encroachment or invest in appropriate marketing and social services such as education and health. Shrinking pasturelands, blocked livestock routes and limited or difficult access to water or dry season fodder are undermining pa s- toral livelihood systems, contributing to environmental degradation, exacerbating poverty and fuelling conflict. As pastoral systems fail to provide an adequate living, alternative livelihood options – particularly for young men – range from migration to farming areas or towns in search of work, to banditry and other illegal activities. Increasingly, conflict is taking on an ethnic dimension (e.g. setting Fulani herders against Hausa farmers), result-


ing in violent and bloody clashes that leave hundreds of people dead or seriously wounded. In the northern Sahel, livestock mobility and the legitimate movement of people and goods across international borders are being curtailed by US counterinsurgency activ- ity in the ‘war on terror’ . While further undermining pastoral livelihoods, such tactics will increasingly destabilise the area. Future support to pastoralism must recognise these broader environmental, social, economic and political contexts in which it operates.

The key areas of policy intervention for Danida include:

  • 1. Reinforcing the economic viability of pastoralism, particularly its capacity to r e- spond to national and regional markets and provide viable livelihoods in very mar- ginal areas in a context of increasing climatic variability. This will involve sup- porting pastoral livelihoods through improved investment in markets, credit facili- ties, veterinary inputs, social and economic safety nets and protection of livelihood assets, while ensuring tenure security over critical resources such as dry season grazing, water and livestock corridors. The professionalisation of producer and marketing associations and improved information are necessary to further the commercialisation of pastoral produce. Further research to develop a dynamic economic model to identify and assess pastoralism’ s full and varied contribution to national and regional economies is essential; not least in raising awareness of pol- icy makers of the economic importance of pastoralism as a viable land use and livelihood system.

  • 2. Strengthening institutional arrangements at different levels that protect pastoral r e- sources, build resilience , and promote peace within the context of decentralisation. Given the highly variable nature of resources in pastoral environments and the critical importance of livestock mobility, gover nance institutions and decision - making processes need to recognise and implement principles of subsidiarity, and negotiated and reciprocal access to resources. At the local level this involves strengthening customary institutions and legal practices that govern access to common property resources, and clarifying their relationship to the formal institu- tions and legal processes of the State at both local and national government level. It also involves building local capacity for conflict management as well as land use planning within the context of decentralisation while ensuring that the broader i n- stitutional framework, including recently passed pastoral codes, are consistent in their approach to securing and managing pastoral land and resources and devol v- ing authority for NRM at the lower level. While decentralisation policies offer opportunities for greater involvement of pastoral communities in the management of their affairs, greater attention is needed to build the capacity of local gover n- ment authori ties to tailor land use planning, service delivery and governance to pastoral contexts. Training to raise awareness of the dynamics of pastoral systems is thus critical to building the capacity of policy makers and practitioners to under- stand the rationale underpinning pastoralism and thus the need for flexible and o p- portunistic institutional arrangements.


  • 3. Strengthen emerging pastoral civil society to hold local and national governments to account is critical to ensure the wider success of the PRSP and de centralisation reforms in the Sahel. A pastoral civil society movement is emerging, but is still i n- stitutionally weak. Building the capacity of local pastoral communities to hold their leaders to account and drive a development agenda consistent with their needs is critical to ensuring a strong and vibrant civil society movement in the fu- ture. This will involve meeting local people’s immediate needs while investing in broader capacity building activities to raise their awareness and understanding of their righ ts and responsibilities and how to assert them within existing policy and legislation.

Underpinning these policy directions is the need first to overcome the ingrained prejudice and misunderstanding that continues to surround pastoralism as a land use system in the Sahel and the drylands of Africa more widely. Until policy makers better understand the rationale and importance of pastoralism to local, national and regional economies, and its contribution to sustainable environmental management and peaceful social relations b e- tween communities, policies for pastoral development will continue to fail, and poverty and conflict will continue to still characterise many pastoral areas of the Sahel.


Chapter 5. Markets and natural resource management

  • 5.1 Introduction

Achieving sustainable natural resource management and poverty alleviation in the Sahel will depend strongly on the development of agricultural factor and product markets (‘agri- cultural’ here meaning crop, livestock, tree and wild harvested product s). More efficient and inclusive agricultural markets can provide the price incentives, resources and informa- tion required for investing in natural resources thus promoting their sustainable manag e- ment. Specific marketing arrangements, e.g. organic certifi cation or nature - based tourism, can reduce the trade -offs between economic goals and biodiversity conservation. Public investments that reduce agricultural marketing costs and risks are thus likely to raise the profitability of natural resource use while promoting their sustainable management. They also tend to have a higher impact on pove rty reduction than productivity -focused invest- ments. However, in the absence of effective natural resource governance systems, market development may induce degradation. H ence policy must integrate the two areas.

Rural livelihoods in the Sahel are multi -sectoral, implying that people depend on a broad range of market types: agricultural product markets (mainly domestic and regional); mar- kets for environmental goods and serv ices (fuel wood, timber, non -timber forest products, water, carbon and biodiversity); markets for agricultural inputs and service s; land markets; labour markets and credit markets. This chapter focuses on agricultural product markets.

  • 5.2 Inclusive and equitable market institutions

Markets are conventionally assessed mainly with respect to their economic efficiency. Yet research on livestock and grain markets in the Sahel shows that market practices and mar- keting networks frequently discriminate against disadvantaged groups and areas, thereby reducing the potential of markets to promote sustainable natural resource management. In Burkina Faso, for example, women and the poor received lower prices for their livestock than other social groups. This combined with the extreme poverty and gender inequities in the Sahel mean a need to develop market institutions that are also inclusive and equitable. By this we mean specific arrangements that facilitate market exchange for poor and di s- advantaged people on reasonable terms and without increasing their risk of losing key livelihood assets such as land and livestock. In other words, gender equity, poverty alle- viation as well as sustainable NRM require not only market development but also market ‘domestication’.

In this light, policies and interventions in support of equitable market development in the rural Sahel would need to take account of issues such as:

T he bargaining position of poor, female, or remotely located producers viz. traders and service providers.