4 Managing Mobility in African Rangelands


In recent years, a clearer understanding of the complexities of pastoral development has been arising on the basis of work done by African and international researchers and development practitioners. They are refuting the causality of notions normally attributed to pastoralism, such as land mismanagement and degradation. They are also showing how extensive pastoral production has been underestimated, not only in terms of its economic contribution, but also in terms of its environmental benefits. The current paradigm, also called the “mobility paradigm,” supports the notion that extensive, mobile pastoral production can be both sustainable and environmentally friendly, if the social, economic, and political constraints to its full development are lifted. The objectives of this chapter are to review briefly the current paradigm in terms of the benefits it attributes to mobility, to show what happens when mobility declines, to provide a brief diagnosis of what impact development assistance has had on pastoral mobility, and finally, to provide recommendations on how pastoral mobility can be effectively supported. The focus of this chapter is on arid lands, where crop production is a marginal, and usually ecologically inappropriate, activity. However, the concepts and recommendations can be applied to semi-arid lands to improve the already fast-growing trend of integration of crop and livestock systems. In some cases— for example, in western Niger—as the percentage of cropped land increases beyond a certain threshold, livestock become more mobile, rather than more sedentary. This is because of the lack of sufficient pasture around villages, the need to avoid damage to crops, and inadequate access to industrial or other supplementation (Pierre Hiernaux, in a personal communication). The term “pastoralist” is defined as a mode of production where livestock make up 50 percent or more of the economic portfolio of a smallholder (Sandford 1983). This chapter focuses on mobile or transhumant pastoralists. The term “transhumance” refers to regular seasonal movements of livestock between well-defined pasture areas (dry to wet season, or low to highland). It can cover a wide range of pastoral production systems, ranging from fully transhumant systems, such as among the northern Mauritanians and Namibians, to systems such as used by the Nilotic tribes of east Africa, the Berber of the High Atlas, and herders in Morocco and Ethiopia. Transhumance also applies to settled populations who send their livestock short distances to pasture, such as in Zimbabwe. All these systems have several elements in common:

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@inproceedings{NIAMIRFULLER20024MM, title={4 Managing Mobility in African Rangelands}, author={MARYAM NIAMIR-FULLER}, year={2002} }