Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home page No. 40, Fall/Winter 1996
The CCD, Part I: Africa and the Mediterranean

International technical consultations on pastoral development:
Conclusions - No. 2

Prepared by the Office to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNSO),
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

"Mobile pastoralists are not hostile to modern services. But the form and content of service provision is often such that nomads are unable or unwilling to use them."

Image of an African pastoralist

Note: This article is an electronic version of the second in a series of leaflets being developed by the participants of the International Technical Consultations on Pastoral Development, which are informal meetings of the technical advisors of bilateral donors, multi-lateral agencies, international NGOs, and international research organizations. The meetings are organized by UNSO, the Office to Combat Desertification and Drought of UNDP. The objectives of these meetings are:

  • Information exchange, networking and state-of-the-art reviews by recognized international experts
  • Harmonization of activities and programmes
  • Advocacy for effective pastoral development.

The first paper was issued in August 1995, and focused on the new paradigm in pastoral development, and the need for policy review. This paper, based on the discussions at the Third Technical Consultations on Pastoral Development, held in Brussels, May 1996, focuses on decentralization and empowerment, conflict resolution, and the provision of services to pastoral peoples. The Brussels meeting was hosted by the European Commission, facilitated by UNSO, and attended by technical advisors from Club du Sahel, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, United Kingdom, USA, and from multilateral agencies and NGOs (FAO, IDS, IFAD, IGAD, IIED, ILRI, Vétérinaires Sans Frontières, and World Bank).

The 1990's have seen a renewed interest on the part of donors, governments and NGOs in pastoral development. This long awaited turn-around has been sparked by results of research and development efforts which show the sustainability and the appropriateness of mobile pastoral systems to the ecological realities of drylands, by studies on the economic importance of extensive pastoral production in marginal lands, and by the increasing social, economic and environmental costs of neglect.

Decentralization and conflict management

National policies in favor of democratization have, in recent years, resulted in various experiments on decentralization. However, it appears that herders, and especially mobile pastoralists, have had little representation and few responsibilities in this process.

Some key elements have been identified that need to be considered in the process of decentralization and empowerment of pastoral communities:

  • Territorial and administrative re-organisation in line with current land use and ethnic/kinship relationships, and formal recognition of "home areas" to clearly defined pastoral communities.
  • Legal and institutional provisions and flexibility for accommodating and encouraging mobility and greater dispersion of livestock.
  • Identification of all stakeholders, strengthening their political representation, and appropriate division of responsibilities between stakeholders.
  • Recognition and strengthening of the capacities of pastoral institutions for local level management of natural resources.

Flexibility in land management, as called for on arid lands and for mobile pastoralists, implies that conflict will be endemic; it is a fact of life which the management system must address, just as it must address droughts. Traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution have many advantages, but apparently cannot cope with conflicts created through the weakening of customary land tenure and administration. The strengthening of mechanisms for conflict resolution should be an integral part of the process of decentralization and democratization. A mixture of customary and contemporary conflict management mechanisms will be appropriate in most cases. Further syntheses and dissemination of existing information and experiences are urgently required in the areas of decentralizatio, and conflict management.

Delivery of services

Mobile pastoralists are not hostile to modern services. But the form and content of service provision is often such that nomads are unable or unwilling to use them. Even where mobile populations have had some access to human and animal health services and to education, they have had little or no influence over its content nor its form of delivery. The delivery of services to mobile populations is affected by four factors:

  • mobility of people
  • population dispersal
  • specificities of mobile population needs, and
  • political, economic and cultural factors.

It is important to note that requirements for animal health services in mobile production systems are in general less demanding than in the case of sedentary systems. There is limited disease pressure in dry environments with relatively low animal densities, and mobile pastoralists apply indigenous knowledge and local products against some common problems.

Several innovative means of delivering services have been tested in recent years: private services, community services, mobile units, strategic outposts, long distance education, and so on. As far as possible, responsibilities for service provision should be shouldered by private and community services. But there can be economic disincentives inherent in servicing remote and mobile populations. Therefore, the government's role should be two-fold:

  • To fill in the gap left by other actors, by using innovative delivery methods, and
  • To create/improve the enabling environment to facilitate the work of government and private actors, while concentrating on policy making, public and private services quality control and advice, animal health control, human health and education services delivery.

The public sector should work towards liberalizing drug importation and distribution, legally recognizing both private and community services, providing a stable legislative and regulatory environment, and ensuring civil order.

The exact form of delivery of services will most definitely be a mixture of several innovations. The best services are those that remain in dialogue with the users, are participatory, and incorporate traditional knowledge and delivery systems.

South-south exchanges would be fruitful in stimulating innovation and experimentation in the area of service delivery, for example between Asian and African pastoral communities. More practical experience is needed, including appropriate mixtures of private and community-based approaches in order to devise economically efficient, socially equitable, and culturally and politically acceptable public and private services.

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For further information, please contact:

Ms. Lena Lindberg
Senior Programme Officer
Office To Combat Desertification and Drought (UNSO),
United Nations Development Programme
One United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA
Tel: (212) 906-6414
Fax: (212) 906-6345

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