Promoting the environmental benefits of pastoralism: policy support for transhumance in Sudan
Pastoral Society Sudan (PAS)
With Support from the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP)
This Working paper has been developed from a Study by the Pastoral Society Sudan entitled “Sudan’s Policy towards Traditional Livestock Migration Routes (Darfur States Case)”, which was prepared for the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism as part of its global study of Policy Impacts on Pastoral Environments. The global study, and the country case-studies, will be available on-line at www.iucn.org/wisp/wisp-publications.html
Table of contents
Table of contents i
Sustainable land management through mobile pastoralism i
Sustainable land management through mobile pastoralism
In recent years, there has been a gradual change in attitudes towards pastoralism as a sustainable natural resource management system, and although such changes are slow to influence policy in some countries, there is nevertheless a growing body of evidence to support the claim that pastoralism is an important tool for conservation of the environment. Although attitudes are still heavily swayed by the deeply entrenched belief that pastoralism is irrational, the evidence now suggests that where land degradation occurs in pastoral areas it is largely attributable to constraints imposed on pastoral systems. These constraints are complex and include weakening of customary institutions for natural resource management, the loss of access to key resource areas and restrictions to livestock mobility.
Often the constraints to pastoralism are policy related, whether they are deliberate policies of sedenterisation and land privatisation, or inadvertently restrictive policies such as providing social services exclusively to populations that have settled. If policies that constrain pastoralism lead to environmental degradation, it is tempting to therefore assume that policies that enable pastoralism will have the opposite impact: the reversal of land degradation. This study of Sudan, part of a six country study that was coordinated by the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism during 2006-07, was carried out by the Pastoral Society of Sudan to explicitly test this assumption.
The global study has been carried out in pastoral areas of Bolivia, Mongolia, Niger, The Sudan, Tanzania and Switzerland and will be published online during 2007 (http://www.iucn.org/wisp/wisp-publications.html). Overall the study highlights the fact that environmental outcomes on drylands environments are had not through environmental policies so much as through more general enabling policies, such as devolution of decision making power to pastoral communities, or policies that support the economic empowerment of pastoralists. This study from Sudan illustrates that government intervention to protect transhumance, to uphold pastoralists’ land rights and to improve relationships between resource users have far reaching benefits on the environment, on human welfare and on overall development of drylands regions.
Sudan is a Sub-Saharan country that extends from approximately latitude 4º in the South to 22º in the North. The country’s rainfall varies from 0 mm to more than 1000 mm per annum, which creates several distinct ecological zones, ranging form hyper-arid ecosystems in the north to dry sub-humid areas in the south.
The arid and semi-arid ecosystems of the central part of Sudan are of a significant importance, since these ecosystems are the home for two thirds of the population and support most of the country’s economic activities, including most of the country’s crop and animal production. They also provide the major Sudanese agricultural exports such as oil seeds, cotton, meat, gum Arabic and medicinal and aromatic plants. The heavy dependence of Sudanese economy on natural resources is reflected in the contribution of the agricultural sector in Sudan GDP, which stood at 33.9% to 49.8% during the period 1991/92 to 1999, rising to over 36.6% in 2005.
In the Sudan the federal system or decentralization process which took place in 1995 is one of the most important factors that affect natural resource management. Constitutional Decree No. 12 issued in 1995 assigned jurisdiction over agriculture, lands, State forests, livestock and wildlife to States, but it gave little attention to natural resources improvement and management. Environmental and ecological issues were not adequately taken into account in the identification of States and this led to imbalanced distribution of natural resources and greater abundance in some states than others.
Figure 1: Administrative Map of Sudan
Meanwhile, pressure of resources in the Sudan has risen dramatically in past decades. The human population has grown from 10.26 million in 1956 to 25.6 million in 1993, and in 2004 the country’s population was estimated at over 35 million, with an annual growth rate increased from 1.9% to 2.7%. According to the fourth national census (1993), average population density is 10.2 people per square kilometre, but this figure is misleading when the population distribution is considered. In Sudan, a great deal of land is desert, semi-desert, or simply non-arable, and when only potentially arable land is taken into consideration, the figure for population density increase to 31.4 persons/km2, rising as high as 370 persons/ km2 on presently cultivated land. About 35% of the population resides adjacent to the Nile, and parts of the North of Sudan are becoming depopulated with the shrinking nomadic population in the drought-prone north, and the harsh desert conditions from 12°N to 16°N.
Sudan’s population is predominantly rural (65.5%), and 70% of this population is categorised as poor. They are involved predominantly in rainfed agriculture, woodcutting, internal trade in forest products and nomadic and semi nomadic livestock production in the natural forests and rangelands. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy with about 80% of the people engaged in crop and animal production. This makes millions of people in the country directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood and employment.
Sudan, with its large area and diverse ecosystems, has a variety of different land use systems. The heavy reliance on natural resources for subsistence means that land degradation often occurs, and land management is a vital issue for all rural communities: it is the means of survival as well as a source of individual and tribal pride. In Sudan, desertification is regarded as the most critical environmental threat and poses a real constraint to sustainable agricultural development. The severe droughts that struck Sudan from 1967-73 and 1982-84, in addition to the droughts of the late eighties with their great impact on natural resources, led to famine and human displacement. The struggle for land rights and access and control of resources remains a major reason for conflict and is behind much of the struggle for social justice in Sudan.