Igad livestock Policy Initiative

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Government institutions

Government Institutions concerned with the Pastoral Sector in South Darfur State are:

  • Native Administration systems, recognized as legitimate institutional mechanism for conflict resolution and transformation based on the indigenous mediation (Judiyia) system. This local mechanism of conflict management has been more effective but the situation has been significantly confused after the abolition of Native Administration system in 1971. The system was back again in 1980 but with apparent weakness.

  • Nomad's Commission in South Darfur, established by State Decree Number (6) in 2006 to shoulder the responsibility for the development and improvement of the pastoral sector.

  • Abbala Local Council in North Darfur (kutum), one of the administrative units established mainly to take care of camel nomad (Abbala) affairs in North Darfur.

The Pastoral Environment


Vegetation distribution in Sudan is mainly influenced by rainfall and soil type, although the only available classification up to now is that of Harrison and Jackson (1958). Efforts have been made recently through the Afri-cover Project GCP/RAF/287/ITA to map the land cover of East Africa, using the “land cover classification system” (LCCS) developed by the FAO.

Sudan has been classified (Harrison and Jackson, 1958) into six vegetation zones that reflect the country's soil and climatic diversity:

  • Dessert Zone: (0 – 75 mm);

  • Semi dessert: (75 – 300 mm);

  • Low Rainfall woodland Savannah: (300 – 800 mm);
  • High Rainfall woodland Savannah: (800 – 1.800 mm);

  • Flood region;

  • Montane Vegetation: (500 – 2,000 mm).

The Darfur region stretches from the desert in the north to the savannah in the south, interrupted midway by Jebel Marra volcanic plateau which boasts more rainfall and more fertile soil than the other areas. The region's people include farmers growing sorghum, millet, groundnuts and tomatoes, and nomadic pastoralists. Since the 1970s, climate change has accelerated desertification, adding pressure on North Darfur nomads to move southward. North Darfur is sub-divided into desert and semi-desert and Southern Darfur comprised of Low Rainfall Woodland Savannah and associated areas such as the Hill Catena and Baggara repeating pattern. This categorizing is closely associated with plant species which favour specific climatic zones. It has been reported that the basic vegetation cover still exists in most areas and the complete disappearance and extinction of all species has not been reported. However, overuse and misuse activities such as heavy grazing especially around watering points, water shortage and over cutting of trees in addition to drought and over population of both man and animals have reduced the densities of plant species.

In addition to the shrinking of natural resources in Darfur and the expanding population, a major cause of natural resource degradation is the weak environmental policies and regulations and the weak capacity to manage the environment. Although the Sudan Environment Act of 2001 provides some guidance for environmental management, the weak implementation of the Act and the poor enforcement capacity leaves a lot to be done.

The situation highlighted above has resulted in serious environmental impacts, summarized as below:
  • Reduction of rangeland area and blockage of the stock migration routes;

  • Shift in botanical composition and diverse forage species;

  • Reduction of forage production per unit area as a result of land deterioration.

These impacts have in turn resulted in several adverse secondary impacts such as

  • Soil erosion;

  • Land degradation;

  • Desertification in some cases.

These in addition to Illegal practices (Zareibat AlHawa12) have led to bloody conflicts between farmers and herders that used to be solved traditionally but are now politically aggravated to be out of control.

Environmental Threats and Hotspots

Between 1956 and 2003 the population of Darfur increased six fold from 1.08 millions to 6.48 millions, and nomads account for 20 percent. Population density increased from 3 persons/km2 in 1956 to 18 persons/km2 in 2003. This population increase has put severe pressure on the environment and is compounded by climatic land degradation, leading to environmental threats over the whole Darfur region, most evident in a number of hotspots where the environment is fragile and the pressure is greatest. The main causes of land degradation are:

  • Increase of area under cultivation;

  • Expansion of farming in areas of limited rainfall;

  • Uncontrolled use of rangelands;

  • Extensive tree cutting;

  • Water shortage.

In the Darfur region rangeland, which is a communal entity, extends from extreme dry desert to flood zones with marshy and muddy conditions. However, the carrying capacity of the rangelands has greatly changed and in Northern Darfur, as an example, during the late 1950s (Harrison and Jackson 1958) the carrying capacity was reported as 14.3 animal units per square mile per year, whereas a recent survey carried by Range and Pasture Administration 2001/2002 indicated that it is now only 9 animal units per square mile per. It is worth recognising, however, that such measures of carrying capacity are questionable in such arid environments, where intra-annual climatic variation is so great (Behnke et al, 1993).

Natural Resources Conflicts and the Environment

The environmental situation in Darfur has produced several types of conflicts, for example, the expansion of cultivation on the Qoz, together with an accumulation of animals in the same area, has produced over cultivation, overgrazing and deforestation. However, the situation is also affected by other factors. The various periods of drought have affected the areas of north Darfur badly, pushing people towards towns, and also southwards into the Qoz and Gardud13 belts already under pressure. The civil war in South Sudan has created pressure from the south, blocking the dry season migrations of the nomads at Bahr el Arab and other areas, and making them stay longer on the Qoz and Gardud areas. The lack of reliable and up-to-date information on the natural resources and the environment and the absence of any land use plans for Darfur mean that economic development is implemented in an ad-hoc, piece meal and reactive mode. This could be one of the reasons that lead to conflicts over natural resources.

Water resources in particular and natural resources in general are believed to be underlying much of the conflict in Darfur. As indicated above, water in Darfur is a limiting factor affecting economic development and contributing negatively to the wellbeing of the population. This becomes even more drastic noting that water resources are becoming less and less available and the need for water is increasing. At present, many livestock watering points have been engulfed by farms resulting in more pressure on the rainy season grazing areas: a matter that causes range degradation and dominance of annuals in these areas.

The issue of land degradation, soil erosion and desertification is another resource conflict problem. The net effect of these problems for a rural economy such as Darfur is reduced capacity for food production and deteriorating environment leading to devastating human crisis including famines. Deforestation in Darfur is both a cause and an effect of the conflict.

Regular grazing migrations are a key management strategy in Darfur’s nomadic pastoral systems, with movements between wet and dry season grazing areas denoted by clear routes. The migration routes are north-south, with southward movements in the dry season and northward movements in the rainy season. Each tribe has its own routes with certain stopping sites along these routes known as Manazil and Sawani14. Due to many factors such as an increase in animal number, prevalence of insecurity, provision of water sources, expansion of other agricultural systems, and general resource deterioration, many tribal groups, especially camel owners of North Darfur, seek grazing resources outside their recognized tribal territory. The major problem for these groups has been the recurrent droughts in the area. On the last 30 years they have witnessed a long dry period that forced some people towards towns, where they ended up as dependents, whilst others have engaged in cultivation as a supplementary activity. The deterioration of pasture areas has made pastoralists stay longer in the southern part of South Darfur, thus competing with other groups and hence creating new frictions and conflicts.

Conflicts between farmers and herders occur due to the demand for resources such as land and water. The conflicts mainly occur in the autumn season along nomadic corridors during transhumance. The reasons for these conflicts include:

  • Intersection of cultivated land and livestock routes and blocking of route in some cases;

  • Trespassing of herds on cultivated land;

  • Scarcity of the natural resources;

  • The herders (mainly camel owners) not adhering to specific routes for their movement;

  • Shortage of water in rangelands in summer;

  • Establishment of Zareibat Al Hawa;

  • Cultivation around water sources.

When these conflicts occur it is common for the various parties to seek resolution through the following indigenous and statutory institutions:

  • Judiyya or Ajawid15 (the elderly, the wise and the impartial who are versed in customs and traditions selected from both fighting parties);

  • Native administration (tribal leadership);

  • Reconciliation conferences;

  • The law courts.

At present these institutions fail to reach solution in many cases as the source of conflicts, such as blockage of routes and grazing sites, has not been removed.

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