Pastoralists: Resettlement an option? | Ethiopia

The evidence strongly indicates that a return to the good old days when customary herding practices paid handsome dividends does not appear to be possible. The alternative of letting pastoralism survive as best it can under the fierce conditions of today will be irresponsible and counter-productive. As pastoral institutions continue to decline, the frequency and intensity of conflict will increase, posing a threat in the long run to the political integrity of the country. The option open to government is therefore to examine sound alternatives and to prepare the ground for a smooth transition. [Desalegn Rahmeto]

The Ethiopian government plans to re-settle close to a million and half people in the coming few years, according to William Davison’s article on The Christian Science Monitor on August 1. The plan includes about a million people in the north-eastern and south-eastern Afar and Somali states, and another half a million in in the western states of Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz.

The scheme is not news per se. As the government has been bent to the re-settlement option for some time now, despite NGOs advocacy for the preservation of the traditional way of life.

Yet, the 5-year Growth and Transformation Plan(GTP), issued at the end of 2010, indicates that the Voluntary Resettlement Program targets 122,001 households – which would be about 573,405 people(taking the national average household size – 4.7) or 805,207 (taking Somali state’s average household size 6.6, which is the country’s highest).

It is not clear if the re-settlement program’s reach is revised lately. Again, if Davison’s account is accurate, alleviating the land scarcity and degradation problems of the existing sedentary communities is not among the objectives of the program.

The major news is that is World Bank’s Vice President for Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, statement on July 25 that ‘The recurring nature of drought and growing risk it poses to social and economic gains in this region calls not only for immediate relief from the current situation, but also for building long term drought resilience.’

It was not an empty statement but followed by a pledge to provide $12 mln for immediate relief and ‘more than $500 million’ for long term programs. Concerning the latter, World Bank’s press statement states:

This funding could support the following activities: (a) a regional Enhanced Drought Resilience and Livestock Recovery Program to restore livelihood in all countries in the region; (b) scale up – through additional financing – of the Ethiopia Pastoralist Community Development Project; and the Productive Safety Net Program; (c) a possible new agriculture operation in Ethiopia; and (d) a possible operation in Djibouti.

Though some the projects may have yet to be drawn up, the Pastoralist Community Development Project will be a major recipient of the new funding. In fact, it is to be scaled up.

In his post on The Christian Science Monitor, Davison quoted a coordinator of the government’s Pastoral Community Development Project was also quoted as saying ‘for the long term, the government wants to support pastoralists to pursue sedentary lives along the banks of primary rivers.’ The official explained further that the pressures of land degradation, conflict, climate change, and population spikes mean this is the only option, as the hinterlands are too vast for the government to provide services to dispersed herders.

The United Nations Humanitarian coordinator, Eugene Owusu, appears to be endorsing the re-settling scheme, as he said ‘the pastoralist lifestyle is becoming difficult to sustain…Therefore they need to look at alternative development solutions.’ Despite donor’s hesitance at the initial phase of the project,  he has ‘no doubt’ that the program could have  a transformative effect ‘if it’s done well.’

However, a livelihoods expert of Save the Children – UK based in Ethiopia, Holly Welcome Radice, argues that ‘their customs should be supported instead of transformed’. She added:

While pastoralists should have access to public services, cellphones, and the Internet, a mass change is unwise because these are environments that are not able to sustain huge sedentary populations…..the solution lies in working with historically marginalized communities to take measures such as restoring pasture and increasing vital mobility hindered by private landholdings, borders, or conflicts. You have to understand what is really causing the crisis – it’s not just the failure of rains. It has to do with people’s failure to access services; it’s people’s failure to have a political voice.

Though some of Ms. Radice’s remarks would have to be considered in designing pastorals related plan and laws, her preference to maintain ‘their customs’ might be contrary to the evolving trend in the pastoralist communities.

Because, the private landholdings, borders, and conflicts that are hindering pastoral mobility are not only results of exogenous but also indigenous processes. Researches indicate an increasing tendency  to move farming and other non-pastoral means of income. Moreover, customary institutions deteriorated beyond recovery and the factors of their success do not exist any more.

A 2007 paper by Desalegn Rahmeto, which is based on data from Afar, Somali and Oromia pastoral communities, cites a specific case to illustrate the scale of internal change taking place in pastoral communities.

in the Borana area [south of Ethiopia] crop cultivation here has increased from 1.4 percent in 1986 to 16.3 percent a decade later in the mid-1990s. Individual Borana are turning to farming by enclosing small plots taken frequently from the warra [pasture land allotted for lactating cows, sick and weak animals of a small group of households]….In sum, the indications clearly are that there are emergent forces in all areas that are attempting to make a break with the nomadic form of livelihood and of production. The move towards farming and other non-nomadic pursuits is thus coming from within the pastoral populations and not as a result of imposition from government or other outside forces.

Rahmeto also cites a number of exogenous factors including ‘inappropriate land policy and unsound sedentarization programs pursued by successive governments.

Regarding the decline of customary institutions, Rahmeto states:

These pressures, both endogenous and exogenous, are having a destabilizing impact on pastoral lives, livelihoods and institutions. The customary institutions that define property rights and regulate the management of natural resources were framed in the past and evolved in circumstances that are today either non-existent or have deteriorated considerably.

customary institutions are progressively being undermined, and, indeed, pastoralism itself is becoming increasingly unviable -at least in the Ogaden and the Awash basin. Hence it would be foolhardy in these conditions to attempt to institutionalize a land and resource tenure regime complete with registration and certification.

Then, he emphatically concludes:

The question now is: what is the way forward, and what kind of interventions will be needed to avert pastoralist communities from collapsing and descending into chaos and inter-communal violence? Whatever choices are made, the central concern should be to promote sound and sustainable land use and resource management, and to reduce poverty and vulnerability. The argument that such objectives can only be achieved through the traditional pastoralist mode of production is now becoming increasingly unconvincing.

My argument in this paper, however, is that customary rights and institutions are badly eroded, that it is unrealistic to think that one can return to the golden days of the past when pastoral property regimes worked effectively. The evidence is clear that the pastoral mode of production is in severe crisis and decline from which it cannot be safely extricated. If this point of view or something similar is accepted, then what is required is not only a “land reform” but also a reform of the livelihood system in pastoral society.

It is not clear if and to what extent Rahmeto’s proposal for the way forward is included in the government’s  Pastoralist Community Development Project. However, he concurs that the status quo is unsustainable and attempting to institutionalize it is ‘foolhardy’.

I am not unaware of that the objection of some of the advocacy groups arise, at least partly, from their uncompromising stance on saving traditional ways of lives from the wheels of modernization -which could be considered a noble goal, in a different circumstances.

But the exigencies of Ethiopia’s socio-economic reality makes a cost-benefit analysis more appropriate. Thus, I suggest, the demand should rather focus on whether the government’s re-settlement plan is thoroughly worked-out and on the wisdom of conducting a massive re-settlement in 2-3 years period.

**************************

For further insight on the topic, I posted here below the final section of  Dessalegn Rahmato’s paper. [You may download the full document - here]

[Some terms explained in the note at the bottom]

CUSTOMS IN CONFLICT: Land Tenure Issues among Pastoralists in Ethiopia [Draft]
Dessalegn Rahmato
Forum for Social Studies
Addis Ababa
November 2007

Conclusions
As we have seen above, pastoral livelihoods are today highly vulnerable because of the loss of valuable natural resources, increasing restrictions on herd mobility, inappropriate land policy and unsound sedentarization programs pursued by successive governments. The continued erosion of resources vital to livestock production due to drought and environmental stress, and inter-and intra-community conflict have further exacerbated vulnerability and poverty. Moreover, population growth both among pastoralist and adjacent highland farming communities has made competition for scarce resources more acute and deadly. The marginalization of pastoralism has been further aggravated by limited development initiatives by the state, in particular by low investments in basic infrastructure, in health, education, water and other services, as well as by the limited attention given to improvements in livestock quality. The net effect has been increasing poverty, recurrent food insecurity, and the deterioration of livestock herds both in number and quality.

These pressures, both endogenous and exogenous, are having a destabilizing impact on pastoral lives, livelihoods and institutions. The customary institutions that define property rights and regulate the management of natural resources were framed in the past and evolved in circumstances that are today either non-existent or have deteriorated considerably. Customary institutions worked well under the following circumstances:

  • when the dominant form of livelihood was “pure” pastoralism and farming interests were insignificant and confined to peri-urban trading centers or along riverine areas
  • in conditions of low population pressure among the pastoralists themselves as well as among the surrounding highland farming communities and hence the competition for resources was not as acute as it is today
  • when environmental conditions were relatively stable, there were less frequent drought cycles, and the quality of the rangelands was better
  • when there was either no central government imposition or such imposition was weak and unenforceable
  • when internal social differentiation was not a factor.

At present pastoralist societies face a different set of conditions and pressures. To begin with, the evidence shows that an increasing number of individuals here are turning towards or showing a keen interest in forms of livelihood that are not dependent on pastoral mobility or are only partially so; these include farming, a mixture of farming and livestock rearing, and/or trading. We do not have hard information about the extent of internal differentiation, but there is reason to believe that it is growing and substantial. The expansion of crop cultivation in all the main pastoral societies has been noted in a number of works though we lack precise quantitative data at present.[6] According to Abdul Kamara, there is what he calls a process of privatization of the rangelands in the Borana area and it is spreading rapidly. He states that the area under crop cultivation here has increased from 1.4 percent in 1986 to 16.3 percent a decade later in the mid-1990s. Individual Borana are turning to farming by enclosing small plots taken frequently from the warra land but occasionally from forra land (see above). In sum, the indications clearly are that there are emergent forces in all areas that are attempting to make a break with the nomadic form of livelihood and of production. The move towards farming and other non-nomadic pursuits is thus coming from within the pastoral populations and not as a result of imposition from government or other outside forces.

Secondly, the deterioration of the rangelands, brought on by a host of factors, some of which have already been noted, is making mobile pastoralism more and more unviable. Herders now have to travel longer distances, stay shorter durations in a given place, and face a variety of dangers and challenges to keep their animals alive. The quality of the animals that are sustained in such conditions is getting poorer and their market value is falling as a consequence. This deterioration has been further aggravated by the extension of highland crop farming to the lowlands causing a shortage of grazing, the high demand for charcoal from the growing urban centers and the destruction of valuable tree species and browse in the lowlands, and the interference of the natural flow of rivers in the pastoral areas due to the construction of dams and irrigation systems upstream. Thirdly, the growth of population has rendered the competition for scarce resources much more fierce and the conflicts that are provoked as a result more bloody than ever before. There are large territories in Afar land and the Ogaden, for example, which have been turned into no go areas due to on-going conflicts; and the life of many ordinary herders has become a life of fear and insecurity (see Devereux, Ch. 10).

As noted above, there is no reason to believe that the central government will cease to cast an envious eye over the resources, particularly water-based resources that are located in pastoralist areas. These resources are often considered by public authorities to be underutilized or even wasted by pastoral communities. Government intervention in one form or another will continue and the appropriation of resources vital to the communities concerned will proceed though in different forms and with different justifications. Pastoralists will be reduced to passive spectators at best, or become helpless paupers at worst.

The conclusion that emerges from this review is that customary institutions are progressively being undermined, and, indeed, pastoralism itself is becoming increasingly unviable -at least in the Ogaden and the Awash basin. Hence it would be foolhardy in these conditions to attempt to institutionalize a land and resource tenure regime complete with registration and certification. The question now is: what is the way forward, and what kind of interventions will be needed to avert pastoralist communities from collapsing and descending into chaos and inter-communal violence? Whatever choices are made, the central concern should be to promote sound and sustainable land use and resource management, and to reduce poverty and vulnerability. The argument that such objectives can only be achieved through the traditional pastoralist mode of production is now becoming increasingly unconvincing.

The Way Forward

The key issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of security of rights to land and natural resources, but under the conditions of pastoral society today this is a difficult issue to deal with. The basic approach taken by the government to address tenure security in peasant farming communities is the provision of user documentation to all holders of land. This is a complex process involving plot demarcation, registration and the issuance of user certificates. Registration has to be undertaken in such a way as to make it possible for regular updating.

The question now is: can such a complex undertaking be carried out in the areas under common property regimes, and in conditions of intense conflict over land and natural resources? What kind of user certification is envisaged and who will be the custodian of the certificates. This question is relevant because in many pastoral communities, customary authority is losing its legitimacy. Clan leaders are known to lease out clan land to farmers and investors for their own benefit and without the consent of the members involved. In some areas, clan leaders have come under suspicion because they are seen as being too close to the local, killil[State] or Federal government. On the other hand, one frequently hears elders and community leaders insisting that pastoral societies would like nothing better than recognition by public authorities of their customary institutions and practices. If we accept that customary property rights and their management by traditional institutions are sound and effective, then the proper measure is not to prepare an elaborate property law but to provide legal recognition of customary rights. What will be more important in this circumstance is legislation for dispute settlement and effective mechanisms for the implementation of such legislation and for law enforcement in general. Where two or more parties are in dispute over a given land or resource, the only option open to them should be recourse to the law rather than taking the law into their own hands as is the custom at present.

My argument in this paper, however, is that customary rights and institutions are badly eroded, that it is unrealistic to think that one can return to the golden days of the past when pastoral property regimes worked effectively. The evidence is clear that the pastoral mode of production is in severe crisis and decline from which it cannot be safely extricated. If this point of view or something similar is accepted, then what is required is not only a “land reform” but also a reform of the livelihood system in pastoral society.

One intervention that will accomplish such an objective and yet build on the extensive knowledge of pastoralists is what I call intensive -as opposed to extensive- livestock rearing, which could be combined with intensive farming. I think it would be unrealistic to wish away settled farming by active social interests in the populations under study. There is a difference between farming brought on a policy of involuntary sedentarization on the one hand, and, on the other, farming consciously adopted by enterprising individuals from the community concerned who are keen to break out of the confines of mobile stock raising. The turn to farming is viewed with considerable hostility by traditional herders because of the serious threat this poses, particularly in terms of resource access and management. Farming is frequently associated with land enclosures and the exclusion of herders from access to grazing land as well as transit corridors. Farming often hurts the poor who depend on common resources much more than any body else. Nevertheless, an increasing number of pastoralists are spontaneously shifting to farming either as a sole means of livelihood or as agro-pastoralists, jointly with livestock raising.

Pastoralists practice what may be called extensive livestock rearing, which depends not just on large herds, but on periodic mobility and the use of extended areas for access to natural resources. This system has evolved due to the limited availability of pasture and water, so that it becomes imperative to take ones’ animals to areas where such resources are available at a given time. This system, as we noted earlier, is coming under increasing pressure. The shift to intensive livestock rearing supported by year-round access to water will be a radical change because mobility is now no longer necessary, and herd size can be reduced in favor of herd quality. Fewer but better herds will more than compensate for giving up larger but poorer herds. The added advantage of smaller herds is that there will be less pressure on environmental resources. The need for access to animal fodder can be met either by own production or by purchasing it from the market or both. Already, in the Ogaden area settled farmers produce fodder for the market. On the other hand, the intensive approach will build on the extensive knowledge of livestock rearing that pastoralists possess and their strong attachment to their animals. Thus there will be both change and continuity. Intensive stock raising is nothing but ranching that is practiced in many countries, both developed and less developed, although the conditions in arid and semi-arid areas will dictate adaptation and change.

Intensive livestock production will contribute significantly to the reduction of communal conflict by removing the main cause, namely mobility and the fearsome competition for scarce resources. With improved herd quality that will follow intensive production, better market opportunities and prices will be available. Government has to play an important role here by providing veterinary services, which will now be easier to deliver, and securing export market opportunities for livestock products. Intensification is now being tried with varying degrees of success in West Africa though the experience suggests that without strong government support and large-scale investment in water development, soil improvement, animal health and other social services, the chances of success are quite limited (International Symposium 1998).

There are those who argue that since intensification will mean sedentarization in one form or another (which it does), the system will lead to deterioration of rangelands, reduced vegetation diversity, and the invasion of unpalatable plants in pastures with lower grazing pressure. The decrease of mobility will also raise health hazards as settlement areas become heavily polluted. But, the sedentarization that will accompany intensification is different from settlement as pursued by governments in this country since the 1960s. It will mean smaller but better quality herds, frequent off-take through active commercialization, and the provision of basic social services such as health and education for communities.

Rights to land under the extensive system are based on group ownership, and, given the nature of the production system, this form of tenure makes good sense. However, a shift to intensive production will have to be accompanied by a similar shift in tenure. This is easier said than done since customary institutions, though eroded considerably, will not be readily given up and a significant portion of pastoral society will want to continue with traditional practices regardless of the consequences.

I believe the intensive system functions best under individual tenure or a combination of individual and group tenure. Range lands outside individual holdings can still remain under a common property regime and can be co-managed with responsibility shared by individuals and groups in local communities, government, and civil society organizations. Large areas of the more arid ecosystems may fall under a common property regime since they will be largely unsuitable for intensive production unless they are improved as a result of large-scale investment in water development. Moreover, individualization does not necessarily exclude cooperation: marketing cooperatives could be established to promote livestock marketing and improved prices for stock raisers.

Obviously, the system cannot be viable without secure and easy access to water and fodder, but while the latter can be easily supplied by local farmers, as is done at present in the Ogaden, though on a small scale, the former will necessitate massive investment in water development. Here, the water resources already available, particularly in the Awash valley and the Ogaden should be used to serve the needs of the populations of the respective areas and not merely the interests of investors and foreign businesses as has been largely the case up to now.

The evidence strongly indicates that a return to the good old days when customary herding practices paid handsome dividends does not appear to be possible. The alternative of letting pastoralism survive as best it can under the fierce conditions of today will be irresponsible and counter-productive. As pastoral institutions continue to decline, the frequency and intensity of conflict will increase, posing a threat in the long run to the political integrity of the country. The option open to government is therefore to examine sound alternatives and to prepare the ground for a smooth transition. As Helland (2006) has argued, it is now impossible or even undesirable to “restore the former resource tenure systems in the pastoral areas. . [A]ny attempt to restore the capacity of pastoralists to utilize the dry lands in a sustainable way seems to demand a restructuring of the resource tenure systems as they appear today “.

Notes:

6 – See Getachew for the Afar, Devereux for the Ogaden area.

Warra and forra: The territorial division in Borana includes madda, a broad customary administrative grouping constructed around a water source. Access to the water and its use is regulated by the “father of the well”. Each madda is sub-divided into Ardas which in turn are further divided into Ollas which are the smallest units and often consist of ten or so households. Grazing is also divided into different categories: pasture areas known as forra are for dry herds and are open to all members of the madda and other Borana people; warra pasture is for lactating cows, sick and weak animals and are open only to members of the Arda, though members of other Ardas can use it with special permission. Small calf enclosures may be constructed by Ollas or by individual households and access to them are open only to those responsible for their construction (see Abdul Kamara 1998 for details).

Comments

  1. Samoa says:

    Holy’s luxuorios solutions (mobiles) are realy silly to be spoken of by her. She doesn’t understand what actually is going on in the area as she spent most of her time in Addis reading books and magazines on pastoralists.

%d bloggers like this: