Perspectives on Rangeland Development:
FAO as a technical agency has been involved in working with donors and governments in the implementation of rangeland development assistance projects for many years. The key question for FAO is how to eradicate poverty and hunger and ensure food security and sustainable use of rangeland resources in the face of increasing human and animal populations?
FAO emphasises multidisciplinary approaches to range development, through: people's participation; the importance of local institutions and community regulatory mechanisms; policies that foster sustainable range development; the need to consider the often close relationship between pastoral and agricultural development; the role of Governments in ensuring that appropriate land tenure regulations are in place; the need to consider alternative income generating activities; risk management; and aspects such as desertification and the loss of biodiversity. The focus of this paper is on selected projects which illustrate the variety of factors involved in rangeland development Lessons learned and general conclusions are drawn from four case studies dealing with (a) range rehabilitation, wildlife re-introduction and a participatory approach to range management on the Syrian steppe, (b) Kazak herders, winter feed and transhumant systems in Altai Prefecture, Xinjiang, China, (c) pastoral risk management in Mongolia, and (d) rural development at N’Nguigmi in Niger.
Keywords: rangelands FAO experience
In the past, large rangeland development projects have commonly addressed issues such as: borehole provision, veterinary care, subsidized feeds and livestock production, revegetation of depleted ranges, feed reserves, establishment of fodder shrubs, creation of pastoral and fattening co-operatives, establishment of regulations to optimize utilization of rangeland resources and sedentarizing of nomads (El-Shorbagy, 1998). However, often projects were hastily implemented with little consideration of the views or involvement of the local population. Any failure was blamed on the reluctance of pastoralists to take up the proposed techniques or ideas, problems of land tenure, the inadequacies of administrations etc. El-Shorbagy (1998) suggested that rarely has failure been pinned at the door of the project formulators who failed to consult the target audience (the pastoralists, the herders, the nomadic peoples) and failed to understand their needs and expectations. It is important to understand the role of local institutions and community regulatory mechanisms (Zaroug, 1995), and there is a need to ensure where possible that mobility is retained in pastoral systems (UNSO, 1994).
According to de Haan (1995), livestock and rangeland development projects have had such a poor success rate that there was reduced overall donor support in the 1980s. Fortunately, there has been renewed donor interest in the 1990s (Pratt et al. 1997) and particularly because of the new paradigms of thinking in range ecology (Behnke and Scoones, 1992; Behnke et al., 1993; Scoones, 1995, UNSO, 1994).
FAO Approaches to Rangeland Development
FAO as a technical agency has been involved in working with donors and Governments in the implementation of rangeland development assistance projects for many years. The key questions for FAO were and are: How to eradicate poverty and hunger and ensure sustainable use of rangeland resources in the face of increasing human and animal populations? How to ensure food security? How to maintain systems for future generations?
FAO now emphasises multidisciplinary approaches to range development, including: people's participation; the importance of local institutions and community regulatory mechanisms; policies which will foster sustainable range development; the need to consider the often close relationship between pastoral and agricultural development; the role of governments in ensuring that appropriate land tenure regulations are in place; the need to consider alternative income generating activities; risk management; and aspects such as desertification and the loss of biodiversity. Rather than attempting to review the many projects which have been implemented, some successfully but others less so, the focus of this paper is on the impact and lessons learned from a small number of selected projects which serve to illustrate the variety of factors involved in rangeland development (for a review of projects implemented in the Near East region refer to Zaroug (1995), see also FAO (1995)).
Case Study 1 - Range rehabilitation, wildlife re-introduction and a participatory approach to range management in the Syrian steppe
In Syria, as in a number of Near East countries where the land is State-owned, there has been a breakdown of traditional systems of management such as the Hema system. Rising population and livestock numbers, and a high degree of mechanisation, have increased pressure on the range and resulted in a severe deterioration of large areas of the Al-Badia rangelands.This project is attempting to demonstrate techniques for improved range production, re-introduce wildlife, and to (re-) establish sustainable range management systems based on an approach of extensive community participation.
The Syrian Al-Badia Steppe, climatically characterised by low and erratic rainfall (less than 200 mm per year), cold winters (often below 0 o C) and hot summers (exceeding 45 o C), comprises more than 55% of the land area of Syria or some 10.2 M ha. In spite of the harsh conditions, the Badia remains an important area for livestock raising (Mirreh, 1999). Current range sheep production is highly mechanised through the extensive use of water tankers, trucks and tractors. Programmes for better veterinary care, more watering points and feed subsidies contribute to keeping livestock raising in the Badia an economically attractive business for herders as well as for merchants who have purchased large flocks and put them onto the steppe with sheep herders. However, this type of over-utilization of the rangeland resource has caused considerable deterioration of both soil and vegetation. Uprooting of perennial plants for fuel, combined with the availability of vehicles, has resulted in the clearing of bush cover from large areas (it has been estimated, for instance, that an average Bedouin household annually uses shrubs for fuel from approximately 4.4 ha.). Erosion pavements with limited infiltration and large active gullies are common and there has been a decrease in the numbers of the preferred forage plants such as Salsola vermiculata, Poa sinaica, Plantago albans, Stipagrostis and even Artemisia herba alba which are often replaced by plants of lower forage value such as Peganum harmala, Noa mucronata and Anabasis syriaca (Mirreh, 1999).
A project for the rehabilitation of marginal lands and the establishment of a wildlife reserve was started in February 1996, attempting to heal part of the severely degradedAl Badia steppe. It covers some 130,000 ha including 22,000 ha of wildlife reserve and 108,000 ha of land from three co-operatives with 426 households and 3,050 people owning 95,000 head of sheep.Activities undertaken to date have included direct seeding and shrub planting on 5,000 ha, closing off areas to livestock grazing (3,000 ha),data collection and monitoring, the preparation of range management plans, assessment of alternative energy sources for cooking and heating and income generating activities. In addition, gazelle and oryx have been re-introduced to a newly created reserve and management plans developed.Major emphasis is also given to training and capacity building among the national staff, and to the full involvement of the local communities in range management planning and implementation.
The project is facing a difficult situation due to a severe drought, which resulted in the Government deciding to open all protected range areas for all livestock operators on a free access and free of charge basis. Unfortunately, this policy has also included the project areas. On December 22, 1998 some 580,000 sheep entered the Co-operative area with the major concentration on the 8,000 ha of improved and exclosure rangeland. More than 90% of Co-operative members took advantage of the grazing, but also many large flock owners from up to 100 kms away trucked in sheep. Fortunately, the incursion of the large numbers of sheep into the improved areas took place at a time of year when plants were dormant, so that although there was damage from the sheer numbers trampling the area, soil disturbance by vehicles and shrub removal for fuel, it remained limited. The project elaborated a drought management plan with Co-operative members in order to remove sheep and households before the Spring regrowth of the range.
Gazelle and oryx have been re-introduced and released into a fenced 1,000 ha area within the 22,000 ha Talila Reserve, which is currently managed for both camels and wildlife. The Reserve has become a focus of attention for the local population as well as providing some employment opportunities, and is also drawing considerable interest at a national level. Benefiting from two years of better than average rains, the project has been able to demonstrate excellent regrowth in exclosure areas and also excellent germination and growth of plants in improved areas. The improved areas served as demonstration plots with standing biomass of more than 400 kg/ha of dry matter from annuals alone. In December 1998 and January 1999, more than 7,000 tons of dry matter were cropped from the project area saving the Bedouins some 26 to 50 M Syrian pounds in terms of replacement feeds. The 1998/99 drought situation also illustrated some of the problems of working on rangeland improvement projects where the land is State owned and where traditional systems of range management by Bedouin herders have been largely replaced by free access, by the emergence of large commercial livestock owners and where systems of rapid trucking of sheep and supplementary feeding and watering of stock are common. But it was also a useful event to demonstrate the important role which local range management groups can play under such difficult circumstances.
- by raising population awareness of the environment,
- through eco-tourism providing a possible alternative income source,
- through complementary grazing habits with livestock ensuring a more balancedgrazing of the rangelands, and
- serving as strategic grazing reserves for livestock in drought emergency situations;
The project has been able to demonstrate to Government that, with the co-operation of the local Bedouin population, rehabilitation oflarge areas of the Al-Badia Steppe is possible, but also to illustrate the necessity of urgently addressing the issues associated with free access of all to all areas of land, the effects of drought and the need for preparing drought contingency plans. Thetotal number of sheep, overstocking and issues associated with subsidized feed are other matters that will need to be addressed. The focus of future project activities will be on selected rangeland site management improvement and rehabilitation, with the selected areas managed by Bedouin organizations. As a large IFAD funded project, which is currently being planned, will endeavour to develop larger areas of the Al-Badia rangelands, then the lessons learned by the present project should have direct application.
Case Study 2 - Kazak herders, winter feed and transhumant systems in Altai Prefecture, Xinjiang, China
The rearing of livestock using transhumant production systems is the main land use and livelihood in large areas of the arid and semi-arid temperate zones of Asia. One of the major constraints to improving livestock production and family incomes (Li-Menglin et al, 1996) is the lack of feed during winter and early spring which reduces the number of animals that can be carried through the winter and also means that pregnant breeding stock may be at their most vulnerable in the period of lowest feed availability. Attempts have been made in a number of countries to permanently settle nomadic people often with less than desirable social consequences. This project attempted to provide settled bases for herders where fodder for the winter period is produced and where education and social facilities for the herders' households are provided, but where for the major part of the year the traditional transhumant system is followed.
AltaiPrefecture is located in the northern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China near the border with Kazakstan and Mongolia. Bounded on the north by high mountains and cut off from southern Xinjiang by a large expanse of desert and semi-desert, this is an area with a markedly continental climate, hot summers, very cold winters, snow and low rainfall. The mean minimum temperature for January is -26 oC and the mean maximum for July is 30 oC. Precipitation, which mainly falls as snow, ranges fromless than 100 mm p.a. on the plains to more than 600 mm p.a. on the high pastures, where the problem of high winds, snow and spells of extreme cold, with temperatures of less than -40 oC, means that many areas of high pasture are open for less than 3 months each year.Of the total area of 11.8 M ha, more than 9.8 M ha are pastoral and over half of the population is engaged in livestock farming (dominated by transhumant systems) which contributes nearly 60% of the value of agricultural production in Altai.
The main livestock are cattle, sheep, goats, horses and camels, with sheep and cattle being the most important. Most Kazak herders follow a transhumant way of life with good summer grazing for their stock on lands above 1, 300 m limited to only 2.5 to 3 months per year (late June to late September). In spring (April to late June) and autumn (mid-September to end November), grazing occurs on the heavily grazed transition routes and winter grazing (December to end March) occurs on the desert plains. The transhumance route is long, 180 to 200 km from the desert plains to the high summer pastures.
A number of rivers and areas of relatively flat land provided the base for an irrigation-based solution to the winter feed problem. Over the last ten years, a development programme has been implemented to produce and conserve fodder by cultivating over 20,000 ha of irrigated land for hay. The production of lucerne (Medicago sativa) on the irrigated land was assisted by WFP and UNDP/FAO.Starting in 1988, work was begun at Burjin, Fuhai and Altai to produce "through irrigation by gravity of 34, 425 ha of land, large quantities of hay, expected to reach 130, 000 tonnes per year at full development, and to settle 8, 650 families through the allocation of irrigated land" (Li-Menglin et al, 1996). By 1997, some 6, 100 Kazak households had been settled, and 32, 000 ha have been developed, providing 20, 000 ha of alfalfa (Medicago sativa) pasture. The average farm size is 3.7 to 4.3 ha, producing annually about 18, 000 kg of hay from 3 ha (with the remaining land utilized for wheat, maize, beet or sunflower) with a house for winter quarters for the family and for those who remain on the plains for haymaking in summer while the livestock are away on the summer pastures. Usually a proportion of the wheat, soybean and sometimes lucerne is sold. A number of farmers grow maize solely for making into silage. With 26,700 ha of existing alfalfa land and the newly established 20, 000 ha, the present area in Altai Prefecture is some 46, 700 ha and there are plans to establish another 20, 000 ha under the Ninth Five Year Plan.
Visitors to the area can quickly appreciate the degree of success of the project in transforming former (Gobi) desert areas into productive irrigated farms and herders into herder/farmers. The project has had a very big impact in Altai and is accepted as a model for further Kazak herder resettlement schemes (Anon, 1992). The findings of the 1995 evaluation mission were that "the project has attained its ambitious targets. An area of 30,218 ha is under irrigation and settlement of 7,550 Kazak herdsmen is proceeding on schedule. Food security for the region as well as household food security of the target population has been dramatically increased without dismantling the traditional socio-economic system upon which livestock transhumance is based.The project's beneficial impact on living conditions is evident and has resulted in a steady increase in family incomes and access to education and health facilities. However, the future of pastoral farming in the region is ecologically fragile because of the constant threat of the "salting-up" phenomenon. Proper drainage maintenance and efficient water management are crucial. Livestock pressure on transitional pastures will also need to be monitored carefully. Therefore sustainability is heavily dependent on a continuous and scrupulous management of the environmentally sensitive components of the project" (Reynolds, 1998).
The project has successfully demonstrated the complementarity of mobile pastoralism and sedentary agro-pastoral development. Whether the benefits so far enjoyed by the "settled" Kazak herders (who represent more than 15 percent of the Kazaks who live in Altai Prefecture) can be enjoyed by those who still follow the traditional transhumant way of life year round is likely to depend on funding from the Government of China for an expansion of the irrigated areas.
Case Study 3 - Pastoral risk Management in Mongolia
In Mongolia, as in a number of countries in transition from a centrally planned to a market economy, there has been a marked reduction in the involvement of the state in providing services. Decollectivisation has often resulted in increased rural poverty. This project has attempted to elaborate a framework to reduce rural poverty and to prepare for disaster situations as part of the pastoral production system.
Mongolia covers 1.5 M km2 and, with a population of 2.4 M people, is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.The extreme natural conditions in Mongolia, characterised by low precipitation rates and long cold winters, have fostered a long tradition of nomadism and extensive animal husbandry. After pure nomadism was brought to an end through mass collectivisation and sedentarization in the early 1930s, the pastoral production sector was dominated by specialised state farms and central planning for more than 50 years. Decollectivisation, which started in 1989, led to the distribution of farm assets and animals among all state farm members (Property Privatisation Law, 1991). Since then almost every herding family has established its own fixed winter and spring camps, with stockyards and watering points. At the end of 1997, Mongolian rangelands carried some 31.3 M large farm animals, the highest livestock population since transition. In 1998, more than95 % of the animals were privately owned. Their products contributed almost 70% to the total agricultural outputs.
However, in spite of the growth of the national herd and the private ownership of animals and assets, pastoralists are facing severe socio-economic problems. The shift from state to market provision of most services, the increase in the role of markets in economic life in general and the redefinition of the degree to which the state will, or is able, to provide a social security safety net, have fundamentally altered herder’s living conditions, and has led to severely reduced government services in the countryside. Herders now carry the full burden of economic, social and environmental risks. The incidence and negative consequences of vulnerability to risks and poverty have increased, especially in the dry steppe areas where pastoralism is the predominant way of life. Depending on the measure used, between one quarter and a half of all rural households are now considered poor. Recognising the problem, Mongolia launched a national Poverty Alleviation Programme in 1993, which focused on urban areas initially but also started to work in the countryside through Local Development Funds in support of local income generation activities. Its impact on the herding economy (as opposed to the urban poor in provincial/district centres) however, has so far been very limited.
Within the above context, the FAO project “Rural Development in Pastoral Areas in Arhangay Province”, in 1996/97 participated in the drafting of a national poverty alleviation programme for pastoral areas. In close collaboration with IFAD, an experimental programme to analyse and fight rural poverty was set-up, field-tested and designed for wider application and follow-up (by IFAD). Its main interrelated components which were identified in a participatory way together with the local herding communities were: (a) restocking of poor herders on an in-kind credit basis through redistributing locally available animals from wealthy to poor herding households; (b) testing the viability and requirements of vegetable production for poor district centre inhabitants taking into account the short growing period of 90-100 days; (c) assessing the nature of herding risks and risk management strategies; (d) identifying options to improve livestock productivity; and (e) fostering economic alternatives through existing credit lines. The project elaborated precise methods, criteria, and institutional mechanisms to identify, in a participatory way, the local poor and needy. It supported the establishment of institutional mechanisms to select and distribute animals to poor herders; it distributed vegetable seeds and tools to poor households in the district and provincial centres; and it arranged locally available skills training and knowledge transfer. Broad participation and the initiative of herders as well as of vegetable producers led to an encouraging success and broad replication of the tested strategies. In the year following the test phase the number of voluntary participants more than doubled. The IFAD follow-up programme has now been operating successfully in Arhangay for two years with constantly increasing numbers of participants. It is going to expand into a second province in 1999.
Case Study 4 - Rural Development at N’Nguigmi in Niger
Rural development projects are complex and the adoption of a people's participatory approach will involve different time frames and approaches to those traditionally used. This project has already gone through several phases and has worked largely through a number of specialised NGOs to improve existing (pastoral) production systems and promote income-generating activities.
The province or "arrondissement" of N’Nguigmihas a total area of 118,000 km2, of which 84,000 km2 are desert areas. The population in 1996 was estimated to be 31,000 inhabitants with an annual growth rate of approx. 1.0%, which means that by 2016 the population will be over 38,000and 60% of them will be young people. Large numbers are still mobile since in one out of every two years the forage availability for livestock is insufficient. Only 1% of the adult population is literate. Water is the main limiting factor. The animal population consists of 142,000 cattle, 200,000 camels, 367,000 sheep and 374,000 goats. Natural resources are degrading very rapidly and Lake Chad is retreating.The project selected 7 territories based on agroecological conditions and in consultation with the population (and not with the administration or the village chiefs) planned and started different activities according to the specific situations. Since it started in 1984, the project has passed through a number of phases and experiences.Of 12 wells built in 1984 only 3 are still operating due to salinization problems. Oversized cereal granaries were built during the second phase of the project and subsequently abandoned, and rehabilitated areas and demonstration sites were established (with the participation of poor people) too far from villages and therefore failed to be active demonstration sites.
From 1995, a new phase of the project started with an “approche terroir” strategy. In the framework of decentralization and supported by mechanisms of continuous consultation, the final objective was not the identification of specific solutions,but to help the population in adopting instruments for better use of their natural resources. As well as Government and FAO involvement, the project has subcontracted the main components of the project through specialised NGO’s.
Focus has been on the development of pastoral (and agro-pastoral) resources, through the improvement of existing production systems and promotion of income generation activities. Since the elaboration and organisation of self-determination by the communities is a slow process,“key entrance activities” to gain the confidence of the population were necessary, such as the construction of new wells and village shops and dune stabilization. The development of the animal production system ("filiere elevage") was realised through “key entrance activities”such as vaccination campaigns, health surveillance along the border with Lake Chad, and training of technicians in health control. Also a financial mechanism to support income diversification activities was started.
While the some of the lessons learned were different for each case study, there were a number of common features which emerged.
(i) The main lessons learned were both technical and socio-economic and it is clear thatthey must be considered together in rangeland development programmes.
(ii) In all areas governments must focus on the issues associated with land tenure, grazing rights, free access of all to grazing lands, state ownership of lands and the breakdown of traditional systems;
(iii) To varying degrees the problem of animal numbers has to be addressed in all areas. The provision of winter feed to enable more animals to be carried through the winter will place greater pressure on spring, summer and autumn pastures and the situation needs to be closely monitored. Uncontrolled stock numbers is a key issue both for improved conservation of rangelands and for improved incomes.
(iv) In many countries rich businessmen are buying large numbers of livestock as an investment and grazing the rangelands often with severe consequences. It may be necessary to adopt a different approach for traditional herders and new city-based pastoralists.
(v) The population in the project areas, the herders, the pastoralists, women etc. must have a major stake in any project. Although implementation may be slower, and the process of dialogue with the people involved protracted, long-term success depends on full people's participation. Many examples can be given of apparent short-term success in terms of range improvement etc. but longer term sustainability of the rangelands is not achieved without taking note of the aspirations of the local population;
(vi) Full people's participation in rangeland development will require a major focus on training of technicians and the local people, as well as in-built feedback mechanisms which enable adjustments to be made during project implementation;
(vii) The importance of using "key entrance activities" to gain community confidence has been highlighted and is likely to be a feature of most rangeland development programmes where a participatory approach is adopted;
(viii) To increase the chances of success in large scale development programmes there is a need to initiate small pilot projects and extrapolate from the more successful;
(ix) NGOs can have an important role to play in the implementation of pastoral development projects, but the most appropriate NGO must be selected;
(x) It is possible to successfully settle pastoralists, without destroying their pattern of life, as long as it is recognised that their survival depends upon maintaining their overall mobility for a portion of the year so that the flexibility remains in their system to exploit natural resources;
(xi) The concept of a settled base for transhumant herders can work well by providing extra feed for feed shortage periods (from intensively managed fodder production areas) and increasing incomes, as well as providing a base for the provision of services (such as education, health etc.). The concept is particularly favourable for families, women and children.
(xii) In certain situations, the creation of wildlife reserves can have very positive effects in terms of raising awareness about the environment (including rangelands), providing alternative income sources and ensuring better integration of wildlife and livestock;
(xiii) In centrally planned economies, with a long tradition of nomadism and extensive animal husbandry, where decollectivisation of large state farms is underway, a new class of rural poor (unskilled herders) is being created with herd sizes below the viability threshold and with inadequate local and state organizations and support mechanisms.
(xiv) The problems of rangeland use are long-term yet most development projects and programmes are far too short in duration e.g. 3 - 5 years is common. Donors, government agencies and technical agencies like FAO must begin to put the case for longer duration projects (or a series of linked projects) which stand a better chance of success. Governments must also be fully committed to providing the resources needed over the long-term and be willing to take appropriate political and economic decisions that may be required for the sustainability of rangelands and for the long-term benefit of the peoples dependent on these areas;
(xv) The big challenge for FAO and other agencies is how to operate in a global environment and yet be sufficiently flexible in the face of existing diversity to implement specific solutions in given situations;
(xv) Changing institutional, economic and marketing conditions - nationally, regionally and globally - will have a significant effect on rangeland use in the coming decades. With globalisation, decentralisation and liberalisation, the focus on technological development will have to be in parallel with social, environmental and ecological considerations.
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