7.2 Descriptive knowledge
7.3 Management practices
7.4 Organization of management
Local technical knowledge and systems are a fluid and dynamic package of elements that change and adapt to new circumstances, and form the backbone of management decisions taken by local people. Several basic questions have been dealt with in the preceding chapters. Did the LKMS work in the past? In the great majority of cases, it did. Has the LKMS survived and is it still viable? It has been abandoned in quite a few cases, but depending on the type of LKMS, it continues to be generally viable. Is it possible to incorporate the LKMS into the development process? Yes - In some cases it has been incorporated successfully, and the potential to do more remains high. Is it cost effective to incorporate LKMS into development projects? In most cases, yes.
This chapter brings out some of the salient issues that have led to the above conclusions. It summarizes the more important techniques and systems and considers the viability of each one. It concludes with some thoughts on how one can determine the viability of any LKMS, and what it would take to incorporate the LKMS into the development process.
Contrary to previous assumptions and paradigms, African pastoralists are active managers of natural resources. They do not simply use, but also actively manipulate their livestock, rangelands and forests, to sustain an adequate level of production in the long term. Traditional techniques and systems were adapted both to ecological necessities as well as the sociopolitical needs of the people. Their primary objective is not necessarily conservation (sensu absolute preservation), but sustaining the long term productivity of their environment while fulfilling their social and biological needs.
In terms of their ecological impact, pastoral systems are on a continuum stretching from very simple (where mobility, low population, and high dispersion serve to minimize deleterious ecological impacts), to highly complex (where elaborate social controls are devised to coordinate the behavior of individual members). Most pastoral systems fall somewhere in between. In general, where land is abundant and labour scarce, pastoral systems are more efficient than farming or hunting systems. Pastoral systems are not isolated, but work in close cooperation with each other and non-pastoral systems.
But generalities can only go so far. There is a great amount of heterogeneity both inter- and intra-groups. Individual herders can vary in how they manage the natural resources and respect social controls, because of their differing skills, experience, needs, and personalities. Management techniques and systems also vary depending on the resource and the time they are used. Valuable resources and those frequently used tend to be more strictly managed than low quality or inaccessible resources.
In the past century, pastoralists have seen tremendous changes in their social and physical environment. Most of these changes are due to external factors, which were initiated in the Colonial era and have continued to this day.
In the Colonial period, modern veterinary care and the emancipation of slaves had beneficial results, but they invariably resulted in an increase of livestock. Sedentarization, economic suppression and quarantines of livestock resulted in concentration around water points and settlements, and a decrease in the customary sale of livestock. Policies that actively favored crop cultivation, especially for large scale commercial agriculture, led to crop expansion into rangelands and expropriation of high quality land, which further exacerbated the problem of overstocking. Although pacification and water development resulted in the opening of hitherto unused pastures, these were not enough to offset the general decreasing trend in range area.
In a few cases, there were deliberate attempts to destroy traditional attitudes and behavior. In most cases, taxation, political reform and land nationalization resulted in a gradual dismantling of the traditional political authority, which weakened the social cohesion necessary for maintaining traditional control over the use of rangelands.
These external influences did not abate with the advent of the post-colonial era. More efficient veterinary services continued to spread their benefits without regard to their impact on the environment. Indiscriminate water development did open up new pastures, but the lack of organizational structures to manage the water points led to over-concentration of livestock and settlement around the points. In some countries, subsidized supplemental feed allowed pastoralists to increase their herd sizes beyond what could normally be carried on the range. Crop expansion and cash cropping, due to both population increases and Government policies, ate away at the best rangelands, forcing the livestock onto less, and lower quality land. In some countries, the creation of National Parks and Reserves meant the expropriation of pastoral land. Again, the net effect was a reduction in range area and over-concentration of livestock.
The process of social and political disintegration continued, as Local Governments and military units were established, and as urban and commercial influences made their inroads into the pastoral economy. The results were lower labour availability on the range, weakening of the power of local leaders to enforce traditional range and forest controls, and a widening income gap among pastoralists.
These, and other factors were compounded by a series of relentless droughts, and eroded many, but not all, traditional techniques for managing arid and semi-arid lands.
The descriptive knowledge of the environment, such as typologies and nomenclature, give us a window into the way local people perceive and categorize their environment, how much control they think they have over the elements, how they predict environmental processes and future events, how they adjust their production system and cycle to environmental dynamics, and what their decisions are based upon.
The descriptive knowledge is based on many years of continual observation, monitoring and experimentation. It is composed of material that has accumulated in the memory of the members (cultural traditions), material that is modified through contact with outsiders, and material that is continuously and progressively learned through daily observations. Although lacking a regional/national outlook, it makes up by being rich on local details and historical trends.
Descriptive knowledge is primarily functional and utilitarian. It is forgotten if their is no use for the knowledge, and the degree of complexity of a piece of knowledge depends on how many uses are made of it. However, other factors, especially aesthetics and symbolism, are also determining factors.
Although some basic aspects are universally known, not every member of a group has, or is privileged to have, the same amount of descriptive knowledge. Knowledge specialization occurs because of divisions of labour, age and experience, individual skill, aptitude and interest, and specialization of certain tasks (such as ironmongers or healers). One must tap many people before the collective knowledge can be adequately covered. In the absence of written records, the descriptive knowledge resides in songs, proverbs, games, etc. - i.e. the folk media. Sometimes the analysis of the folk media can provide a better clue to the LKMS than strict question and answer survey techniques. The folk media can also be an appropriate venue to pass on new knowledge.
Most of the descriptive knowledge still survives today, especially in the minds of the older generation. In some cases, it is eroding as the younger generation leave the home range for urban areas and other occupations. It is also eroding where new, imported materials replace the older ones, (e.g. rice replacing wild cereals, or watches replacing observations of the sun), and where the materials are used only occasionally or for ceremonies. In general, the descriptive knowledge can be revived if a member of the group still remembers it, and if a practical use (new or old) can be found for it.
7.3.1 Herd management
7.3.2 Range management and social controls on grazing
7.3.3 Management of trees, shrubs and other resources
The daily management of natural resources is the domain of the individual herder, acting in concert with other herders in accordance with formal and informal traditional rules. The objectives of the herder/stockowner are not static nor single. They depend on his socio-economic circumstances, which can change during his lifetime.
The herding unit, composed of the livestock of an individual or a group of households, is the basic management unit. It determines the dispersion and concentration of livestock on the land, and the nature of communal cooperation. Membership in a herding unit can change during a year, since individual households are usually free to enter and leave it as they wish. However, most people prefer to stay with the herding unit and the land area they know best. Thus, although the structure of the basic management unit is in theory and sometimes in praxis flexible, it usually has a fairly high degree of continuity and consistency. Whether the herding unit (rather than a higher communal unit) can be used as the focal contact point for development is best determined locally.
The technique of herd splitting is highly adapted to both ecological dynamics and nutritional requirements of the animals. The herder splits his diverse portfolio of livestock in many different ways so as to best take advantage of rangeland productivity and to decrease competition between his animals. It generally results in better range use and better dispersion of livestock. However, it requires more labour and skill.
In most cases men and boys are responsible for herding large ruminants, while children and women are responsible for herding small ruminants, fattening special animals, and milking all animals. In a few recorded cases, women have greater responsibility for herding than was previously thought. In general, the role of women in pastoral production has been neglected. This role may become more important as more men leave the range for urban attractions.
With decreasing labour on the range, people are finding shortcuts in their daily management. For example, they split the herd in fewer ways, do not disperse as much, and stay around the main settlement for longer periods, thus reducing their mobility and increasing concentration around settlements and water points. In general, these changes have increased the damage to natural resources.
With increasing income gap, droughts and degraded lands, more poor herders are seeking herding jobs with the rich (usually former transhumants who are now towndwellers), as a way to build up their own herds. Hired herders usually have to take shortcuts because not enough labour is hired for the unit. In addition they are usually from other groups and do not feel bound by local rules and controls. Thus they have a more negative impact on the range than normal.
Mobility is a well adapted strategy used in different degrees by pastoralists. It is adapted to the ecological necessities of a variable environment both in normal years and in times of drought. During droughts, mobility can increase (if there is enough land but low numbers of animals), or decrease (if not enough land). Some types of rangelands require more, and different types of, mobility than others, but in general, wherever mobility has decreased significantly compared to the traditional technique, land degradation has followed.
Mobility or transhumance patterns are not random, but have well defined routes and sojourn pastures. Although the timing of the movements may vary depending on ecological events, socio-economic needs, and political exigencies, the territories used remain fairly constant. On a global scale, pastoral production in arid and semi-arid lands requires large tracts of land which herders obtain through membership in a group, maintaining territorial rights of the groups, and establishing alliances with neighbours in case of need. With recent changes and increasing resource constraints, most sojourn pastures and routes have shifted or entirely changed, as tribal territorial boundaries become more confused. Although in many cases traditional rights to territories are recognized de facto, the fact that they are not recognized de jure has meant that people are taking advantage of the confusion, and the situation now resembles a free-for-all, open range scenario.
In the past, pastoral groups were able to adjust the number of animals to the carrying capacity of the land by sending surplus livestock to neighbouring territories and splitting and dispersing the herd further. Now, neighbours too are overcrowded, and the herds have been split to the highest degree possible given labour constraints. Even so, surplus livestock are not culled at a rate greater than normal because of short term uncertainty and economic subsistence needs.
Pastoral groups have many more different and intricate forms of pasture rotation and deferment than was previously thought. Rotations can be in the form of seasonal transhumance, frequency of movement, length of stay in the same pasture, rate of return to the same pasture, and drought deferments. Some rangelands are more heavily used than others, but still appear to be in good shape. With recent constraints, traditional rotation and deferment techniques are no longer being respected, or have been shortened. However, the type of traditional pasture rotation can give a good indication of the ecological requirements of the range (for the traditional stocking pressure), and help design new range management plans.
The herder has developed a precise and holistic system of monitoring the productivity and condition of rangelands. Since he continuously monitors the range and the performance of his livestock, he has no need to quantify the carrying capacity of the land, although he does recognize the concept. His environmental indicators can be used in monitoring programs and early warning systems.
Very few range improvement techniques have been recorded among pastoralists, perhaps because there has not been a need for improvements until now. Among the few techniques that they have are water development, shrub clearing with goats and selective lopping, and bush fires (to obtain fresh regrowth, and better biomass in the following year, to decrease shrub encroachment, to facilitate access by people and livestock and to destroy disease vectors). There is nothing to indicate a philosophy against range improvement, but new techniques that are proposed must be economically feasible.
In general, those range improvement and monitoring techniques that require communal labour and cooperation are no longer practiced, but those that are done by individual herders or households are still viable.
Cooperation among herding units is ensured through formal and informal rules of conduct. Scouts, headmen, councils of elders, and range supervisors form differing organizational structures charged with the execution of the rules. Cooperation at higher levels, such as clan, subtribal or inter-tribal, also exists in many cases, and is regulated by traditional Codes and agreements. Passive coordination, where herding units follow several informal principles of common sense, also serve to regulate daily use of resources. Both formal and informal rules act as checks on random individualism and a tragedy of the commons.
In recent years, cooperation between herding units has generally declined, and many formal Codes are no longer respected. Communal meetings, the venue of cooperative decision making, still convene, and although they still retain their symbolic and judicial functions, they are gradually loosing their managerial functions, precisely because of the growing non-cooperation between herding units. In general, formal rules have been the first to disappear because they rely on social cohesion and the power of local leaders to enforce rules, both of which have been affected by various Government policies. Informal rules are still viable, but they are being modified to fit the requirements imposed by resource scarcity.
Very little is known about how African pastoralists manage trees and shrubs. The general image is that pastoralists normally harvest these resources wrongly and do not regenerate or protect them. A few detailed studies, however, show otherwise. Many groups have precise harvesting rules (such as when and where to cut), protection of valuable species or grove of trees, and active planting of seedlings. Deliberate abuse or carelessness apparently occurred only outside one's territory. Pastoralists, especially fully transhumant ones, have higher demand for construction wood than fuelwood - the former usually being live wood, and the latter dead wood. But because of their mobility and dispersion, their collective impact on forest resources is low. As mobility has decreased in recent years, so has forest degradation increased. In addition, as competition has increased for diminishing resources, many of the traditional rules for protecting trees and shrubs have been dropped or weakened.
African pastoral societies in general do not cultivate fodder because it is not economically viable: feeding a significant portion of one's herd requires more labour and time than is available. Thus on the whole, range forage is a better option even if it is nutritionally inferior. On the other hand, hay collection is widely practiced. In the majority of cases standing hay is cut for a small number of special animals (cows or fattening rams), and has low labour requirements and low impact on the range. In some cases there are private or communal enclosures of high quality rangeland for the purpose of hay collection. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of private hay reserves in Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. In most cases these reserves have been controversial since they are created from communal land.
The distribution and type of water points, and customary watering schedules are major determinants of range use. There is no evidence yet of formal rules on the minimum distance between man-made water points. However, most groups will try to spread the water points wide enough to cover several types of range vegetation. Many groups have techniques for de-silting natural ponds and purifying pond water, which can form the basis for teaching new methods. Water harvesting techniques are more common where there has been substantial Arab influence (such as North Africa, Sudan and Somalia). Although almost all groups have informal rules for using wells, a few groups have formal rules and organizational structures for managing communal wells - i.e. using, maintaining and even closing wells. Traditional management of water points is generally still viable, but the scale of cooperation is gradually reducing. Traditional management structures have not been applied to new Government constructed wells in part because the wells do not have clear titles and have been open to all pastoralists. In some cases, pastoralists have been constructing wells, with Government approval, in other peoples' traditional territories, thus adding to the confusion in range tenure.
There are not enough studies on the management (rather than use) of plants for food and medicine, and on what impact the method of harvesting has on natural resources. A few studies suggest that the scale of harvesting for medicine and auto-consumption is smaller than gathering for sale. In some cases there are formal rules that regulate the harvesting of these plants. In recent years, such rules are being less respected and harvesting for home-consumption has decreased, but gathering for sale has taken over and created shortages in the immediate vicinity of major towns.
Many pastoral, economic strategies affect natural resources. Herd maximization (up to the limits imposed by labour availability and ecological carrying capacity) is the only way they can survive short term resource scarcity, but can have negative impacts on the range. A low rate of offtake (compared to western standards) is actually necessary for maintaining the long term reproductive capacity of the herd. On the other hand, herd diversification means greater efficiency in resource use. The emphasis on milk rather than meat allows more people to be supported by the same amount of land. Formal redistribution systems (e.g. stock loans) result in greater equality and dispersion of livestock among households and on the range.
Crisis strategies, often used in times of drought or major epidemics, were temporary activities that took people and livestock off affected pastures for short periods of time. However, as the crisis has been prolonged in recent years, these temporary strategies are now becoming permanent ones. Many pastoralists have been forced to make permanent choices between production systems and a significant number (but admittedly hard to quantify) are going into farming or other activities. However, the majority of pastoral households are still hedging their bets, rather than quitting pastoralism, by sending individual members off to other activities. Although the household then takes advantage of renumerations sent by the absent members, they nevertheless are faced with labour shortages.
In the traditional pastoral system, no land is unclaimed or vacant, although the ownership of a tract of land may be temporarily in dispute. Communal tenure of range and forest land can be at the tribal level, or the land can be distributed further down the socio-political hierarchy. The lowest level where communal land is no longer distributed can be non-kinship associations or kinship groupings such as clans, herding units and even individual households. Tribal boundaries are usually distinct and follow prominent landscape features. In some cases, however, there may be considerable overlap in the territories of friendly tribes. Intra-tribal boundaries tend to be more diffuse than inter-tribal ones. Outsiders are rarely denied permission to use one's territory, but at the same time, outsiders rarely seek permission unless they are on friendly terms and are reasonably sure of getting a positive response.
In most cases, if one owns the land then one also owns the water, trees, wildlife and minerals. But exceptions do occur. Some groups recognize clear ownership of certain trees or groves of trees as separate from the land. Wells can be owned at different socio-political levels than the land. In general, whenever the harvesting of a natural resource has a high economic importance for the group concerned, then its tenure is different (and at lower sociopolitical levels), than tenure of the land it is found on. Similarly, rights to resources are more strongly exercised when the resource is more valuable or more frequently used.
In recent years, land nationalization has wrested de jure control of rangelands from pastoral groups. Most pastoralists continue to use their former territories, but primarily because of historical precedence and ownership of wells rather than active control by the tribal political hierarchy. De facto control over traditional territories has eroded more at lower socio-political levels than at the tribal level, suggesting that land nationalization is not the only cause of the disintegration of tribal territories. The privatization of communal rangelands, and the fragmentation of traditionally private land, is increasing in areas where resource scarcity is being keenly felt.
More pastoralists have grazing and forest reserves than was previously thought. Grazing reserves can be seasonal, short term or medium term, and are applied to transit routes and seasonal pastures in order to stop crop encroachment, allow livestock access to water and other pastures, reserve pastures for drought periods, and to regenerate degraded areas. In addition, some areas, especially areas in the vicinity of settlements and water points, are reserved for certain types of livestock.
Forest reserves can be permanent timber reserves with limited harvesting allowed, or seasonal/short term reserves where harvesting is prohibited to allow regeneration. Sacred groves and areas are smaller reserves that are permanently closed to all kinds of use, and have religious and symbolic meaning. In some cases trees can and are transplanted in them. Sacred groves are usually small areas, but reserves of 3 or more hectares have also been recorded. These reserves act as in-situ gene banks.
Most grazing and forest reserves have been abandoned because traditional territorial rights have weakened, resources have become more scarce, crops have expanded into the reserves, and even Governments have built boreholes in them. The possibilities of reviving the reserves can be high unless the underlying cause of the demise was resource shortage. Sacred groves have also been largely abandoned because of the same reasons, but also because they have lost their religious and mystical connotations. In some cases, Governments have been able to revive them and have used them as the basis of larger nature parks and reserves.
The enforcement of territorial and resource rights are based on both fundamental principles and socio-political power. Three fundamental principles (rights of first occupancy, historical precedence, and continual occupancy) are universally accepted. Other rules are enforced through the political power of leaders, social ostracism, the power of tradition, curses and religious authority, and reciprocal obligations. The means of enforcement are based on continual observation by every member of the group, by judges, courts, penalties, and in rare cases, monitoring by an informal police force. Tribal warfare and fights among herders are the ultimate means of settling disputes.
In general, socio-political modes of enforcement are the first to disappear as the society breaks up. The viability of courts, judges, etc. depends on the particular circumstances and the degree to which Government policies, such as pacification and the imposition of local governments, are applied. The fundamental principles appear to be the last to go, and in most cases are still viable.
Traditional education of the young in pastoral technical knowledge and systems is based on on-the-job training, lessons given at rights of initiation, and children's games. Traditional education in general costs less than modern education, and has the advantage that the children are not withdrawn from the work force. Formal schools provide the literacy needed in modern times, but their content is too foreign to the pastoralist. They teach the value of sitting in offices behind desks, rather than the value of the land. Traditional educational techniques are still intact, although less exercised as the young leave the range, and can be used in development efforts. A combination of traditional and formal education is feasible if more emphasis is placed on decentralizing the formal education structure.
In general, if a traditional practice or knowledge is still in use, even if by a small portion of the population, it can be considered to be viable. If social cohesion and political authority are still intact then communal cooperation for natural resource management is still viable, even if de jure land tenure has been destroyed. In most cases descriptive knowledge has survived better than management practices and organizational structures.
The situation in most parts of Africa is changing so fast, that what one concludes now may no longer be appropriate a few years later. Therefore, many of the studies already mentioned in this report may need to be revisited. In addition, this suggests that any development project wishing to include LKMS into its design, must first conduct field surveys to validate and update its information on the LKMS.
Viability of a particular technique or knowledge is best analyzed through several complementary activities. In the first place, a good methodology is needed to collect information on the LKMS. Several appropriate methodologies have been developed and tested by various researchers, most of them concentrating on an action-research type method that weeds out superfluous details and collects the more salient techniques. Secondly, the attitude of the local people toward the LKMS needs to be elucidated through formal and informal talks. There is not much point in trying to revive something that the people think is useless and/or unrevivable. Thirdly, pilot activities aimed at experimentally reviving a part of LKMS can provide the ultimate litmus test, and in their aggregate may help develop general guidelines for analyzing the viability of other LKMS.
Certain general conditions need to be met before LKMS can be used in development programs. Although some of the outmigration from the pastoral system is due to entire families leaving for other activities, some of it is also due to young men leaving for urban and industrial jobs, causing a serious manpower shortage in the remaining household. Ways must be found to provide incentives to keep the young on the range, before the old (or new) grazing cooperation regulations can be revived. In addition, grazing coordination cannot be reinstated unless the underlying resource shortage is alleviated (through proper land use planning with enforcement to stop crop expansion, and/or range improvement techniques).
The national policy on land tenure is often one (but not the only one) of the stumbling blocks for proper management of natural resources. Decentralization of the tenure structure to give greater control over natural resources to the local people would be a probable solution. However, resource tenure decentralization is also a politically sensitive issue with a potential for creating or aggravating regional competition and conflicts. Thus, the exact mechanism by which decentralization is achieved needs to be carefully considered.
Project planning, design and implementation need to be made more flexible in time and scope in order to properly take into account LKMS and popular participation. The attitude of experts, donor agencies, government officials and extension agents needs to be modified so that there is a greater willingness to consider the advantages of LKMS. The attitude of the local people, who are by now used to top-down projects, may also need to be changed.