Mecanismo flexible multiasociados (FMM)

Improving the Governance of pastoral lands in Mauritania

10/11/2022

This story was produced thanks to activities implemented under the Flexible Voluntary Contribution (FVC): "Leveraging global instruments and knowledge products" to improve the governance of pastoral lands in Mauritania. The project contributed, among others, to the establishment of regional transhumance committees for peaceful solutions to conflicts linked to local and cross-border transhumance in 3 Wilayas (region) in Mauritania.

“It is now clear for all that it is a right for women to participate in the sector and that the revenues they generate help reduce poverty within families, households and communities”, says Zeinabou Mint Smail.

Zeinabou Mint Smail comes from the traditionally pastoral region of Assaba in Mauritania. Her family members were herders, but years of great drought chased them off the land and towards Nouakchott, the capital, like many others.   

It was only after she became a schoolteacher and was posted back to her hometown, Kiffa, that she reconnected with her roots. There, she married into an agropastoral family, which revived her passion for herding and raising livestock, a sector traditionally dominated by men.   

Today, Zeinabou is part of several pastoral associations, where she makes a particular effort to get more women involved in the old nomadic way of life.  

Together with other women herders, Zeinabou set up a transformation unit for dairy products on the outskirts of the city, where they collect milk from pastoralists and transforms it into yoghurt and other long-life products. The unit, which boosts the incomes of about 20 women, also produces salt-licks for camels that they sell to herders.   

“We women are progressively more involved in all the sectors of animal production, and this is more and more accepted by men,” says Zeinabou. This is in part thanks to new transhumance committees, she says, which provide guidance and try to involve men and women herders equally.    

Recently, FAO supported the establishment of three regional transhumance committees in Mauritania, which help pastoralists and neighbouring communities manage the natural resources they share, like water and grazing land, and avoid conflicts. They also sensitize pastoralists on the existing legislation that protects their land rights.   

Zeinabou, who participates in all meetings, sees the committees as the missing link that joins all who work in or are affected by the sector, including farmers, local authorities and, increasingly, women herders.   

Despite a great deal of reluctance among both men and women to work together, “It is now clear for all,” she says, “that it is a right for women to participate in the sector and that the revenues they generate help reduce poverty within families, households and communities.”  

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