The diversity of territories, practices and strategies
The two cases presented in this article demonstrate the complexity of the spatial arrangements that pastoralists have to consider over the course of the year. The study confirms that the task of keeping their animals alive, and in so doing, ensuring their subsistence, is not a simple one. According to Weber and Horst (2011), ‘Pastoralism may be perceived as demanding only minimal skills. The shepherd or herdsman simply keeps his stock alive so that he may subsist on the animals’ milk, blood, wool, meat, and value in trade. Just beneath this thin veneer, however, rests a myriad of complexities involving forage, animal health, reproduction, predation, weather, and the social and cultural fabric within which the pastoralist functions’. Moritz observed that the peri-urban pastoralists involved in intensive strategies ‘did not intensify their production system to increase production for household subsistence or marketing’, but ‘to get their cattle through the dry season crunch and prevent a decline in animal production and reproduction’. Intensification was a response to population pressures on natural resources that led to the disappearance of rangelands (Moritz 2010, p. 124). Although they have settled down, the Fulani pastoralists of northern Cameroon and western Burkina Faso have to continuously develop and adapt their survival strategies, which include fighting for rights of access and the use of space and resources.
Depending on the region, pastoralists’ usage rights are more or less well recognized at the level of the attachment territory. Pastoralists’ organizations work for the recognition and respect of territory contours to acquire universally recognized usufruct rights. In these types of territories where pastoralists have obtained land use rights and, more rarely, property rights recognized by all, technical innovations are adopted and implemented gradually. Pastoralists tend to locate their limited livestock-related equipment (livestock and vaccination pen, wells and a borehole) on the attachment territory. They currently wish to secure rights to more land around their homes in order to plant corn because they can achieve high yields with the fertilizer provided by their animals. They also are considering planting forage crops, but in their own view, it is difficult to cultivate both forage and corn due to the limited amount of arable land available. Action research testing the association of cereal and forage on the same plot has convinced pastoralists that it is possible to increase forage yields without reducing grain yields (Nchoutnji et al. 2010). However, this innovative technique alone cannot resolve all of the challenges facing pastoralists, who need institutional, socioeconomic and technical support.
In the peripheral territories, pastoralists are fighting for the preservation of common grazing rights and the cessation of clearings to preserve the natural pastures that remain in the highlands, lowlands and on the plains between the areas already under cultivation (livestock track, interstitial rangelands).
In both areas studied, pastoralists have to negotiate the right to common grazing on all or part of the areas cultivated by farmers. With regard to common areas, there is no law protecting these areas from being cleared for agricultural use. Pastoralists consequently cannot make a legal appeal when they notice the disappearance of a pasture. The installation of livestock tracks, rights of passage and grazing areas are rarely established in legal terms, so when these areas are taken over for crops, pastoralists have no choice but to move elsewhere.
Support for pastoralists also should include incentives for the partial and gradual intensification of livestock production systems. For pastoralists to accept such a change in their livestock production practices, numerous technical (management of forage intensification, etc.), economic (access to inputs and services, market security, etc.), political and legal issues (securing access to land, support for pastoralists’ organizations, etc.) must be addressed. The combination of extensive and semi-intensive livestock production systems, at the level of the pastoral production units, constitutes an avenue worth exploring, but this also involves both better access to and the concerted management of resources in the territories involved.
The management of herding territories could be facilitated through a dialogue process involving all those with a stake in the surrounding rural areas (farmer communities, traditional authorities, public services, rural development projects, etc.). Current processes of decentralization are making it possible to develop localized consensual rules for the management of agro-pastoral and natural resources, such as the development of local conventions and local land charters, as was done in the commune of Koumbia. However, the major challenge for pastoralists who own large herds is to maintain the right to use transhumant territories. This involves negotiations at a regional (provincial) level between the various users and managers of these areas.
The relevance of laws
The laws and codes related to livestock developed by governments in the region and regional institutions (Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); Economic Community of Central African States) were oriented to support the maintenance and development of more productive livestock in strongly pastoral areas: Inner Niger Delta in Mali, Plateau of Adamawa and floodplain of Diamaré in Cameroon, etc. However, major changes have been taking place over the last 30 years: in some areas where pastoralism was once dominant, livestock farming has declined while crop production has increased, and in some predominantly agricultural regions (northern Cameroon, western Burkina Faso), pastoralists have settled with some of their animals. The latter is what is taking place in our study areas as well as in large areas in the south of Senegal and Mali, eastern Guinea and the north of Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo. The key challenge for development in these areas is establishing conditions under which pastoralists, farmers, and other actors can coexist peacefully.
Effective collective action and suitable laws and regulations are needed if pastoralism is to be developed so that it can adopt technical innovations while cohabitating with agriculture. An analysis of the new pastoral law of Burkina Faso (Law No. 304-2002) and of the pastoral code of Cameroon, which was updated in 2010, shows that the legal arsenal needed to manage this cohabitation already exists. However, the implementation of these pastoral laws is not a simple task. Firstly, it is compromised by the disconnection between these laws and the realities of rural life. For example, in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and most West African countries, these laws set the minimum width of cattle tracks (typically 50 m). This disposition, however, will never be respected by farmers in the present context defined by a shortage of land. Another example concerns tree trimming, which is prohibited by law yet which is an essential practice for pastoralists to provide basic energy and nitrogen necessary for their livestock at the end of the dry season (Smektala et al. 2005). Secondly, these pastoral laws were designed primarily for the Sahel in order to preserve large areas of rangeland in a zone traditionally devoted to livestock.
The updating of the pastoral code in Cameroon benefited from the active participation of Mbororo pastoralists and leaders of their association (Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association). One major action related to this code will be to solve long-standing conflicts between farmers and herders and ensure the rights of Mbororo pastoralists on their pastures.
These pastoral laws are perfectly in line with the African Union’s 2011 pastoral policy and the action plan for livestock adopted the same year by ECOWAS. They recognize the right of pastoralists to move their herds from one region to another, protect their access to water in areas dominated by agriculture and facilitate cross-border trade. In many other countries (e.g. Nigeria, which faces additional constraints), pastoral policies need to be accompanied by national action plans capable of changing behaviours and practices regarding pastoralism (Ibrahim 2012).
Regulations regarding common grazing are very clear in the pastoral laws in Cameroon and Burkina Faso, and are very important in a context where competition for crop residues is intense. They also provide a legal framework for the establishment of local conventions (Djiré 2004; Granier 2006; PACT 2008) and therefore represent a good opportunity for pastoralists to implement local rules regarding the management of strategic resources (pond, grasslands, vaccination parks, prescribed burning). Unfortunately, pastoralists often are considered to be non-natives and immigrants and thus are under-represented in local decision-making bodies (municipal councils).
Laws relating to livestock farming, and more generally to the use of natural resources, can be improved further. However, their application remains difficult in a context defined by major staff shortages and a lack of innovative approaches (explanation of laws for rural actors, training of public services agents, participatory adaptation of laws for different contexts). The application system of customary law based on ‘control, observation, repression’ has shown its limitations, especially in situations where corruption is rampant (Cameroon). In this case, pastoralists, due to their capacity to earn money quickly through the sale of some animals, are often taxed in a heavy and arbitrary fashion (Kossoumna et al. 2011). In other situations (western Burkina Faso, southern Mali), farmer-herder conflicts are resolved locally by traditional authorities representing the various communities without reference to laws and regulations. In this case, conflicts are resolved but problems remain. Although the decentralization of state services is effective, the surface area of a territory and the population to be ‘administered’ are often too large in relation to the human and material resources available.
Decentralization laws recently were enacted in most West and Central African countries (e.g. Law No. 034-2009 Burkina Faso). They establish a new form of power, municipal or communal councils which are democratically elected but often are connected with a customary local power. Depending on the country, rural communities have acquired a certain autonomy vis-à-vis public administrative and technical structures, but their action is limited by a lack of staff and financial resources. Property taxes have not yet been implemented due to the complexity of land ownership, and rural communities only receive state subsidies and some market taxes. However, rural communities in Mali and Burkina Faso have become major actors in the management of natural resources. It is their responsibility to develop local charters for the management of these resources (communal land charter in Burkina Faso). It is within this framework of intervention, which also includes national laws, that rural development agents and support structures should develop innovative approaches.
With the emergence of local government based on democratic principles, the centres of decision are being displaced. Government and traditional authorities will have to share power with newly elected institutions (Cotula and Cissé 2006). The qualities and capabilities of these new governing bodies will be critical to the effective implementation of the innovations needed to maintain livestock farming in these areas. A universally recognized process of election and democratic decision will depend on the recognition of different professional groups and their participation in councils, the honesty of leaders and some financial autonomy for rural communities. Pastoralists will have to work with these new forms of rural governance to develop, adapt and renew their production systems.