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close this bookNatural Resources Development in the Sahel: The Role of the United Nations System (UNU, 1986, 95 pages)
close this folder5. Project evaluation
View the documentProject Management
View the documentType and impact of projects
View the documentSelected sectoral reviews

Selected sectoral reviews

To further illustrate these resource~development problems, it is useful to look at several sectors in greater depth. The forestry sector is of particular interest because the short age of fuelwood has been a major development issue only in the last 10 to 15 years. A tremendous amount of aid funds and effort have been directed to this area with generally unsatisfactory results. In contrast, livestock development has been a major concern for a much longer period of time, although the results again can be considered mixed at best.

Forestry Projects

In the forestry sector, the availability of wood was the subject of one of the first reports from the Special Sahelian Office after the 1968-1973 drought (Raeder-Roitzsch 1974). This painted a rather dire picture of demand outstripping supply, and this type of logic, combined with rapid increases in the price of fossil fuels, triggered a rapid increase in aid for forestry-related activities. From 1975 to 1982 an estimated $160 million was spent in the Sahel, with most of these funds being devoted to the establishment of new plantings. The average cost of these afforestation efforts has been approximately $800 per hectare.

In reviewing forestry activities in the Sahel since 1972, Weber (1982) concluded that only 25,000 ha of new plantations have been successfully established. Of these 25,000 ha, perhaps one-third produce little or no wood because of fires, grazing, or their protected status (e.g., green belts around urban areas). Overall, Weber estimates the survival rate of the newly planted trees at only 10 to 20 per cent. Efforts in the area of training, infrastructure, and invem tory have been more successful, but the basic problem of an assured fuel supply is far from being solved.

In general the technical obstacles are few, as one can draw on the experience of both English and French foresters in West Africa and the Sudan, as well as related work in countries such as India and Australia. The primary problem is one of local participation. As Weber (1982) states, "The common denominator of success is the way projects have been administered in the field, how the local population was approached and how project activities are being carried out so that local interests are stimulated and respected." Without active involvement by the local people, fires, grazing, and trampling take a heavy toll. Ac tive opposition in the form of uprooting is not unknown, for the farmers and pastoralists often view state-sponsored forestry as a competing land use (Howe and Gulick 1980).

Staff, transport, and tools are also limiting. As an example, Howe and Gulick cite one office in Upper Volta that was responsible for 10,920 km2 but had only one mobylette (motor~scooter) and 30 litres of fuel per month. The sheer impossibility of effectively policing large, diffuse areas of wood production only emphasizes the absolute necessity of working within the context of the needs of the local people.

A shift from expropriating land for government-owed plantations to more social forestry will require significant change in the attitudes and policies of the Sahelian countries (Weber 1982). For people to invest labour and possibly capital in protecting the natural vegetation and planting trees, they must receive benefits greater than their investments; this usually requires a stable landtenure system that recognizes the rights of the rural inhabitants. In view of the increasing pressure on the land, there must be a shift in attitudes and government re" gulation from designating and protecting government forests to working with local inhabitants to establish wind-breaks, village wood-lots, and agro-forestry systems (World Bank 1978b). As noted by Le Houerou (1978), a continuing decline in woody vegetation in the Sahel will cause massive disruption to the life~styles of both the nomadic and the sedentary inhabitants of the rural areas.

Livestock Development Projects

The production of livestock is the most common use of land in the Sahel, and its high visibility has made it an important focus of development for a relatively long time. On the other hand, there has been relatively little in the way of long-term studies. To understand the controversy surrounding the effectiveness of livestock projects, it is necessary to understand the historical background. In this respect the Niger case study presented at the 1977 UN Conference on Desertification (UNCOD 1977a) provides an outstanding example of the problems of pastoralists in a world in which they have decreasing control. From a position of dominanace over (or at least co-existence with) sedentary farmers, the pastoralists have seen a consistent bolstering of sedentary farmers and cash-cropping at their expense, first by the colonial power and then more strongly as the post-independence governments have taken hold and established more effective communication and transportation networks.

The initial desire of the government bodies was primarily to control and pacify the nomads. To reduce farmer pastoralist conflict and to protect the traditional pastures from erosion, a variety of regulations were promulgated. For example, in 1962 Niger prohibited the growing of crops north of the 400-mm isohyet (Ferguson 1977), and in Tunisia and Syria crops were prohibited on slopes greater than 15 per cent. None of these regulations have been effectively enforced (FAO 1975), and the Niger government has gone so far as to protect farmers who migrated north of the designated boundary (UNCOD 1977a). Thus, the declining power of the pastoralists has resulted in the encroachment of sedentary farmers onto traditional grazing lands, a breakdown of traditional boundaries between the various pastoral groups, and an increase in large stock compared to small stock because of the shortage of shepherds (caused in part by the end of slavery) (UNCOD 1977a).

Over the past few decades efforts have been made to improve the lot of the pastoralist, with the initial emphasis being on the provision of veterinary services and animaldisease control. Rinderpest and pleuropneumonia were wiped out in many areas, although it first had to be learned that veterinary services are under-utilized when the tax collector accompanies the vaccinator (Horowitz 1979). In order to make more areas available for dry-season grazing and thus increase total production, various welldrilling programmes were undertaken. It was thought that these wells would also help to stabilize the pastoralists -a goal that was deemed desirable (FAO 1962) for social, medical, and educational reasons and was accepted by governments for political and economic, if not humanitarian, reasons. At least in the area of the Niger case study, the initial management scheme for the wells was based on controlling access and having the user pay, but because the government did not want to appear to be favouring any single group and feared difficulties in collecting the fees, these management policies were not implemented. As a result, areas that previously had water only in seasonal pools or shallow, hand-drawn wells now had deep boreholes, diesel pumps, and abundant water. The proper spacing of these high-volume boreholes with low-volume shallow wells was supposed to result in an even distribution of pasture use between wet and dry seasons. If certain areas allocated for dry-season use did show signs of degradation, the pumps could be shut off to prevent over-use. However, this was rarely done, and it is widely agreed (UNCOD 1977a; Horowitz 1979; Hoben 1979) that the construction of boreholes has led to an over-concentration of animals around the few watering points, with circles of degradation of up to eight kilometres in radius around each borehole and the destruction of most trees within several kilometres. These circles of over-grazing were exacerbated by the 1968-1973 drought, for the seasonal watering points dried up earlier than usual, leading to an even greater concentration of animals at the wells and a disappearance of the surrounding vegetation. Most animals then died of hunger rather than thirst. Percentage losses varied among species, as cattle need water every day and thus could not graze far from the wells, while sheep and goats need water only once every two days and camels every five to ten days. This allowed camels to forage further afield, where the concentration of animals was much less, resulting in a proportionately lower death rate during the drought.

While a clean water supply is essential for the health and development of rural populations, these documented circles of desertification would suggest that there is little justification for providing water beyond immediate human needs unless there is an accompanying management strategy (Horowitz 1979). The provision of water for livestock must include a means to limit pasture use. Restrictions can be either technological (e.g. shallow wells where water must be drawn by hand and which may dry up, or means to limit the operation of the pumps to a short time) or sociological (e.g. granting control over a water source or area to a specific group of pastoralists). Since technological solutions are more amenable to planning, most livestock projects have been conceived in this vein, but none can be considered an unqualified success. This results in a continuing controversy over the best approach. For example, ranching schemes allow complete control over access, number of cattle, and intensity of use, and therefore can prevent degradation of pastures, but they have not demonstrated economic viability or social acceptability to the nomads in the Sahel (Wade 1974). Horowitz (1979) and Bernus (1971) note that some pastoral groups oppose the construction of any public wells, preferring instead to pay for shallow wells where they will have control of access.

Although past well-drilling programmes have tended to result in desertification in the immediate vicinity of the wells, it is not clear whether there has been a widespread decline in the quality and productivity of Sahelian rangelands. Often a long-term decline in pasture production has been assumed in order to help to justify a particular action, but World Bank reports, for example, have come down on both sides of the degradationino-degradation issue. Hoben (1979) notes that the data can often be contradictory, depending on the location, time of observance, and observer bias.

The problem of assessing vegetation change in the Sahel is vastly complicated by the irregularity in rainfall. Horowitz (1979, citing Bille 1974 and Swift 1977) notes that aboveground plant production varied on a single site from 1,300 kg per hectare in a "good" year to 590 kg per hectare in a "bad" year and virtually nothing in 1972. This decline in production is typically accompanied by a reduction in the numbers of some of the higher-quality forage species (Bernus undated; Bremen and Cisse 1977). Some authors (e.g. Stebbing 1937) have claimed a general shift southward in the desert margin, while others note that as the rains return the vegetation exhibits a remarkable resilience (Le Houerou 1978; Warren and Maizels 1977). In general there is agreement that intensive grazing does cause an overall shift towards weedy species with a shorter lifecycle. There is also little doubt that grazing pressures have intensified. In 1970, at the end of a period of relatively wet years, the animal population was estimated to be twice the 1930 figure and one~third higher than the 1960 estimate (Wade 1974). A recent NAS study (1983) suggests that there has been both a decline in actual productivity and a decline in the desirable species, and that the increased dominance and numbers of cattle are the main cause.

Since heavy grazing can have certain effects similar to those of low rainfall, it is difficult to separate animal induced changes from climate-induced changes. Fortuitous timing and management allowed the separation of these factors on a ranch in Mali which receives an annual average precipitation of 590 mm. In those areas which had little or no grazing pressure the 1970-1973 drought caused a significant decline in woody and herbaceous species that were near the northern limits of their distribution, and these tended to be replaced by invader (weedy) species rather than more northern (xerophytic) species (fig. 6). The changes in the herb layer were more pronounced, with mean coverage in lightly grazed areas dropping from 40 per cent to 25 per cent and standing crop reduced by nearly half. In areas that were also heavily grazed there was a clear substitution of ephemeral legumes and poor quality grasses for some of the preferred fodder species. Woody plants exhibited similar trends, with an increase in coverage due to protection from grazing, a shift in species composition due to drought, and a loss of the palatable species in the heavily grazed area (Bremen and Cisse 1977).

FIG. 6 Changes in the species composition of a pasture in the Sahelo-Sudanian zone due to drought versus changes due to a combination of drought and heavy grazing, "Savannah forage" here refers to the generally preferred fodder species found in the moister region just to the south of the Sahel. (From Bremen and Cisse 1977)

Degraded areas that are completely protected from grazing show complete recovery (Le Houerou 1978), but the rate should be measured in terms of years rather than of months. Herbaceous species that disappear during drought quickly reappear when precipitation levels return to normal values, but recovery in the shrub and tree layer is, of course, much slower. Even with abundant rainfall primary productivity does not return immediately to pre-drought levels (UNCOD 1977a), and Bremen and Cissé (1977) postulate that nitrogen may be more limiting than water in the initial stages of recovery.

Fire is another controversial topic, some seeing it as destroying the limited forage available, while others see it as releasing nutrients and stimulating growth. A number of efforts have been made to control burning, but these have been generally unsuccessful. Both Kucera (1978) and Warren and Maizels (1977) state that burning during the dry season consumes low-quality fodder and stimulates growth by releasing nutrients and reducing competition. By discouraging shrubs, fire can help lessen the incidence of tsetse and trypanosomiasis, but the decline of woody species correspondingly reduces the availability of dryseason fodder and fuelwood. Hence, fire-breaks are not necessarily beneficial in the Sahel or Sudanian zones and are not socially or economically viable.

The training of personnel has been very inadequate, as Mauritania, for example, had only nine veterinarians in 1978 ( USA 1 D 1979b).

The improvement of transportation and communication links has not drastically altered the traditional marketing pattern but has helped to encourage the expansion of sedentary farmers and a system of exports that has shifted beef consumption to urban consumers in Lagos, Abidjan, and Dakar rather than the local farmers (Abercrombie 1975). The development of ranch projects has been beset by serious administrative and financial difficulties, has disrupted the traditional land-use system, and does not facilitate adjustments in grazing intensity in accordance with annual variations in productivity.

In summary, the results of past attempts to improve livestock productivity have been mixed at best. Wells have increased dry-season utilization but disrupted traditional rights and led to severe localized degradation. The simplistic appeal of an easily implemented technological fix has continued to attract donors to well-drilling, and local governments have taken the political credit without the attendant responsibility. The provision of veterinary services "has tended to be counterproductive except where accompanied by marketing or stock production control programmes that have been adequate to control the growth of animal units" (Ferguson 1977). More generally, an FAO sociologist has said, "One of the basic factors in the situation is overpopulation, both human and bovine, brought about by the application of modern science."

A wide variety of projects are now being designed that build to varying degrees on traditional social groups and their respective lands. Practical assessment is impossible at this early stage, but success or failure will still provide a better idea of how the various traditional socio-economic systems operate, and thus will provide a better basis for future project design. To a certain extent the concept of local management is inconsistent with large-scale projects, such as the recurring theme of stratified livestock production. In such a plan, animals are supposed to be progressively shifted south for final weight gain and slaughter close to the urban markets. In a broad functional sense this is close to the traditional practice of taking the animals far to the south in times of drought. While stratified livestock production was the basic idea behind SOLAR {one of the six transnational projects proposed during the UN Conference on Desertification), implementation on an international basis in the Sahel is now recognized as impossible. Even in one country, the economic and social barriers to establishing such a system are severe. Proposals to establish industrialstyle feedlots near the major markets and abbatoirs (slaughterhouses) are equally impractical, primarily for economic reasons (Horowitz 1979; Ferguson 1977).

The integration of animals with sedentary farming is another logical approach that has serious social and economic flaws (Delgado 1978). Others advocate game ranching or the use of drought adapted species such as camels, but these also wili pose a variety of social and economic difficulties. Clearly a technological fix is not possible, nor will there be a painless solution. Some shift in the pattern of settlement and/or the means of livelihood is necessary if widespread, irreversible degradation of pasture lands is to be avoided.