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II. Strategies for development, extension, and management in the drylands

Management Strategies for Drylands: An Interim Report D. L. Johnson
Research Priorities and Directions for Arid Lands Development and Management
Strategies for Management and Development in Arid Lands
Role of Rural Industries in the Arid and Semi-arid Areas of the Sudan
New Approaches for Plant Production in Arid Lands A. Richmond


Papers Presented to Working Group A

Management Strategies for Drylands: An Interim Report D. L. Johnson

Warm arid environments cover approximately one-third of the earth's surface (Meigs, 1953) and are inhabited by some 14 per cent of the world's population. This large total reflects the concentration of population in semi-arid districts, in the transition zone between sub-humid and true desert. Here some 72 per cent of the dryland population, primarily engaged in crop-based activities, finds support for its existence ( Kates, Johnson, and Haring, 1977). That the search for sustenance in such moisture-deficient regions is precarious is not surprising. The high degree of spatial and temporal variability in the location of most basic resources introduces considerable hazard into the exploitation of dryland resources. This, combined with population dynamics and socio-economic change, has placed the resource base of drylands under increasing stress. Dregne (19771 estimates that only 18 per cent of the world's drylands have experienced slight degradation, whereas moderate and severe or very severe degradation has taken place on 54 per cent and 28 per cent of the land area respectively. Although these figures lack precision, they indicate the existence of a considerable land~management problem.

In the first Workshop on Arid Lands Management held in Khartoum in October 1978 (Mabbutt, 1979) much attention was directed to these problems. Particular stress was placed on those situations in which adequate technological capacity existed to manage dryland resources but the application of which had been hindered by obstacles of various kinds. At that time it was argued by several contributors (el-Arifi, 1979; Johnson, 19791 that much of the problem was associated with a clash between indigenous and introduced systems of land management. Building on that understanding, and using a familiar example from pastoral nomadic resource use as an illustration, it is possible to outline a series of stages in problem identification and analysis that suggest potential management solutions.

The example selected is the overgrazing rife around watering points in much of Sub-Saharan Africa and described by a number of authors (Bernus, 1977; Rapp, 1974; Swift, 1975). The analysis begins, not with the observed problem but rather with the primary resource undergoing exploitation (Table 1). In this case it is a land resource, unexploited rangeland, that is not usable because adequate water is unavailable. Introducing drilled wells is a common contemporary management strategy to bring this rangeland resource into production on more than a seasonal basis. However, overgrazing commonly results in the vicinity of the well because traditional tribal management of access to the water is prevented, whilst substitute controls are not instituted. The resulting rangeland deterioration increases the demand for more well drilling to bring more rangeland into production, a progressively degenerating, negative-feedback system that could ultimately result in total destruction of the basic primary resource. The system is shown in the causal loop model in Fig.1.

The crucial issue is where to intervene in the system to produce a desired management result. Space prevents adequate description here, but the system is in fact much more complex than is suggested in Fig. 1, and includes such factors as the subsistence needs of herders, desired stocking rates, population growth patterns, perception of environmental and economic risk, the availability of and access to markets, and so on (for a more comprehensive treatment of these variables, see Picardi, 1974). Draconian measures to exert control over the resource base could be exerted, and might even be temporarily successful in a limited area, but these have failed historically as a consequence of inadequately trained, or non-existent supervisory personnel, insufficient investment resources, and lack of co-operation by intended beneficiaries. Three possible simultaneous solution strategies might be attempted: 1. A cultural~cological unit strategy: this would attempt to intervene at the level of the actual resource management group and return to it control over access to water and, indirectly, grazing resources. This would be the first step in matching stocking rates to available grazing.

TABLE 1. Land-Use Problems in Pastoral Exploitation

Existing Management
(unexploited rangeland)
Animal-based Introduced wells Overgrazing
without access
1. Cultural ecological unit
2. Partial sedentarization
3. Risk minimization

FIG. 1. Solution Strategies and the Impact of Well-Construction Policy on Overgrazing

2. A partial sedentarization strategy: to the extent that present and future pastoral population growth contribute to overgrazing by increasing stocking rates, this would remove any demographic factor from growth in animal numbers, and would act to reduce the demand for direct access to grazing, although it might only partially moderate the demand for animal products. It would have to be accompanied by training and job-development programmes for those no longer employed in the pastoral sector, and would not reduce the growth in animal numbers that was encouraged by increased urban market opportunities.
3. A risk-minimization strategy that attempted to protect the herd from catastrophic losses sustained in drought periods would help to reduce the incentive for progressively larger herd size as well as moderate the demand for more wells.

Disaggregation of the complex, interactive systems sustained by dryland environments is a useful way of tracing changing resource-use patterns from primary resources through existing livelihood systems and management strategies to contemporary environmental problems, and of identifying the range of solution strategies that might be employed. It is vitally important to place each disaggregated sequence in its regional context and to examine the systems analysed and the solutions proposed in terms of their interaction and impact. Only in this way can gains be attained in one part of the system without compensatory and unaccounted losses in another area.


Bernus, E. 1977. Case Study on Desertification: The Eghazar and Azawak Region, Niger. UNCOD, Nairobi.

Dregne, H. E. 1977. "Desertification of Arid Lands," Economic Geography, 53, pp.322-331.

el-Arifi, S. A. 1979. "Some Aspects of Local Government and Environmental Management in the Sudan " Proceedings of the Khartoum Workshop on Arid Lands Management pp.36-39. university of Khartoum.

Johnson, D. L 1979. "Management strategies for Drylands: Available Options and Unanswered Questions," Proceedings of the Khartoum Workshop on Arid Lands Management pp.26-35. university of Khartoum,

Kates, R. W. Johnson, D. L, and Haring, K. J. 1977. "Population, Society and Desertification," Desertification: Its Causes and Consequences, pp.261-317. UNCOD, Nairobi.

Mabbutt, J. A., ed. 1979. Report of the Workshop on Arid Lands Management university of Khartoum, United Nations university, Natural Resources Programme.

Meigs, P. 1953. World Distribution of Arid and Semi-Arid Homo-climates," Arid Zone Hydrology (Arid Zone Research No. 1), pp.203-209. UNESCO, Paris.

Picardi, A. C. 1974. A Systems Analysis of Pastoralism in the West African Sahel (Annex 5 to A Framework for Evaluating Long Term Strategies for the Development of the Sahel-Sudan Region ). Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Rapp, A. 1974. A Review of Desertification in Africa-Water, Vegetation and Man (SI ES Report No. 1). Secretariat for International Ecology, Sweden. Stockholm.

Swift, J. 1975. "Pastoral Nomadism as a Form of Land-Use: The Tuareg of the Adrar, Monod, ed., Pastoralism in Tropical Africa, pp.443-484. Oxford University Press, London.


In the ensuing discussion the question of who should exercise control was raised, whether the planner, project manager, or others. It was noted that development projects in the arid zone are typified by geographical and infrastructural isolation, causing gaps between any integrative conceptualization in the planning process on the one hand, and project implementation on the other. it was considered that there was a need to examine the whole planning process, which is both complex and politically affected. Attention was drawn to the fact that a postgraduate unit had been established at the University of Lesotho to look at project planning. In any such evaluation it was necessary to include the perception of the project and its objectives by those involved, at all levels. The possibility was also raised of examining the impact of the recent decentralization of administration in the Sudan on the implementation of the development projects discussed in the report by Thimm.

Research Priorities and Directions for Arid Lands Development and Management

R. Baker

In the arid and semi-arid zones over the last generation we have been confronted with a very considerable paradox. On the one hand there has been a very rapid growth in the research effort, and on the other hand the problem of desertification (the declining productivity of the resource base) has been accelerating. Since the inception of the UNESCO Arid Zone Research Programme over 200 institutions have been created to consider dryland problems. The funds allocated to research increased enormously and major technical advances have been made. Yet, in 1977 the issue of desertification had reached the scale where it was thought necessary to convene a global conference, under UN auspices, to consider this crisis.

The easiest way to reconcile these facts would be to suggest that the nature of the problem is changing, particularly under the hypothesis of climatic change. However, the UN consultant to the Desertification Conference stated in unequivocal terms that there was no evidence to support this proposition. It is of course possible to interpret that statement ambiguously, so that it becomes a criticism of the climatic evidence itself, which is spotty, discontinuous, and short. Such claims for climatic change as are made, especially for Africa, are perforce extrapolations from contested interpretations of what is happening in the temperate zones. At this stage it is impossible to carry the assertion of climatic change any further forward.

However, we do have fairly reliable data on the growth of human and animal populations, the expansion of cultivation into former areas of dry-season pasture, the investment of capital in increased numbers of livestock, and the preoccupation with often unsuitable cash crops in high-risk areas, with resulting erosion. Research, it is contended, is not simply a passive support activity, but is intimately bound up in our historical inadequacy to deal with the situation of environmental deterioration. In the main we are able to identify two fundamental weaknesses which, on occasion, have actually accelerated the process of decline. The first is the failure of research to come to grips with the real problem, which is an ecological one, because of its tendency to divide land-use systems into bits and pieces for study, without eventually relating the various symptoms. The second point arises from a preoccupation with the purely technical dimension of research (breeds of livestock, crops, drilling technology, etc.), without relating this to the social and economic realities of management at the farmer-herder level. So on the one hand we have a problem of fragmentation into symptoms; on the other, a problem of lacunae in the pre-investment studies.

This situation is hardly surprising when we consider that there has been, for many generations, a division of knowledge along Cartesian lines into "disciplines"; a natural consequence of increasingly specialized information flows. There has been a steady retreat from the world of the philosopher-scholar to the realm of the specialist. This has been exactly paralleled by a separation of techniques from values. Clearly, the world we live in is one where increasing specialization is unavoidable as subjects divide and subdivide who studies "agriculture" in the UK any more?). At the same time it is vital that these increasingly discrete activities take place within some clearly recognizable context of localized reality.

In the immediate post-war era attention was centred predominantly on the technology of development. The main instrument for this effort was the research station, which may be characterized in the following manner:

1. It tended to optimize the research environment so that advances were made under the most ideal circumstances of capital, skills, appropriate timing of resource availability, and labour.
2. The preoccupation was with cash crops which fuelled the colonial export economy with little regard for the essentials of basic food production.
3. Its research workers provided answers without examining whether they were asking the right questions.
4. The approach was essentially one from the top down wards, in which "solutions" had to be taken to the farmer-herder by the extension service. There was little or no attempt in the research station to examine the nature of the problem at the grass-roots level.
5. Technical aspects of research continued more or less in vacuo, with little or no mechanism to draw these efforts together in considering social systems of production. As a consequence, many of the results of research remained fairly behind the fence of the research station or were grafted on the peasant farm systems to provide a commercial return for the colonial economy. In other cases, as with tubewells and veterinary care, the innovations produced quite unexpected results, such as salinization of soils or overgrazing as imported management assumptions proved hopelessly inappropriate, or just plain wrong, in the new context of application. This is in no way to belittle the achievements of the individual research efforts, which after all produced the Green Revolution and so bought India time, finally, to face up to its basic problems. It is the summation of these activities which has been inadequate.

In the case of desertification in the semi-arid zones, for example, we are confronted with something which is operating at an ecological level. To salvage a much-abused term, it concerns the flow of energy and the maintenance of some form of balance over time. Anything which influences the energy flow is of importance in understanding and meeting the challenge, which is another way of saying that one has to focus, at some point or other, on the ecosystem and its dynamics. Tinkering with part of it will usually result in just a shift of pressure, such as the move from shortage of water to shortage of grazing in a livestock system. Similarly, in many parts of the developing world it is extremely difficult to separate "social" and "economic" factors, because commercialization has not driven the wedge between them that it has in western economies. Therefore it is particularly important that social values are incorporated intimately into the research effort.

Is this, then, a plea for the reincarnation of Renaissance Man? How else do we achieve the breadth of perspective outlined above?

What is needed is the right structure or framework which encourages interaction, rather than fragmentation. It has already been stated that specialization is necessary and will probably be emphasized increasingly in training. However, if these specializations function within the scientific construct of ecology and focus on problems at the producer level, there is some hope of reality and a prospect of problem and solution being in the same dimension. It is essential that research becomes a two-way flow, carefully defining its questions at the right level and pitching its solutions accordingly.

To some extent we have seen evidence of this in the reorganization of research institutions. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres, for instance, all have a commitment on paper to a systems approach. A similar trend is to be observed in education, with many students being exposed to an interdisciplinary or problem-based approach at some time during their courses. Even where these advances have been made, hov~ever, there remains the problem of translating research at this level into action. Here the integration of a research effort may be confronted by the sectoral system of planning in which decisions are made and funds allocated according to a divisive ministerial structure. Thus the effort is in danger of being broken down into symptoms once more. Reformation at this level is much more difficult, because one is now confronted with what is essentially a political problem.

Unfortunately, considerations at this level all too rarely occur, as the structure of research and decision-making is usually taken as "given" in any equation. Perhaps it takes a disaster such as the Sahelian crisis of 1968 - 1974 to open people's minds to this perspective, but if the nettle is not grasped at the time, the post-crisis period usually lulls ail parties into a sense of "crisis passed " As we have seen, this may well be a situation of crisis-creation.


In discussion of Baker's paper it was stressed that there is a tendency for both research and development to be sectorized, and that this needs to be recognized and countered. It was suggested that investigation of the effectiveness of research by production-oriented institutions such as the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) would be appropriate. The need for evaluation mechanisms to be built into all development planning projects was stressed, as was the value of establishing an independent methodology for such evaluations.

It was proposed that seminars might be held to examine the implementation processes linking planning and development. A possible case study was the Sagna'am Project in Southern Darfur, Sudan, which had exemplified a failure to sustain an integrative approach in its implementation. The possibility of undertaking a number of comparative studies over a range of environmental situations was also mentioned. A major objective of such a programme would be the education of politicians and decision-makers.

It was stressed that all such case studies by the UN University should name their targets, whether planners, project managers, or the local inhabitants, although it was recognized that the format of any study report would be set by University standards and conventions. Attention should also be given to establishing the practice of starting the planning process from the level of the perception of the problem, and of prospects for its solution, by the local populations most immediately affected.

Papers Presented to Working Group B

Strategies for Management and Development in Arid Lands

B. Spooner

In discussions of environmental problems and development planning during the past decade increasing attention has been given to "the human factor." This attention derives partly from concern that existing strategies for the management and development of natural resources have not been successful, and partly from a change in paradigm that is related to a broader range of political and economic factors. The implications of this shift in focus have not been followed through.

The management and development of arid lands present a special range of problems. Some of these problems are peculiar to arid lands. For example, arid lands are characterized by lower and less regular precipitation, greater fluctuations and extremes of temperature, and strong drying winds, and these factors reduce fertility and increase the risk of erosion and general degradation. When the lack of precipitation is artificially made good by irrigation engineering the increase in fertility is often sensational, but many such engineering schemes have been unsuccessful in completing the modified hydrological cycle and have caused environmental degradation through inadequate drainage. These problems constitute "the natural factor." However, if the problems of arid lands are defined in terms of the human factor alone, they do not appear so distinct. Many social groups in a wide range of climates are undergoing stress as the result of environmental change: the condition of such groups in arid lands is special only to the extent that in arid conditions overall population density is generally lower, and individuals and groups have tended to diversify their resource base in order to cope with climatic irregularity and unpredictability. This diversification tends to generate more flexible, if not unstable, day-to-day groupings, and so to generate greater, or at any rate different, problems of organization. From the point of view of "the human factor" the formulation of strategies for the management and development of arid lands presents problems of organization, and these problems are probably not different qualitatively from those presented by humid environments.

In many arid lands productivity is declining and living conditions are deteriorating. Up to now measures to stop the trend have been developed from arguments based on the natural factor. They have concentrated on technological recipes, in most cases derived from experience in other areas which, though ecologically similar, are culturally different. The assumptions behind them are the assumptions of the literature on "modernization": that it is feasible to break down a problem situation into sectors, isolate the specific problems in specific sectors, and treat those sectors separately. Little or no attention is given to the structural or cultural dimensions of social relations- which are expected to "adapt" to the technological or administrative modifications proposed to solve the problems.

There is an alternative, holistic tradition in the social sciences that is based on the assumption that socio-cultural units cannot be broken down in this way, and that although social processes are influenced by a variety of factors, including ecological, biological, and psychological factors, in most cases the force of social and cultural continuity is such that it is not feasible at any particular time to break down a social situation into nonsocial components. It is necessary instead to treat the social process holistically and to look at the non-social variables socio-centrically, in terms of their perception by each social group. A socio-centric view sets natural conditions in their particular social context and evaluates them initially in terms of t,he cultural perceptions of the social group whose environment they constitute. This approach is opposed to a techno-centric view which incidentally is also an ethnocentric view, which evaluates conditions in terms of criteria that are presumed to be absolute but which derive from an alien context. According to the socio-centric argument management and development should proceed on the basis of a consensus of socio-centric views.

An important implication of this argument is that it is necessary to develop culturally related managerial structures in each community or production system that undergoes development. In order to work towards this objective it is recommended that the management sciences be brought into the evolving dialogue between the social and the natural sciences, and encouraged to study management in traditional production systems such as African pastoralism.

Some of the problems of formulating and introducing new forms of administrative organization into production systems that are embedded in traditional social structures might be alleviated if more attention were paid to the relationship between individual and group interests and to the need for incentives. An important first step in this direction is the recognition that individual interests may conflict with those of the continuity of the group (which is the locus of interaction between cultural norms and everyday behaviour), that altruism cannot realistically be expected, and that it is reasonable to anticipate a similar degree of villainy in all societies and plan for it by designing forms of administrative organization that will contain it. Attention to the need for incentives, especially in the form of real participation in significant decisions, provision for which must be built into any structural innovation, will help avoid the two extreme forms of organization, characterized by (1 ) enforcement from above and (2) a too-rigid structuring of participation, which are jointly responsible for most failures in planned social change.


In discussion, Spooner drew attention to the excellent studies of environmental perception under MAB Project 13 (Perception of Environmental Quality), and called for more of the type. There was an important distinction, in social terms, between those situations in which there is a need for development of traditional land-use systems, such as traditional pastoral systems, and those industrially modified systems that required further development or modification to avoid ecological deterioration, such as large-scale irrigation schemes. The difference lies in the degree of congruence between the forms of co-operation required by the technology involved, and those allowed by existing social structures. In considering the human factor, both situations may be seen as problems of management, but the field of study known as management science has scarcely involved itself in such problems, and where it has been involved it has been slow to develop practical principles that are not embedded in a particular (western) cultural context and that could be applied in a range of cultural settings.

Since a basic principle of UN University activity is to transcend disciplinary boundaries, it was suggested in the discussion that the Workshop should recommend to the University that it should involve scholars from management science in interdisciplinary studies and seminars on problems of management in traditional land-use systems.

Role of Rural Industries in the Arid and Semi-arid Areas of the Sudan

A. B. A. G. Babiker

Although the term "rural industries" could also include all industrial activities, even modern ones, located in and using the raw materials of the rural areas, it is used here to include the traditional village type of industry and handicrafts, whether commercial or subsistence, usually carried out at home with simple tools and technological means and characterized by very simple systems of distribution.

Traditional and small industries are widespread in rural areas of the Sudan, mostly for home consumption but also partly directed towards the market. A study on the industrial activity in the southern region in 1978, for example, showed that, out of a total production value of úS153.4 million, rural industries produced úS144 million (94 per cent). Of this amount 74 per cent was of the subsistence sector, whereas the remaining 26 per cent was of commercial character. Although these percentages may differ from one region to another in the semi-arid Sudan, the general tendency is for the higher contribution to come from the subsistence sector.

The aim of this study is to evaluate the socio-economic contribution made by traditional industries in the arid and semi-arid areas of the Sudan, and to assess their environmental impact. Two study areas, known for their diversified rural industries, have been chosen: the Mahmiya-Damar area as an example of riverine settlements, and the non-riverine example of the Butana area (mainly El Subbagh region) in eastern Sudan.

The first area lies along the Nile about 200 km north of Khartoum. Traditionally it is an agricultural area depending on the Nile water and its narrow strip of cultivable land. The area suffers from problems such as pressure on the available cultivable land, fragmentation of land-holdings, soil erosion, a total dependence on the railway line (especially during the rainy season), conflict between settled people and nomadic tribes over passage routes for livestock, and destruction of cultivable fields by the animals. The second area lies in the north-central part of the Butana. It is primarily a nomadic area, with some nomadic camps and small settlements occupied mostly by semi-sedentary people. These serve as service centres for the nomads or for lorry transport passing through the area. The Butana area as a whole suffers from overgrazing and overcultivation, and from problems resulting from the introduction of agricultural and agro-industrial projects using relatively advanced technology.

Rural industries in both areas were surveyed through direct interviews. A complete survey was made of the independent small industrial units, which are usually located in the markets, whilst a random-sample house survey was also carried out in both areas. In both areas the industries found have been grouped in the following seven classes: food and beverages; textiles and wearing apparel; leather industries; manufacturing of products of dom-palm leaves; wood industries; quarrying and manufacture of non-metallic mineral products; and blacksmithing and manufacture of fabricated metal products.

The survey, limited as it was in the residential areas, nonetheless revealed certain important characteristics of the production, distribution, and labour structure of the industries:

1. Availability of raw materials is perhaps the most important factor responsible for the presence of a certain type of industry; but certain other factors such as nearness to the market (in this case an urban centre or a large village), or the availability of transport, may also have an effect.
2. Rural industries play an important role in the economy of these areas, as they provide employment for a substantial part of the population. Certain families, especially those who do not own a plot of cultivable land or those with few animals, depend on these industries totally. They also constitute a seasonal occupation for those engaged in agriculture. But their most important role is perhaps the provision of employment for the women, in a society in which female participation in public activities is not appreciated.
3. Rural industries process and make use of the local agricultural and other raw materials. Hence their development brings with it development of the agricultural sector.
4. Rural industries can be developed with minimal capital. What they need is organization, better governmental supervision and encouragement, training for those engaged, and limited assistance in the form of credits and loans.
5. These industries, if developed, can play an important role in bringing rural populations into contact with technology, simple as it is, and thus in paving the way for the introduction of more advanced modern tech no logy.
6. Rural industries are widespread in the different regions of the Sudan, with different specialization in each region. Their development and encouragement are therefore of concern to the whole nation, in the interests of preserving national arts and culture.

Rural industries, on the other hand, are facing certain difficulties which may lead in the end to a reduction of their role in these regions. These include competition from imported mass-produced articles, seasonality of the market for certain items, shortage of capital, and lack of encouragement by local government authorities.


Attention was drawn to the importance of such industries in providing employment for normally underemployed sectors of the population, especially women, so serving to integrate and stabilize rural societies, making them less dependent on urban systems, and raising their morale. This function was considered particularly important in view of a widespread belief that environmental degradation in arid lands is often a function of exogenous factors acting on socio-economically weakened rural communities.

Papers Presented to Working Group C


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