Survival on Meagre Resources: Hadendowa
Pastoralism in the Red Sea Hills. Leif Manger, with Hassan Abd el Ati,
Sharif Harir, Knut Krzywinski and Ole R. Vetaas. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet
(The Nordic Africa
Institute). Pp. 244. 1996. $52.50 paper.© Development among Africa's Migratory
Pastoralists. Aggrey Ayuen Majok and Calvin W. Schwabe. Bergin &
Garvey. Pp. 285. 1996. $65. cloth.©
Survival on Meagre Resources: Hadendowa Pastoralism in the Red Sea Hills. Leif Manger, with Hassan Abd el Ati, Sharif Harir, Knut Krzywinski and Ole R. Vetaas. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet (The Nordic Africa Institute). Pp. 244. 1996. $52.50 paper.©
Development among Africa's Migratory Pastoralists. Aggrey Ayuen Majok and Calvin W. Schwabe. Bergin & Garvey. Pp. 285. 1996. $65. cloth.©
Survival on Meagre Resources is based on interdisciplinary research conducted by a Norwegian and Sudanese team under the auspices of the Red Sea Area Programme (RESAP), a project funded by the Norwegian government. The program's goals were to improve local food production and food security and to improve the natural ecological base in order to develop sustainable production systems. The authors imply that this Red Sea Hills study was originally conceived as a long-term project, however, because of political changes and tensions between the two governments the program stagnated, and was finally terminated in 1993. As a result, this study has a preliminary tone, as though the authors were laying the groundwork for a large development project from which a more comprehensive and in-depth analysis could emerge. Nevertheless, their book makes several important contributions to the study of contemporary pastoralists and to the reconceptualization of pastoral development.
One of the book's greatest strengths is its demonstration of a sophisticated analysis of human ecology, using a holistic approach that integrates findings from geology, botany, geography, and social anthropology. Thus, we get excellent, succinct information on the dynamics of soils, rainfall, vegetation, herding, agriculture, land tenure, kinship, world view, population, social stratification, political organization, urbanization, labor migration and the impact of the larger political economy. Much of this data and analysis is supplemented with useful tables, figures, and maps. The research team, under the intellectual leadership of Leif Manger, who authored four of the eight chapters and co-authored two more, makes clear that in the Red Sea Hills the adaptation process, as exemplified by the Hadendowa, is not a matter of maintaining some ideal equilibrium, but is rather a struggle to secure basic resources in an environment in which unpredictability and sometimes irreversible change is the norm.
Their case study is a useful addition to the analysis of the crisis in African pastoralism. Like research findings in other pastoral societies, these authors establish that environmental degradation is not the result of overstocking and overgrazing; rather, it is being generated in large part by deforestation to create open land for agriculture and to produce charcoal for the urban markets. Government sponsored agricultural schemes have closed off land that in previous generations was available for grazing, especially in times of drought and poor pasture. Indeed, deforestation contributes to increasing frequency of drought, reduction of herds, famine and the uncontrolled cutting of trees to produce charcoal for cash for food, i.e., a classic destructive ecological feed-back pattern.
Population growth, aided by immunization campaigns and famine relief, has necessitated the "sloughing off" of excess people, especially during severe droughts, causing more migration to burgeoning urban areas. Many people have become permanently impoverished, but some successful entrepreneurs have increased their wealth and political influence, creating new forms of social inequality. Women, who have become detached from their husbands because of labor migration, death, divorce or abandonment, must take up new roles to provide for their children, and the changing gender relations are especially challenging in a culture that is founded on maintaining male-dominated honor and avoiding shame. Manger makes the crucial point that pastoralists are not simply trying to manage physical resources, they are trying to maintain a way of life that has profound meaning for them personally and as collective groups.
The Hadendowa have been increasingly marginalized as political and economic elites continue to insist that the only course of development for pastoralists is sedentarization and farming. Failure to follow this course is characterized as resistance born of ignorance and stubbornness, the old shibboleth of "pastoral conservatism". In contrast to these stereotypes, Manger and his colleagues make a persuasive case that pastoral life requires a high degree of flexibility in adapting to ever-changing circumstances and frequent crises. Indeed, most Hadendowa make ends meet through a combination of pastoralism (if they have any livestock), farming (if they have access to land), wage labor, and sometimes small trade. Much of the trouble that Hadendowa have experienced in the last several decades has been the result of larger forces in the political economy of the Sudan which are completely outside of their control. The authors argue that planning for the future of these people and their area must concentrate on providing an "enabling environment" for pastoral life, drawing upon local knowledge and strengthening local institutions of social control and administration, especially in the protection of resources in "the commons". Unfortunately, the behavior of the government, the logical candidate for conducting and implementing such enlightened planning, does not inspire confidence, neither among these researchers nor among the Hadendowa. Turning the problems over to NGO's, which has been the government's de facto strategy, is not a viable long-term alternative. So, the book ends on an indecisive and rather discouraging note. Still, in spite of the unavoidable shortcomings of this project, the authors make a strong case for the research model and the planning ideas they advocate.
Development among Africa's Migratory Pastoralists
is an excellent complementary volume to Manger, et. al. The co-authors,
both veterinarians, the one Sudanese and the other American, have for
many years been extensively involved in efforts to improve the lives
of pastoral peoples in Africa, and their research is informed by the
depth of their field experience. Although their prose is measured and
plain, one can sense a passionate commitment to pastoral peoples and
a clear-eyed appreciation for their way of life. This underlying tone
is evident in the following summary statement: "our approach envisages
provision of realistic, high-priority services and amenities to pastoralists
at the literally "grass roots" where they normally live, efforts
which will help them live more securely in their accustomed manner."
Development policies and programs for African pastoralists must be infused with a strong component of knowledge gained from anthropological and veterinary epidemiological research, and Majok and Schwabe demonstrate in several chapters the relevance of such information. They also lament the inaccessibility of much of this work--many of their own sources are unpublished or in limited circulation. Thus, mistakes are repeated as the same faulty wheel is reinvented, and corrective information is not available or ignored.
What new and different insights would such information provide to those who are planning and implementing development programs for African pastoralists? First, the local circumstances of pastoralists are quite changeable and the margin for error is often quite narrow. Pastoralists have developed social and cultural practices that make it possible for them to adapt rapidly to changing fortunes; in other words, they know what they are doing and why, and thus, they are the first and best source of knowledge about how to be productive in their dynamic circumstances. Therefore, secondly, pastoralists at the local level must be involved at all stages in the planning and implementation of development programs. Thirdly, veterinary services have been the most successful in reaching mobile populations and have been well-received and valued by pastoralists. Therefore, veterinary services are the most viable vehicle upon which other necessary services and programs can be developed and delivered. Finally, this kind of planning and delivery requires intersectoral cooperation and coordination, a challenging proposition in the typical circumstances of competing ministries, donors, etc.
Majok and Schwabe's approach to development planning and implementation is a radical departure from existing practices, and is based on the pragmatic recognition of several major problems. Current development practices are simply making life more precarious for pastoralist peoples, and appear to be based on the assumption that pastoralism as a way of life and as a mode of production will and should disappear. Yet, central governments and their donor patrons do not have viable economic and social alternatives for pastoral areas or peoples. Since resources for pastoral development are and will continue to be severely limited, they must be mobilized and administered in the most efficient and effective manner. The authors devote four chapters to detailed description and analysis of the specific means available to implement the kinds of development programs they advocate. Their book should be required reading for the development elite, both Northern and African, who claim to be acting in the best interests of migratory pastoral peoples.
Michael D. Quam