Africa / Drought / Drylands / DRYLANDSCRP / Environment / Event / Pastoralism / SLS

Pastoral land rights discussed at the global land forum in Dakar, Senegal

 By Fiona Flintan, rangelands governance scientist, ILRI

The International Land Coalition’s biennial Global Land Forum (GLF) took place in Dakar, Senegal on 12-14 May 2015. Home to 3.2 million Fulani pastoralists (around 23% of the population), over 12 million heads of cattle, sheep and goats, and increasing land conflicts, Senegal was a particularly appropriate setting for discussing pastoral land rights.

Opened and welcomed by Pape Abdoulaye Seck, Senegal’s Minister for Agriculture and Joan Kagwanja, Chief of the Africa Union’s Land Policy Initiative, the forum brought together over 500 grassroots organizations, activists, local and international NGOs, researchers, multilateral organizations and government agencies from around the world.

Convened under the theme ‘Land governance for inclusive development, justice and sustainability: Time for action’, the forum provided opportunities to participants that may not commonly interact to debate, exchange and learn from each other’s experiences and successes, strategize and build linkages. This was certainly what the ILC Global Rangelands Initiative aimed to achieve in a session on ‘making rangelands more secure’. The Rangelands Initiative is coordinated and technically supported by Fiona Flintan, from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Ken Otieno from, RECONCILE, and supports ILC members to engage with each other and with government partners to improve the development and implementation of rangelands-focused land policy and legislation.

In the rangelands session, government representatives from the Rural Land Administration and Use Directorate-Ethiopia, the National Land Commission-Kenya and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development-Tanzania, shared experiences on processes that they are leading, with support from the Rangelands Initiative, which will contribute to stronger tenure security for local rangeland users. This includes the Sustainable Rangeland Management Project (SRMP) in Tanzania and woreda participatory land use planning in pastoral areas of Ethiopia.

Further sessions at the forum provided opportunities to learn about pastoralism from other parts of the world including Latin America, India and Mongolia. An inspiring keynote speech by Ikal Angelei, founder and director of Friends of Lake Turkana, urged participants to engage on critical issues such as the development of Kenya’s LAPSSET (Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport) corridor project, while Alhou Abey Bazou, Niger’s permanent secretary of the Rural Code, called for more mapping of pastoral lands and livestock routes as a key first step in securing them.

Pastoralist land rights

A pastoralist boy in Terrat Village, Tanzania. How best to secure rights to land and resources is key to the resilience of pastoral communities (photo credit: ILRI/Fiona Flintan)

A Rangelands Initiative working group meeting after the forum gave an opportunity for ILC members working on rangelands to plan next steps, which included making a formal agreement to work more closely with ILC’s arid lands platform in Latin America – Plataforma Semiáridos América Latinacoordinated by ILC member Fundapaz.

Learning and engagement did not stop with the formal sessions, with discussions going on long into the night after the meeting ended each day, including between the government representatives themselves, and between them and representatives from their parliaments who were also attending the meeting. An ‘ideas fair’ on the final day provided an opportunity to share some of the other work that the Rangelands Initiative and ILRI have been involved in, including the mapping of livestock routes in Tanzania and in some Kenyan counties.

In a context of increasing attention being paid to communal or ‘group’ rights at the global level, including within the Sustainable Development Goals, the GLF confirmed commitments to taking forward such issues and particularly for pastoralists. Of note was a commitment by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to continue supporting the securing of tenure rights of pastoralists through ILC and its partners, with Michael Mordasini, IFAD vice-president, commending the Sustainable Rangeland Management Project in Tanzania (as above) and Harold Liversage, land tenure advisor at IFAD, highlighting pastoral land issues as a key area of growing concern for IFAD.

However, it was clear from the meeting that pastoral issues are not yet taken seriously and there’s need to continue to push such issues to top levels of government, donors and other actors’ agendas. Also, the value of pastoralism as a productive land use is yet to be fully appreciated, and attention to protecting it including through secure land tenure system is lacking. The ILC Rangelands Initiative led by ILRI and RECONCILE will continue to focus on these issues with ILC members and government partners. As in the mantra of the 2015 Global Land Forum: It is time for action!

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