Article / Drylands / Pastoralism / Rangelands / Research / SLS

Beyond secure tenure: New paper explores other fundamentals of effective landscape-level governance in pastoral systems

A study of landscape level community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) initiatives  in pastoralist rangelands has suggested that interventions aimed at individual communities or landscapes tend not to work very well in mobile pastoral systems. What options exist to address this and foster effective landscape-level governance of pastoral rangelands?

A recent study by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners has identified that the principles of adaptive co-management provides guidance for the design of effective landscape-level governance in dryland pastoral settings. The newly published article draws attention to the cross-scale and cross-level interactions in rangelands and how these affect governance of the landscapes.

In pastoral ecosystems where the producers face numerous and complex challenges, effective landscape is about much more than secure tenure.  Action involving negotiation, planning and communication is needed at various levels, including community, national and regional.

Communal pastures are very different from communal forests

Landscape approaches and CBNRM are perhaps most developed in forest settings.  But arid and semi-arid rangelands have very different characteristics.  Governance systems and models of community organization that work in forest settings often face challenges in rangeland areas relating to ‘relationships beyond the landscape, both vertically to higher levels of decision-making and horizontally in relation to communities normally residing in other landscapes’.

In strengthening communal land tenure, it is usually assumed that each community will self-manage, but given the unique features of pastoral landscapes, ‘effective governance of rangelands cannot simply be a larger replication of local level commons’ reads the paper.  In dry rangeland areas the fostering of effective governance needs more fluidity.  Even though institutions may exist for managing resources in a particular landscape, the communities beyond/outside this landscape may not feel bound by the same rules and or obliged to follow locally developed regulations such as seasonal grazing patterns.

The paper emphasizes that the relationship of the landscape to the broader social-ecological systems is critically important. The paper, based on a review of three cases where non-governmental organizations attempted to foster effective landscape governance, concludes that ‘effective landscape governance must consider the multiple levels of institutions that exist in the landscape and in relation to the connections across scales and levels beyond a particular landscape’.

Landscapes are not islands

The authors maintain that in rangeland governance, a variety of tools need to be applied at a variety of levels: A single tool will not fit within a broader socioecological system because communities and ecosystems do not exist in a vacuum.

The nature of the physical environment plays a pivotal role in the types of institutions and governance models that will work in different pastoralist systems. For example, rainfall and forage variability influences mobility and in turn dictates the livelihood strategies employed in different systems. As a result, in traditional pastoralist systems boundaries conceptualized between territories are often fuzzy and fluid, underpinned by an ethic which factors access over clearly defined ownership rights.

Lance Robinson, an ILRI rangelands governance scientist and the lead author in the article, emphasizes that successful governance of natural resources in rangelands largely depends on a mix of approaches that involve not only secure tenure but also deliberation and negotiation, land use planning, and recognition that rights to rangeland resources do not need to be allocated on an all-or-nothing basis. Robinson articulates that traditional approaches to governance tended to work because they were flexible and based more on negotiation and less on boundaries. As such, an adaptive co-management governance system that mimics certain aspects of traditional governance systems will provide the critical ingredient in governance design in dryland pastoralist settings.

Read the article in Environmental Management: ‘Transcending Landscapes: Working Across Scales and Levels in Pastoralist Rangeland Governance’ by Lance W. Robinson, Enoch Ontiri, Tsegaye Alemu and Stephen S. Moiko.



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