Rangeland systems in developing nations: conceptual advances and societal implications
Coppock, D. Layne
Fernández Giménez, María
Arredondo Moreno, José Tulio
"Developing-country rangelands are vast and diverse. They are home to millions who are often poor, politically marginalized, and dependent on livestock for survival. Here we summarize our experiences from six case-study sites in sub-Saharan Africa, central Asia, and Latin America generally covering the past 25 years. We examine issues pertaining to population, natural resource management, climate, land use, livestock marketing, social conflict, and pastoral livelihoods. The six study sites differ with respect to human and livestock population dynamics and the resulting pressures on natural resources. Environmental degradation, however, has been commonly observed. Climate change is also having diverse systemic effects often related to increasing aridity. As rangelands become more economically developed pastoral livelihoods may diversify, food security can improve, and commercial livestock production expands, but wealth stratification widens. Some significant upgrades in rural infrastructure and public service delivery have occurred; telecommunications are markedly improved overall due to widespread adoption of mobile phones. Pressures from grazing, farming, mining, and other land uses-combined with drought-can ignite local conflicts over resources, although the intensity and scope of conflicts markedly varies across our case-study sites. Pastoralists and their herds have become more sedentary overall due to many factors, and this can undermine traditional risk-management tactics based on mobility. Remote rangelands still offer safe havens for insurgents, warlords, and criminals especially in countries where policing remains weak; the resulting civil strife can undermine commerce and public safety. There has been tremendous growth in knowledge concerning developing-country rangelands since 1990, but this has not often translated into improved environmental stewardship or an enhanced wellbeing for rangeland dwellers. Some examples of demonstrable impact are described, and these typically have involved longer-term investments in capacity building for pastoralists, local professionals, and other stakeholders. Research is shifting from ecologically centered to more human-centered issues; traditional academic approaches are often being augmented with participatory, community-based engagement. Building human or social capital in ways that are integrated with improved natural resource stewardship offers the greatest returns on research investment. Our future research and outreach priorities include work that fortifies pastoral governance, enhances livelihoods for a diverse array of rangeland residents, and improves land and livestock management in a comprehensive social-ecological systems approach."