Saturday, December 23, 2006

Notes from the 17th Sahel Workshop, Grève, Denmark, 6th-7th November 2006

The following are notes that were taken in attending the conference a month ago. People were confused as to why an American, let along someone from West Virginia University was in attendance. I imagine they do not have that many people from the USA coming to Denmark in the middle of winter, let alone studying West Africa issues.

Suggestions for development strategies and Identification of Research Priorities in the Sahel

Will pastoral legislation disenfranchise pastoralists in the Sahel? Recently, many laws have been passed in West African countries. For example, Principes d’Orientations du Code Rural in Niger (1993); Code Pastoral in Guinea (1995); Code Pastoral in Mauritania (2000); Charte Pastorale in Mali (2001); Loi d’Orientation Relative au Pastoralisme in Burkina Faso (2002); and once again in Niger, Loi Pastorale (in Progress). These laws have not been completely defined or placed into practice, partially because of lack of funding and also from conflicts they have with other laws in these countries regarding water and land codes. It was suggested as the conference that local conventions and meetings to decide local resource management should take place but of course, these involves more resource and there are likely to be winners and losers depending on those who are in attendance and those who are not.

Which type of pastoralism should receive support, nomadic activity, transhumance or ranching? Some in attendance made the powerful argument that ranching should be supported and is the developing trend in West Africa as it aids in the food security of a growing population. Others, recognizing the importance of pastoralism as a livelihood system and a practical method of exploiting resources in arid and semi-arid regions did not agree. In either case, there are often conflicts in what is the domaine collectif (common property) and other types of property systems such as private and customary.

What importance do market systems have in identifying problems among the poor, women and pastoral groups? How markets work in Africa is still underrepresented in literature on West Africa. Literature that has addressed market issues often looks at problems among the poor, women and pastoral groups. Problems should be identified and studied but equal attention should be taken in identifying and understanding what is working in regards to market systems. If there is work done to understand the achievements in market systems then there are solutions that can be offered by policy makers and academics in the field of West African development.

What trends in research should be taken? What linkages exist between the urban and rural areas certainly needs more clarification, especially since there is a growing trend of political decentralization but growing centralization in national economies and societies. Capitals are making efforts to place more development decisions in the hands of local administrations but more people are moving to the capitals and goods and services follow to supply demand. Understanding all linkages from the local to the international can assist in policies taken to manage development projects, economies and demographic issues.