Nomadism and desertification in Africa and the Middle East

Johnson, D.L. GeoJournal (1993) 31: 51. doi:10.1007/BF00815903

Author: Johnson Douglas L. 

Abstract

Desertification in areas where traditional pastoral nomadism was common is a phenomenon of this century. Nomads possessed institutions and management practices that avoided excess concentrations of people and animals, rotated grazing pressure seasonally between major pasture zones, protected dry season resources that were critical to their survival, and limited access to pastoral resources. These systems of management and control have broken down and degradation of pastoral lands has been the result. The pressures promoting desertification include agricultural expansion into pastoral zones, the loss of critical dry season pasture, sedentarization of former nomads, the impacts of war and civil conflict, nationalization of pastoral resources, the collapse of traditional common property resource management systems, and social change and economic intensification. These processes have concentrated pastoral pressures into more limited spaces and increased the stress placed on natural resources to the point where land degradation takes place. These adverse changes can be avoided and desertification arrested if principles of proper management are applied. By planning holistically, using the ethnoscientific wisdom of nomadic pastoralists as a basis for development, protecting zones critical to the survival of pastoralists, retaining mobility and flexibility in contemporary pastoral systems, and strengthening common property systems developed by nomadic pastoralists, land degradation in dryland rangelands can be halted.

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