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Deserts: herdsmen need appropriate information

29.08.2006
Animal farming in the Sahel has often been associated with desertification and rangeland degradation. The resulting attempts at sedentarization have in turn led to substantial natural resource degradation and social disruption, and have proved economically non-viable.

Pastoralism has now emerged as the main way of using natural resources sustainably in arid zones. However, it faces numerous obstacles linked to climatic variations, growing competition for access to resources, and the economic issues relating to production.

In relation to the desertification process in particular, farmers and politicians lack biophysical and socioeconomic information on the dynamics and viability of such production systems: mobility of people and animals, specific pastoral vulnerability criteria such as diversification of activities, social integration, water availability for cattle, market prices, etc. CIRAD, as part of its work within the International Research Unit on Pastoralism and with partners in the Sahel, is currently developing a system to fill in those gaps.

The first SIPSA model (information system for pastoralism in the Sahel) has been tested in Senegal. Unlike the systems that existed previously, it includes all the players involved, rather than a single institution. Moreover, the information it relays, such as the state of the water resource and market prices, can be used on a local and also an international scale. It is disseminated by means tailored to the users - written, maps, radio, farmer networks, etc - and at very low cost. The system also makes it possible, depending on user requirements, to disseminate information selectively. For instance, this could mean informing animal farmers of pasture availability, but only in the event of a bad year.

In 2006, the model is being adapted to other partner countries, thanks to national networks of concerned players, coordinated by Aghrymet. The tool, coupled with other information systems (cereals, food security), should help pastoral development players manage crises more efficiently in the short term, fight deseretification and contribute to sustainable development of pastoralism in the Sahel. The programme is due to run until 2009-2010.

Helen Burford | alfa
Further information:
http://www.cirad.fr/en/actualite/communique.php?id=494

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