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Natural resources management: Local perspectives from North and Central Darfur

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By Hassan-Alattar Satti with Hussein Sulieman, Helen Young, and Anne Radday

Executive Summary

The importance of natural resources in Darfur is derived from the fact that the predominant rural livelihoods of the region depend primarily on those resources. Land is of particular importance, but other landed resources like water, forests, and rangelands are also significant. The condition of those resources and their contribution to rural livelihoods is influenced by various environmental, demographic, and governance factors.

Indeed, the differences in seasonality of production and availability of natural resources in Central and North Darfur are reflections of environmental variability across the region. Variation in rainfalls influences the choices of crops produced in Central and North Darfur as well as the type and density of vegetation cover. Rainfall variation also influences the seasonality of livestock mobility. Despite the fact that annual average rainfall is higher in Central Darfur than in North Darfur, Central Darfur State must be considered a state that is poor in water resources as its soil is dominated by the basement complex aquifers. Thus, any generalization about the state of natural resources within the state or amongst states is misleading. This report reflects on discussions with a wide range of stakeholders and communities that took place throughout 2019 in North and Central Darfur states. The aim of those discussions was to investigate major issues in natural resources management in North and Central Darfur. Additionally, we consulted different stakeholders about gaps in knowledge and research on natural resources management that could be filled with Taadoud II operational research (OR) activities. The ultimate goal is to ensure proper research uptake that engages with all Taadoud stakeholders. The following are the key areas investigated in our field trips.

Governance of natural resources

In North and Central Darfur, governance of natural resources in a sustainable and equitable way is challenged by different factors. Demographic shifts in population growth, displacement, and urbanization have increased demand for land and landed resources. Commercialization of natural resources and production has resulted in considerable shifts in land use and intensified natural resources degradation. These shifts are taking place within an institutional context characterized by overlapping institutions for accessing land that has resulted in the evolution of multiple-rights system and has hindered the overlapping rights that farmers and pastoralists used to enjoy over land. The multiple-rights system is underpinned by government land registration, although at local level people are inclined to rely more on customary arrangements of the Native Administration for protecting their rights. Indeed, the Native Administration continues to play its role in facilitating access to natural resources and in mitigating conflicts around them through structures like ajawid. Enforcing laws related to natural resources management (NRM) has been raised as a major issue, particularly in forest and rangeland conservation as well as organizing access to water.

Availability of natural resources

Stakeholders in North and Central Darfur indicated that availability of different natural resources is influenced by many factors. Livestock and human population growth, and urbanization have an impact on availability of natural resources. Of particular concern for many actors is the expansion of croplands, as it is seen as a major driver of deforestation and rangeland degradation, which has intensified competition and disputes between farmers and pastoralists. Growth of the timber trade as a result of urbanization has further exacerbated deforestation in North and Central Darfur. Availability of water is different for different users, and little attention is paid by different actors to promoting access to water for pastoralists. Limited access to water for pastoralists with the progress of the dry season contributes to disputes between farmers and pastoralists.

Government interventions and gaps

Lack of financial and institutional resources for local government departments is an obstacle that all the key informants, particularly those from government departments, raised during the Darfur trip and in Khartoum. Different NRM-related departments interviewed in Central and North Darfur have plans for projects and interventions, but the lack of resources prevents operationalizing those plans and projects into actions. In some cases, projects were not completed due to cuts in funding. Positive legal and policy development have not resulted in more engagement from government in improving access to natural resources. Even when government departments implement national project and interventions, there is very little cross-sectoral coordination between the departments leading different sectors. The lack of coordination has very negative implications on governance of natural resources, including very low impact of projects, conflicting interventions, and competitive relationships between different government institutions. As an example, the link between water development and other natural resources within the water sector is missing, which means there is a lack of consideration for the high impact that water development intervention can make on the overall natural resources base. A systems management approach that recognizes the interconnectivity and interdependence between natural resources requires more efforts to establish links and relationships between different government departments at different levels and across different sectors.

Competition and disputes over natural resources

Despite the long history of conflict in the region, there are many examples of cooperation and peaceful resolution of disputes in Taadoud areas that were visited as part of the consultative process. Sharing water resources between neighboring communities and between farmers and pastoralists was mentioned in different villages of North and Central Darfur. In addition, there are examples of disputes resulting from animals trespassing into farms and blocked migratory routes that were resolved peacefully. However, the relationship between different users is still shaped by competition and different expectations of how natural resources must be shared. Different communities show different capacities in conflict resolution. Some communities are able to manage disputes locally, while others require external support to resolve those disputes. Different disputes over natural resources take place in different seasons.