Nomads' Settlement in Sudan: Experiances, Lessons and Future Action

01 Jan 2006

Competition over natural resources, especially land, has become an issue of major concern and cause of conflict among the pastoral and farming populations of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Sudan, where pastoralists still constitute more than 20 percent of the population, is no exception. Raids and skirmishes among pastoral communities in rural Sudan have escalated over the recent years. They have degenerated into a full-blown war in Darfur that might have been contained if the root-causes of the conflict rather than its symptoms were understood and addressed in a timely manner. Understanding the changes pastoralism in Sudan has been undergoing over the past two decades and the traditional modus operandi of conflict resolution and reconciliation among the pastoral communities is the starting point of any conflict resolution effort.

In fact, pastoralism in Sudan is a traditional way of life. It is a product of climatic and environmental factors that has become a form of natural resource use and management. Pastoralism comprises a variety of movements ranging from pure nomadism characterized by year-around camel breeding and long-distance migration, to seasonal movements over shorter distances in combination with some form of agricultural activities. Historically, there has long been tension along pastoral corridors over land and grazing rights between nomads and farmers. But recently, some parts of the country have been caught in a complex tangle of severe droughts and dwindling resources. Disputes flare up between farmers and pastoralists as a result of migrating camel and livestock herders in search of water and pasture for their animals during the dry season who would sometimes graze on farmers' lands and use their water points. Tribal leaders sometimes settled disputes over lost crops, land, and access to water and pastoralists’ routes. Combined with weakened local governance and the lack of institutionalized mechanisms for land and water rights and usage, all these factors have been leading to widespread seasonal tensions between pastoralists and farmers on one hand and between traditional farmers and owners of big mechanized farms on the other.


To help address the root-causes of these tensions the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the United Nations Development Programme launched in 2004 The Reduction of Resource Based Conflicts Project with the support of the Government of Norway in the preparatory phase (2002-2003). Targeting the drought-prone areas the four-year initiative used to be carried out in North Darfur. But the conflict between farmers and nomads that had started over natural resources escalated into a full-scale war forcing the Project to suspend its activities in Darfur. It has since focused on three states: North and South Kordofan, Upper Nile and Sobat Basin.


The Project operates at the national, local and community level. In addition to supporting the local authorities in establishing institutionalized systems for improved natural resource management, and empowering pastoralists, the project has been promoting legal and policy reforms for land access and usage with the participation of all stakeholders.


Under this project, UNDP and development partners commissioned experts to research case studies covering the identified areas of conflict in rural Sudan. In this context, access to land, water and other productive resources have been identified as major factors in aggravating conflicts and in marginalizing many rural populations.

The research undertaken under the project’s guidance led to the following series of publications:

1. Nomads’ Settlement in Sudan: Experiences, Lessons and Future Action.

2. Pastoral Production Systems in South Kordofan.

3. Share the Land or Part the Nation: The Pastoral Land Tenure System in Sudan.


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