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

01 Jan 2006

This study addresses federal legislation and policies and the local customary systems of natural resource management and tenure in Sudan, and seeks to highlight the implications of that interface for pastoral production systems. The exposition of local-level processes is pursued with particular reference to the rights of pastoralists in three major areas in Sudan—North Kordofan, North Darfur and the Sobat Basin in Southern Sudan. The results of the analysis recommend a framework for a medium- to long-term strategy for legislative and policy reform towards a more equitable and sustainable decentralized natural resource management system in Sudan. This study incorporates the findings and recommendations of three sub-studies conducted parallel to the study by the team leader. It does not reiterate the detailed empirical accounts presented in these three sub-studies, but instead uses the cases to substantiate processes general to pastoralism in Sudan as a whole, and seeks to expose and underline some of the major points of relevance for framing a requisite strategy for legislative and policy reform.


The first of the three parallel sub-studies is a desk review of federal legislation on land tenure and natural resource access in Sudan (Imad Bashir, 2003). The second (Farah Hassan Adam, 2003) is based on field research into customary resource tenure in the three project areas under government control (North Kordofan, North Darfur and Upper Nile states). The study commenced with a review of natural resource legislation since British colonial times.


A desk study was also undertaken to provide an overview of pastoral conditions, with particular emphasis on the implications of state legislation and policies for pastoral resource tenure. Both reviews were supplemented by interviews and discussions with various stakeholders (government officials, representatives of pastoralists and farmers and non-governmental organizations). Primary data were collected through field visits to the three UNDP project areas, where a one-week field research was carried out. Two of the field visits, to Upper Nile and North Darfur, were carried out simultaneously with five UNDP consultants comprising the respective teams of the three major UNDP studies: land tenure (Salah Shazali and Farah H. Adam); roots of conflict (Leif Manger and Mustafa Babiker) and nomadic routes (Ali Adam Tahir). Intensive consultations and discussions among the consultants have promoted deeper insights into the conditions of pastoralism that were being observed and analyzed.


The consultants worked as a team, dividing among themselves tasks pertaining to meetings, interviews and focus group discussions with various stakeholders: state ministers, state legislators, government officials, pastoralist unions, farmer unions and numerous representatives of the local communities of sedentary farmers and pastoralists.

In both Upper Nile and North Darfur, the UNDP partner is Oxfam GB. The meetings and intra-state field trips were efficiently coordinated by Oxfam staff, with whom intensive discussions were also held concerning their plans for future interventions under the UNDP Reduction of Resource-Based Conflict Project.

In North Darfur, the research team conducted field visits to the northern and western regions. The visits covered Mellit, Maddu, Malha, Kutum and Um Sayalla, where interviews and discussions were conducted with stakeholders: the Mellit Province executive commissioner, locality administrative officer and veterinary officers, representatives of farmers and pastoralists, as well as women’s organizations and members of the local communities. Security conditions impeded a visit to Kebkabiya, the area in which conflict between farmers and pastoralists is most accentuated.

The trip to North Kordofan was conducted three weeks after the visit by the other consultants. It was synchronized with a field visit by a team comprising the UNDP project manager, SOS-Sahel Sudan country coordinator and the UNDP project assistant. Rather than repeat the interviews and meetings of the other consultants, the strategy was to undertake daily visits to sites with emerging conflicts over natural resources and tenure rights.

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