Securing agro-sylvo-pastoral commons in the Senegal River Valley: Workshop in Thies, Senegal

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Securing pastoral land is a significant challenge for achieving sustainable and resilient pastoralism in Senegal. To address this challenge, a two-day workshop was held in Thies, Senegal that brought together experts, researchers and stakeholders engaged in projects related to agrosylvo-pastoral areas, where these three modes of land use are combined. Thies is in one of Senegal’s six ecogeographical regions dedicated to pastoral breeding. The area is over 600,000 km2 comprised of flora and fauna reserves and classified forests. The central focus of the workshop was on integrating agrosylvo-pastoral commons into land tenure security approaches in this pastoral area.  

As part of the CGIAR Research Initiative on Livestock and Climate Work Package 3, to improve the management, governance and restoration of 400,000 hectares of land, Baba Ba, ILRI Post-Doctoral Fellow, attended the two-day workshop. Taking place from 10-11 October 2023, the workshop included experts from projects addressing land tenure security in Senegal. NGO managers working with pastoral communities, such as Patrick D’Aquino who works on securing pastoral land tenure, and researchers specializing in pastoralism, such as Atoumane Kane, who is an expert in this realm. The workshop aimed to explore how collective spaces and shared resources, known as commons, can be considered within strategies and tools used to secure land tenure in Senegal. It also sought to understand how this legal provision could impact the governance of commons in a fragile sylvopastoral context. 


Participants at the workshop on governing the agro-sylvo-pastoral commons (Photo: ILRI/Baba Ba).
Participants at the workshop on governing the agro-sylvo-pastoral commons (Photo: B.Ba/ILRI).

Discussions began with a presentation of films and interviews showcasing recent experiments in the Senegal River Valley and the Ferlo region related to agricultural and pastoral commons. These presentations primarily revolved around defining and understanding the commons terms (involving agricultural, sylvo-pastoral and fisheries) in a Sahelian context. The discussion allowed facilitation of a standardized definition of commons which was defined by the group as resources shared by communities, encompassing natural and artificial resources crucial to community livelihoods, including pastures, forest, ponds, boreholes and infrastructure.  

Additionally, the workshop highlighted key characteristics of agro-sylvo-pastoral commons:  

  • Multifunctional use: Commons serve many purposes including agriculture, livestock rearing, firewood collection, non-timber forest product harvesting, and meeting the community’s food economic and energy needs.  
  • Community management: Commons are subject to collective management systems with locally defined rules and standards, passed down through generations. This community management is vital to ensure the sustainability of the commons. 
  • Resilience to climate change: Agro-sylvo-pastoral commons play a critical role in enhancing community resilience in the face of climate variations. 
  • Pressures and challenges: Commons face various pressures, including deforestation, resource overexploitation, competition for land access and climate-related environmental changes.  
  • Legislation and policies: While state and local authorities have introduced policies and laws to regulate the use and management of commons, reconciling traditional community management systems with modern rights can be challenging. 

The workshop emphasized the vital importance of securing  agrosylvo-pastoral commons in the Senegal River valley to ensure the sustainability of agro-pastoral activities and as an adaptation to climate change. Nonetheless, commons face substantial challenges related to resource pressures and the need to strike balance between traditional practices and modern legislation. As Ba describes, ‘The workshop provided a platform to exchange insights regarding various land tenure situations in the Sahel region, with a specific focus on Senegal. It also aimed to assess the existing legal framework governing pastoral land tenure, including legislation, laws, and regulations, to identify their shortcomings and advantages. The goal was to determine how these findings could facilitate the establishment of inclusive and sustainable governance models for agrosylvo-pastoral resources.’ One such model is the Livestock and Climate Initiative innovation participatory rangeland management, which has significant potential for piloting in Senegal.  

Header Image: A herd of cattle beside a waterhole in the Senegal river valley, north of Senegal. Photo by B. Ba/ILRI.

Story by Baba Ba and Madison Spinelli

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