Increasing demographic pressure in Sahel countries is pushing agro-pastoralists to nibble at pastoral land for agricultural purposes. This greatly limits the availability of grazing land for livestock. Combined with the effects of climate change – a lack of water and pasture land – this has livestock keepers travel long distances in search of pasture so their herds can survive. These journeys are not without consequences because they lead to often deadly conflicts between farmers and livestock keepers.
With a view to improving transhumance in the Sahel and with financing of the Wehubit programme of the Belgian development agency Enabel, Belgium’s Vétérinaires Sans Frontières and Spain’s Action against Hunger implement the SIT Sahel LAFIA project in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, reaching almost 500,000 pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. Through new information and communication technologies, including community radios and an interactive voice server* (find out more on the interactive voice server in the earlier story of VSF), the project aims to improve livestock keepers' access to pasture land, establish transhumance corridors, search for water and pasture land for livestock, and avoid possible obstacles and disease sources. In addition, pastoral data collected by the system provide insights into the pastoral situation in real time, allowing anticipating potential pastoral crises.
Alto's challenges with transhumance
What is your leadership role?
As a representative of the head of my village, I collect the demands of livestock keepers, which we submit to the local authorities through the National Federation of Livestock Keepers of Niger, with a view to jointly manage pastoral land and facilities. Thus, through the Federation, we promote livestock breeding in general and defend the interests of livestock keepers in particular.
Which difficulties do livestock keepers of your region encounter?
The difficulties are mainly related to the lack of information on the availability of water and pasture land, the grabbing of pastoral land, especially on the range and transhumance corridors, for agricultural purposes; and the growing armed insecurity in the sub-region.
What do you think of the solution proposed by the SIT Sahel Lafia project?
In the past, it was necessary to send out a scout on a camel to travel a distance of twenty to thirty kilometres to inquire about the pastoral and security situation along the routes, before being able to set out on a transhumance. Thanks to the project, our access to pastoral information has improved. We no longer need to send out scouts or walk long distances and return. All we have to do is call the number provided by the project and listen to the radio to get the pastoral information (availability of pasture land, water, safety, etc.). This information contributes to peaceful transhumance.
Boubacar's role in the SIT-SAHEL project
As a decentralised technical service agent, Mr Boubacar provides animal health care and breeding advice to livestock keepers. He is therefore responsible for disseminating certain livestock breeding techniques and practices with a view to optimising animal production. He also plays an important role in monitoring epidemics** in the Commune.
What is your role in the SIT-SAHEL project?
My role is to collect data on the pastoral situation of the Commune of Sambéra. The collection of data is done first-hand in the field but also through additional information collected from livestock keepers. Indeed, every ten days, I crisscross the pastoral region of ‘Karadjé’ to make surveys on the situation of pasture land and water. Also, I talk to the livestock keepers in the region to get their impressions on the situation of the grazing land and to collect problems encountered such as cases of animal epidemics and bushfires. As for market information, data collection takes place every Wednesday, which is the local market day. At this level too, I talk to the buyers, sellers and intermediaries on the market to collect data on the prices charged.
Pastoral information collected in the field is linked to: (i) bush and grass growth, from germination to the final stage; (ii) prices of animals and cereals in markets, in particular millet and maize; (iii) the terms of trade to determine whether the cattle-grain exchange is in favour or against the livestock keeper; (iv) the filling/availability of water from ponds and the tide of the Niger River; (v) cases of bushfires, banditry or cattle theft.
Data collection is done every ten days with smartphones received via the project (including communication credits to carry out the mission we have been investing in). Data are collected through the Kobocollect application and sent for processing to the server (OdkAggregate) at the Pastoral Development Directorate at the Ministry of Livestock. This state service, in collaboration with project workers, provides pastoral information bulletins and newsletters for decision-making.
What change has the use of the phone brought to your work?
The use of ICT in data collection has improved my communication with the Regional and Livestock Directorate as well as with partners in Niamey. Indeed, the transmission of data in paper format is difficult for me in the sense that in Ouna you have to take advantage of the weekly market day to be able to send data to Dosso with available means of transportation. Now, thanks to the phone, data are transmitted instantaneously and without any problems.