The Impact of Land-use change on the Livelihoods of Rural Communities: A case-study in Edd Al-Fursan Locality, South Darfur, Sudan

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Natural Science
Title The Impact of Land-use change on the Livelihoods of Rural Communities: A case-study in Edd Al-Fursan Locality, South Darfur, Sudan
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
The world’s drylands cover about 5.2 billion hectares (one-third of the land area of the globe,
UNEP, 1992). Roughly one-fifth of the world population lives in these areas, and about 40
percent inhabits degraded lands (UN & IFAD, 2000). Drylands are areas characterized by
land degradation and are directly linked to both climate variation and unsustainable human
activities, such as overgrazing, deforestation, and poor agricultural management practices
(Murray, et al, 1999). However, pastoralism, with widespread and highly mobile, subsistence
food production primarily from smallholding rainfed systems for subsistence or local
consumption and markets and natural woodlands for fuelwood, are predominant land uses in
dry lands (FAO, 2004).
With regard to land-use practices in Sub-Saharan African drylands, rainfed agriculture
dominates the region and supports various rural livelihoods (FAO, 2004). It is characterized
by low crop yields, which results from scarce and unreliable rainfall amounts that combine
with extensive agriculture and results in the overexploitation of forests, woodlands and
rangelands (FAO, 2004). As such, poverty and hunger are predominant, as more than 50
percent of Africa’s poorest people are concentrated on “low potential” lands that are prone to
degradation (Holtz, 2008).
Sudan, as a Sahelian country, was subjected to severe episodes of drought in recent decades,
particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, and this resulted in the deterioration of natural
resources due to intensive cultivation and overgrazing (Ali et al., 2008). Accordingly, people
faced famines and large numbers of animals were lost as a result of shortage of fodder and
water. On the other hand, the continuous aridity in the region, which combined with water
shortage and low vegetation cover, intensified the process of desertification (Leroy, 2009). 2
The process was further exacerbated by human activities; farmers responded to the changing
environment with the continual expansion of cultivation into marginal and fragile areas as a
means to adapt to declining yields and resorted to the generation of income from the sale of
tree crops to overcome their shortage of income (Teklu, Braun & Zaki, 1991).
The Darfur region is a territory in Western Sudan that lies in the Sahel region, and is
characterized by vulnerability in livelihood, suffers from environmental degradation,
population growth, conflicts, climate change, dependence on natural resources and lacks
opportunities for diversification. Due to these challenges, as the population increases the
frequency of droughts are also growing (Bromwich, 2008). Agriculture and livestock, which
comprise the main productive sectors in the Dafur region, are frequently affected by drought.
Repeated droughts have contributed to the depletion of natural resources and the
impoverishment of people in this region (Young et al., 2005). Furthermore, the erosion of
soils and the depletion of productive land in Darfur, as the result of desertification over the
past several decades, led to mass population movement southward in search of better
conditions for pasture and farming. The ability of local people to adapt to the new situations
and the subsequent questions of land use and resource sharing continue to threaten peaceful
coexistence in the area and the social cohesion of the entire community (King & Osman,
Young et al. (2005) reveal that rainfall also plays a major role in the degradation of natural
resources. Rainfall statistics show that (overall) rainfall in the region has declined, which
results in a shorter and unreliable rainy season. Since 1986, farmers and herders have both
recognized that ecological deterioration was emerging as a result of declining rainfall, which
forced them to apply land-use practices that were not sustainable. These included cutting
down trees and over-cultivating fragile lands, leading to deforestation and desertification,
when stable Goz degenerates are transported by windblown sand and induce declining yields.
Over-grazing has also contributed to the degradation of the pasture.
The primary human activities practiced in South Darfur State are traditional rainfed-shifting
system of cultivation and livestock rearing. Livestock play an important role in Southern 3
Darfur by providing capital, food production, status, animal traction, and manure (Tahir &
Siddig, 2009). However, over the course of the last decades, increased numbers of both
human and animal populations migrated into this area. This may have resulted from
environmental factors, or may also be the result of conflicts and war in the Greater Darfur
Region (Abusuwar & Yahia, 2009). The mass movement of herders with their animals has
affected the rangelands in Southern Darfur. Therefore, as the result of population growth,
unsustainable land practices have emerged, which resulted in the major loss of forests, and is
considered to be the main cause of deforestation in the region (UNEP, 2008).
Abdella (2004) illustrates that a quick regeneration of the natural ecosystem following
persistent human impact is difficult. Dynamic processes involved in the removal of topsoil,
which is caused by overcultivation and overgrazing, reactivated the consolidated sand dunes
and resulted in a decreased crop production. Accordingly, poverty and food insecurity have

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