A Short History of the West African Pilot Pastoral Program 1993 - 2002

As Sahelian grasslands of West Africa dry and burn and their rain-filled pools yield to dust in the dry months, the ribs of cattle begin to show. Prices fall up country, and merchants cull the markets for animals still fit enough to survive a final journey to the cities of the coast. And in tents and thatched villages across a 3,000 mile slice of Africa people of every caste and ethnicity eye the desiccating landscape and gauge the days left until their own animals must move or starve . . . or until someone else's starving animals move into their lands.

Every year a number of people die, or kill, over stock or land or even gestures challenging their right to either or both.

Thus, in central Tchad, on December 15, 1994, a committeeman from the village of Fadjé took pains to keep his words polite as he explained to a herder leaning on a barbed javelin that the 500 cattle grazing in background were violating the World Bank's West African Pilot Pastoral Perimeter but would be welcome another mile further on.

The herder stood his ground. He said neither the World Bank nor Pilot Perimeters meant aught to him, but his boss, a merchant lord who was sending these animals to Nigeria, had said to tell anyone who mentioned violations to get lost.

For what happened next, both the morning after and during the years the West African Pilot Pastoral Program (WAPPP) had to run, we note this incident as the opening scene in a drama wherein an elegant and revolutionary idea first encounters reality on the ground, and . . . .

A little over seven years later, in February of 2002, WAPPP wound up its work in a conference in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadogou. During five days of reflection and synthesis 32 delegates from seven Sahelian countries sorted through their experiences in a project originally cobbled together out of pieces of existing programs to introduce the Bank and West Africa to a new approach to reversing desertification. The conference report claims success. Henceforth task managers at the World Bank need talk no more of pilots. They can incorporate the ideas WAPPP tested into mainstream proposals. In doing so, they may profit from its triumphs, its lessons, and its failures.

The roots of the Pilot Pastoral Program go back to 1993 and a Bank task manager named John Hall, who retired from the Sahel Agriculture Division in 1997. He initially set out to test, in a Sahelian context, a management model developed by the Zimbabwe-born wildlife biologist Allan Savory, which Savory has since patented under the name Holistic Management. Hall, however, had the further ambition of seeing certain new trends in development policy applied in pastoral areas, namely decentralized governance, participatory project design and management, and new non-formal education techniques for non-literate people.

Over the last few decades, the World Bank, national development agencies and major NGO's have steadily reduced support of livestock programs in general, because so many have failed and the sector itself is fraught with conflict and instability. The clientele is often on the move, hard to reach, and frequently underrepresented in the national governments asking for aid. On the other hand, common wisdom holds that livestock plays the heavy role in desertification from the Asian steppes to the headwaters of the great Chinese rivers as well as throughout big chunks of India, Pakistan, Australia, the western United States, the Middle East, and Africa, including a swath of treacherous isohyets just south of the Great Sahara—the Sahel. In these places where so much land cannot or should not be farmed human survival depends on animals, though in fact no stable agricultural system has ever existed anywhere without them.

Holistic Management

The Holistic Management Model results from the reverse engineering of a particular scientific theory about the ecology of semi-arid grasslands that wildlife biologist Allan Savory synthesized from his own observations, published research, and practical experiment. He credits the revolutionary insight that overgrazing is a function of time management and animal behavior, not herd size, to the French scholar of pastures, André Voisin. Savory himself grew up in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He sought to explain why the "unmanaged" grassland he knew from his youth supported enormous herds of wild ungulates and recovered from even severe droughts without loss of biodiversity while land grazed by domestic stock under human management degraded rapidly. Eventually, he found four keys to unlock the riddle.

  1. The health of "brittle" environments, characterized by low humidity, a prolonged dry season, and erratic precipitation, depends on animals to recycle the carbon sequestered in plants. In brittle environments, rest leads to stagnation of the plant community and loss of soil cover and fertility.
  2. Large ungulates, wild or domestic, are the most efficient recyclers of plant material, both through trampling and digestion, and are thus NECESSARY to maintaining diversity, productivity, and stability in brittle areas.
  3. Overgrazing and overtrampling are principally functions of time, not numbers. Dense herds of great size that move frequently and allow plants to recover before regrazing them recycle nutrients without weakening plants. Even single animals that do not move overgraze the most palatable plants in the areas where they linger.
  4. On the enormous unfenced ranges of pre-colonial Africa (and similar brittle environments elsewhere), pack-hunting predators assured beneficial herd behavior, and nomadic herders generally developed similar patterns that have undoubtedly slowed the desertification process. Limited lands, however, demand management that is "holistic" to the extent that it responds to ever-shifting conditions of weather, economics, culture, and environmental conditions.

Savory figured that the conjunction of these principles would bring a new dawn to livestock production, game management, and most efforts to reverse desertification in areas impacted by livestock. Sheep, goats, cattle and horses would become instruments of restoration. Reducing livestock numbers, a policy no herding society has ever accepted, would fade as a policy imperative. The economic potential of long-lost grassland would salvage the balance sheet where irrigation, fertilizer, and supplementary feed had failed.

The documented success of individual managers over the past 30 years leaves no doubt that Savory had got something right, though the revolution is taking its time.

Anthropologists meanwhile followed a parallel path to similar conclusions. In 1991, British-based scholars Ian Scoones and Roy Behnke published Rethinking Range Ecology: Implications for rangeland management in Africa. In this seminal paper, itself a synthesis of their own and other's work, they argued the genius of traditional nomadic societies in managing land and animals for maximum efficiency. They debunked the stereotype that traditional people acquire large herds for prestige only and attacked a brace of standard development strategies such as veterinary programs, fencing, water development, genetic improvement, confined feeding, sedentarization, and matching stocking rate to "carrying capacity." This concept they declared irrelevant in environments where conditions fluctuate and herds move so dramatically.

Their findings rested on a decade of research issuing from the same institutions which did the original development of Rapid Rural Appraisal techniques -- the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, the Institute of Developmental Studies at the University of Sussex, and the British Government's Overseas Development Institute. A stream of studies in the same vein gave academic support to recent policy initiatives to establish (re-establish) transient grazing rights in the brittle environments of Africa (Behnke 1991, 1993).

Behnke and his wife and colleague Carol Kerven published similar findings from an extensive study of Central Asia following the Soviet collapse (Kerven 1998).

They also concluded that productive, environmentally sound, husbandry of brittle lands depends on large, moving, herds and the enormous flexibility of herding societies, including their willingness to take up other professions in time of drought.

This refrain of extreme flexibility, common to both Savory and the British anthropologists has made the claims of both difficult to document through methodologies based on controlled studies of short duration (less than 20 years, depending on prevailing weather cycles). However, discounting local successes as "anecdotal" or "not replicable" ignores the possibility that the most important "constant" to observe may be inconsistency. Good management responds quickly and properly to changing conditions, including conditions changed by management itself (feedback).

Economists, including some at the World Bank, have encountered similar difficulties modeling markets, because the most profitable strategy today draws in players whose mere interest creates a different market tomorrow. Nobel Prizes have honored attempts to factor herd psychology and technological innovation into this conundrum but no one can fully quantify and crack it. Long term, a winning market strategy is by definition never replicable.

Just as economic thinkers such as Herman Daly and Robert Heilbroner have questioned the validity of the assumptions behind many of today's economic models, so Savory tried to deconstruct the "intuition" that led to his insight and refine it into an explicit structure that paralleled and complemented the standard scientific methods practiced in his field.

What kind of model, then, would help a scientist or manager make decisions of subtlety and power comparable to the dance of wolf pack and bison that made the prairies lush or to several thousand years of nomadic tradition forged out of war, drought, and struggle? What kind of science would it serve? If you made such a model, would it apply to more than bison and goats?

The Holistic Management Model

A good model predicts. You tweak it here and see what wobbles there. It interprets. You can look at a wobble and figure out the tweak that produced it. It instructs. You can tweak it this way and that until you learn what makes the wobble you want. And best of all, you can do all this cheaply without wrecking anything important. Computers allow us to poke around complicated models, but the most powerful are simple, and our circumstances require one that amplifies the brainpower of the herder leaning on his spear, the scientist sipping coffee at the stoplight on the way to her institute or the project officer evaluating a proposal.

The Holistic Management Model rests on three axioms:

  1. The condition of our resources always reflects our management of them. No excuses.
  2. Management means management of "wholes" which have characteristics not present in or predictable from their constituent parts studied in isolation. Knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen doesn't give you the whole story on water.
  3. In complex self-organizing systems, processes and the relationship patterns of wholes are the only constants and therefore become the focus of research and management. Quantified, freeze-frame snapshots of transient states mean little out of context.

Management, being a human endeavor, must have a goal, an assumption of a better state.

So the herder/scientist-friendly Holistic Management Model looks like this:

There's the whole at the top followed by a three-part goal describing the quality of life you expect, the production needed to support it, and the condition of your resources required to produce that.

Next are the processes that define the ecosystem—community dynamics (succession), water cycle, mineral cycle, and energy flow. Therein lies the genius of nature—that the interplay of untold variables boils down to measurable effect on only four basic processes.

And since we posit that conditions reflect management, we can assess past practices and future propositions by looking at the effect of management tools on the four processes. Fortunately there are only six direct tools to consider, plus money/labor and creativity. If this seems oversimplified, consider that virtually all our past policies and management practices have not included living organisms, grazing, or animal impact in the tool kit and do not recognize the different effect of long term rest in brittle and non-brittle environments. For that matter, the chairman of the American Federal Reserve Bank, for all his wisdom and power, has only two crude and indirect tools for managing the entire global economy. He can tweak the Federal Reserve's short-term interest rate or ask the President to ask Congress to tweak spending.

When planning future actions, ethical, economic, ecological, and social considerations weight the value of a given tool, and these appear in seven testing questions, which are augmented by certain guidelines that determine how the tools are applied.

Finally we have a feedback loop of planning, monitoring (the four processes), controlling and replanning.

The Journey of the Idea

John Hall first encountered Allan Savory in 1980. Shortly after joining the Bank, he was sent to Texas with nine other livestock specialists to evaluate Savory's work. Savory had recently come to the United States as a political refugee after opposing Ian Smith's white supremacist regime in Rhodesia. He had hung out his shingle as a ranch management consultant. He had applied his theory of brittle environments to commercial cattle ranching but had yet to elaborate the management model. Hall himself had international experience in veterinary programs, intensive dairy production, and animal nutrition.

"I had experience with livestock, but had never thought about pastoralism," says Hall today. "Compared to me, the other nine men in the evaluation team were very up-to-date, and they were scandalized by Savory because he attacked everything they had been doing. I was a naïf, and I found him interesting. I stayed in touch."

Professional attitudes have since shifted much toward Savory's position. The work of André Voisin, virtually unknown in Texas in 1980, is now read. In New Zealand, Australia, and Southern Africa, rotational grazing systems have proven the importance of the time factor, and public pressure has forced livestock specialists to consider environmental, social, and economic factors in addition to brute production.

Meanwhile a number of the development strategies promoted at the time have returned disappointing results. Many developing economies simply could not support the capital-intensive infrastructure demanded by the American ranch model at a time when American ranches were failing. In others the social dislocation entrained by fencing land and settling transhumants and nomads led to conflict and sabotage. In others the pace of environmental degradation simply overwhelmed economic calculations.

Between 1986 and 1990, John Hall served a rangeland improvement project in six Arab countries, Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Iraq. "I had certain ideas of how people could participate but little real knowledge of how to go about it," he says. "Ultimately I realized that you can't do it in an authoritarian atmosphere such as existed in some of those countries."

Only after the Cold War, when donors began to look beyond geopolitics and demand performance, did notions such as decentralization, empowerment, and accountability come into play.

"We were carried by this wave," says Hall. "The Bank was much more supple then. In my travels I could write into my schedule visits to livestock projects here and there and make contacts." In fact, he beat the drum for Holistic Management in agriculture ministries and research institutions all over West Africa until people began calling him John Hallistique. In 1993, however, Hall convinced the Norwegian government to put $800,000 into a West African Pilot Pastoral Program.

The first of what became annual WAPPP workshops brought together 20 technicians from Mauritania, Mali, and Tchad in for a week of instruction in Holistic Management at the hands of two French-speaking consultants who had worked with Allan Savory -- Eric Schwennesen from Arizona and Farhat Salem from Tunisia. They took away with them an inch thick, unillustrated, document which Salem and a third consultant had compiled during a week-long writing marathon at the Bank offices in Washington.

Although Savory himself was in the process of establishing a training center in Zimbabwe, WAPPP's "Red Manual" was the first published presentation of Holistic Management aimed at introducing it at a village level. In retrospect it clearly aimed more at explaining basic concepts to field level technicians and the hierarchy extending upward to the Bank. It contained many pages of data collection forms designed to satisfy skeptics who wanted to see hard science.

The development of a training program a non-literate clientele and a monitoring and evaluation program that would satisfy both the grass roots producers and the Bank would present a constant challenge throughout the seven year span of the program, which eventually touched seven Sahelian countries—Senegal, Mauritania, Guinée, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Tchad.

The Inspiration of Tchad

News of the herder who refused to move his animals according to the WAPPP-supported grazing plan of the villages of Fadjé-Djekéne came quickly to the ears of the national program coordinator, Ahmed Nadif.

Nadif also held an important position in the Ministry of Livestock and enjoyed a certain personal prestige as son of the Emir of Am Timan, a major figure further west. He went immediately to the head of the livestock merchant's association in the nearby town of Massaguet and asked him to call a full meeting of its members the following day. He took pains to do this on his personal account without invoking state authority, though he did not neglect to explain his person in advance to the provincial chief.

The meeting began about nine o'clock in the morning on a Friday, the day of worship, in the house of the head of the merchant's association. About 15 men showed up including the owner of the herd that had violated the grazing plan. Nadif, flanked by his extension agent Yalngar M'baitoudji, sat on a bench at the head of the long high-ceilinged room. The merchants gathered before them on mats or on benches along the walls. According to M'baitoudji they spoke in formal Koranic Arabic that he, as a Christian from the south of Tchad, had difficulty following.

The room crackled with tension, and the dispute went back and forth for over three hours, side debates occasionally breaking out among the merchants. Little by little, however, the atmosphere eased, and a little after midday all the men stood, including Nadif and M'baitoudji; and Nadif called on an elder among the merchants, who was also a lay cleric, to lead them all in the Fatya prayer of reconciliation, which he did with great solemnity. As they left, singly and in groups, the livestock merchants shook Nadif's hand and told him he and spoken well and was a credit to his father.

At the heart of the dispute lay the justifiable suspicion among the merchants that the Fadjé-Djekiné grazing plan represented the first step in a strategy to fence, patent, and withdraw village lands from common use, a process they could not allow to begin. Even Nadif's prestige and diplomacy could not placate them entirely. They insisted that a formal document be drawn up in Arabic and French to be signed in the presence of the District Chief by representatives of the villages, the Livestock Ministry, and themselves, to the effect that the grazing plan was only that and would never and in no wise restrict movement through the perimeter.

Later a group of transhumant livestock owners (as distinct from merchants) would also challenge the grazing plan on similar fears, but they, too, came to respect it. Meanwhile, the people of Fadjé and Djekiné have seen their resources and relationships improve steadily.

According to Yalngar M'baitoudji's meticulous journals, before the grazing plan the herds of the two villages typically spent half the year outside village lands, becoming themselves involuntary transhumants. In exceptionally good years they might manage to stay on their home range until March. In a poor year forage would run out by the end of November, and they would stay away until new growth replenished it July or August. They not infrequently returned to find their huts ravaged by other desperate transhumants, who fed the thatch to their hungry animals, and disputes occasionally led to military intervention.

During the seven years following the institution of the plan, they stayed until the end of February in one very dry year. In average years, the forage lasted into June, and in a good year July, and during this time the M'baitudji recorded an increase in total Animal Unit Days from 600,000 in 1994-95 to 1,319,256 in 2000-2001, including animals brought into the area by neighboring villages, transhumants, and livestock merchants. Resident herds have tripled from 2,200 to 6,900 animal units. The increased wealth has manifested itself in the construction of 120 adobe houses where none existed before. In April of 1996, the French sociologist Catherine Touré reported that women in neighboring villages noted that their sisters in Fadjé and Djekiné had become more beautiful because they now could afford cosmetics.

The underlying resource base as changed as well. Perennial plants which had almost completely vanished everywhere, germinated widely in good years. They survived in the perimeter to the extent that on two formal transect sites, the average distance from a randomly thrown dart to the nearest one declined from 447 centimeters to 68 on the first and from 479 centimeter to 217 on the other. On both control sites outside the perimeter perennial plant spacing increased.

The planning process became so ingrained that in recent years Fadjé-Djekiné herders apply it when they leave the perimeter, and their hosts in distant places have accepted it.

Two more recent sites have been started in Tchad, at Fidji-Ngama near Dourbali and Baïfili-Irédibé near Ngoura. Each has experienced similar socio-political challenges as well as ecological ones, but have progressed well, according to their age. In December of 2001 a fire set to combat a locust swarm ran out of control and threatened Fidji-Ngama. As the flames approached, a crowd of strangers arrived from a great distance with jars and bags of water to fight the blaze—the very transhumant stock raisers who had contested the establishment of the grazing plan at its birth. According to the local extension agent Ahmat Matar, they confessed that the site had become a key resource in their plan for survival, and they meant to protect it as a common patrimony.

The genius of the plans instituted in Tchad derives directly from a local adaptation of the Holistic Management Model by simple logic.

If overstocking is not the critical factor in overgrazing, then stopping it does not require control of access, only time. The community itself could do that by combining their herds under common guardianship and moving them through designated parcels of land, giving the unoccupied parcels sufficient time to recover from grazing. Outside herders need only agree to put their animals in the same parcel as the local herds.

Prior to the establishment of such a grazing plan, a true Tragedy of the Commons had prevailed in which the dozens of local families and the outsiders all competed randomly for forage, hammering the best spots and racing to exploit new growth before a rival took it. There are subtleties in laying out the parcels, matching the grazing times to conditions of growth and moving to accommodate breeding, milking, crop cycles, etc., but the principles make sense to ordinary people, even when the organization is complicated.

A growing season plan aims at optimizing conditions for plant growth. The dormant (dry) season plan focuses on rationing out standing forage so that the best is not all taken first, consumption is easy to monitor by the condition of parcels after they have been grazed according to plan. Thus exhaustion of the resource is easy to predict well in advance. In fact, in Tchad and generally elsewhere, the dormant season plan returns the most immediate and dramatic benefit to producers.

In many cases, including all of the Tchad sites, a workable grazing plan depends on water sources that can handle the demand of concentrated herds and may require construction and careful siting of wells. Also a simple plan may not solve all problems. There may be sacrifice areas, emergencies like locusts or fire, or complexities of ownership that are difficult to solve. All the Tchad sites have ragged edges, but all the communities have moved closer to a holistic goal that includes less conflict and more secure lives with more economic choices supported by healthier land.

Senegal, a Model of Persistence

Fadjé-Djekiné remains the Pilot Program's flower of success, but the seed fell on especially fertile soil there. The land is relatively homogeneous, and a relatively high water table makes wells fairly easy to drill. The ethnic complexity is comparatively simple by African standards, crop growing did not get in the way, and the official structure supported the program all the way to the top. The other two sites were less blessed but profited from the example and momentum of the first.

In some other countries, the program encountered some serious difficulties, but in Senegal and Guinée, it found a footing. The Senegal case bears recounting, because it illustrates an unfortunately typical array of complications faced by communities and administrators in sorting out land use questions in agro-pastoral zones.

Unfortunately, as a test project added to existing programs established under the Bank's natural resource management initiative, the WAPPP frequently wound up relegated to tackling the most difficult sites. As Tolstoy observed that happy families are alike but troubled ones each miserable in its own unique way, so tangles over land use and tenure often resemble each other only in the degree of complexity. The WAPPP's leadership in Senegal recognized that the Holistic Management Model, based on principles and guidelines for decision-making, promised better results than the imposition of any grand one-size-fits-all system. To persist under the circumstances of the site they chose, however, required deep faith.

The WAPPP did not have a presence in Senegal until 1995, when it found a local sponsor in the Projet d'Appui à l'Elevage (PAPEL). Planning on the ground took place in August of 1996 in the "pastoral unit" of Thiel. The site, called Asré Bani, is in the Ferlo Basin that drains north toward the Senegal River. There, about 62 families in ten camps of Peul stock raisers (500 people) attempted to maintain 2,700 head of cattle and 10,500 small ruminants on approximately 13,800 hectares year round. Transhumant Sérères (another ethnicity) would arrive in the rainy season with another 2,000 head of cattle and 500 small ruminants, and in the dry season more Peul came through with 2,500 cattle and 3000 small ruminants. Yet another small group did some farming there near a small well.

Unfortunately, the people of Asré Bani had neither strong statutory nor customary right to stay there. They had settled in to exploit, without official sanction, a pipe-fed water point just inside the "Doli Silvo-Pastoral Reserve." That is, or was, a 90 thousand hectare, fenced government ranch, a figment of a now discredited development strategy that left many such examples of subsidized state agri-business around Africa. Doli went bankrupt in 1996, and when the pump at the central borehole failed, Asré Bani's only permanent stock water vanished. When their 11 ephemeral lakes dried up, their animals had to go 10 to 15 kilometers to a borehole in Thiel and wait in a queue of balling herds from all over the Pastoral Unit.

Soon after the designation of the site, a World Bank consultant helped community leaders mark out grazing areas on the land and make a plan for moving herds, as in Tchad. Shortly thereafter, a range fire swept through and destroyed much of the forage. Even before the lakes dried up, the plan became unworkable. Probably most of the community hadn't yet learned why it existed. Funds from the Bank stuck in the pipeline, and over the next two years, drought forced people to leave the area for extended periods, which further interrupted progress.

During one of the first training sessions after Asré Bani became an official WAPPP site, the PAPEL sociologist Mamadou Boucoum, himself of Peul/Toucouleur heritage, remarked that despite a heap of literature characterizing Peul culture as transhumant or nomadic, in his experience most Peul identified themselves first of all as stock raisers. Consequently, they would embrace any adaptation, he said, as long as it didn't involve planting and hoeing. Even though their traditions might included herding and moving in a quasi holistic way, that had evolved out of necessity, not as a conscious strategy to maintain their rangeland.

The group trying to settle down in Asré Bani had once migrated from one temporary water source to the next, back and forth between the Senegal River and the outskirts of Dakar where they sold their milk, butter, and meat. Now, a paved road connecting the Capital to a livestock market in nearby Dahra and Nestlé's refrigerated milk collection program had brought the market to them. Reliable water removed all reasons to move except one, lack of forage.

The challenge would be to convince the Asré Bani Peul that they could enlist their immense powers of observation and encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and animals to improve rangeland. If they believed that, they would find a way.

Rather than give up in the face of drought, disorganization, and disbelief, the PAPEL director Dr. Malik Faye and his team concentrated on simply promoting the principles behind Holistic Management. They realized early on that they could not push about serious management changes until they solved the water problem, but that they could continue to educate the various committees in the Pastoral Unit and develop a better understanding of the Model. This became easier when WAPPP activities were attached to another program within the Livestock Ministry in 2000—Projet Services Agricoles et Appui aux Organisations de Producteurs (PSAOP, Agricultural Services and Support Project for Producers' Organizations)

Ultimately Senegal, along with Tchad, would take the lead in the development of illustrated, sequenced teaching materials for camp-level use. The program's final report notes:

"At the community level on the pilot sites, the conviction is that organization is better and that by applying a minimum of the principles of management it is possible to improve the situation generally on the land. One notes equally, a renewed sense of ownership of the area by the local community and a rebirth of a community of interest."

Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Faye and others, Asré Bani did get a new water point, at the end of a ten kilometer pipe from the bore hole in Thiel. They did begin to move their herds in a more organized fashion. Hard data is not available, but technicians involved with the project report a noticeable increase in perennial grasses and a healing trend in spots that had degenerated to sterile hardpan. According to regional program coordinator Dr. Algor Thiam, the spread of useful grass to within yards of the water point has proven to his satisfaction Savory's contention that trampling, when tempered by control of time, does benefit both water and nutrient cycles, especially where manure and litter are present.

In August of 1999, PAPEL introduced Holistic Management to another 14,000 hectare area called Lol Lol in the Thiargny Pastoral Unit. From there, too, come reports of high moral and stronger organization among the stock raisers, and some improvement of the environment, but still far short of the Holistic Goal.

In spite of the difficulties Senegal's Ministry of Livestock is committed to promoting Holistic Management as a general policy, because, as national coordinator Malik Faye writes in his final report, "Pastoral exploitation is being reconsidered in a more and more positive sense. An opinion is coming to the fore that value of the sylvo-pastoral zone of Senegal (the Ferlo) couldn't be advantageously realized any other way." And the holistic approach with its emphasis on local initiative and relatively minimal capital investment has, in his eyes, proven its worth. PSAOP plans to promote it throughout the Ferlo Basin.

Guinée, Using Past Lessons

The WAPPP came late to Guinée because of discontinuity in the sponsoring programs under the National Livestock Directorate. Despite short planning and training sessions in 1995, activity at Diafouna in upper Guinée near the Mali and Senegal borders did not get underway until the end of 1999. Nevertheless, several factors have assured swift and dramatic progress—the training program developed in Senegal, the willingness of the community to organize, and prior experiences that made the concepts easy to accept. A second site at Maréwé, also in the north, has begun initial stages of development.

Of all the WAPPP sites, Diafouna enjoys the highest rainfall (average: 1300 mm = 51 inches compared to 450mm = 18 inches at Fadjé-Njekené in Tchad). Nevertheless, it shares many characteristics with more "brittle" environments because the precipitation is highly seasonal and erratic, and the ambient humidity low.

The landscape has degraded dramatically since the people of Diafouna stopped moving and established a sedentary presence there some 50 years ago. Contrary to the assumption that younger generations embrace new ideas more easily than their elders, Associate National Coordinator Boubacar Camara reports from Diafouna that people over sixty ascribe the decline to the Hand of Man (a starting point for Holistic Management) while younger people tend to blame God or fate.

Under such leadership, the management committee, which includes different age groups and women, has been able to implement plans and carry them out with minimal input from technicians. In fact, to accommodate women who had responsibility for milking and young animals, and four villages who declined to work with the other seven, the committee entirely transformed the original grazing plan and broke the site into three sub-sites using basic principles. This complicates management considerably but represents the kind of adaptation that the Holistic Management Model invites, and it may be continually refined with good monitoring and periodic replanning.

Once launched, the Pilot Pastoral Program has proceeded well in part because the Holistic Management Model affirmed experiences of the people assigned to implement it, including Boubacar Camara.

Camara credits his sensitivity to livestock to his Peul grandfather and childhood days spent herding in the bush. His father would have kept him at it, but his school teacher insisted that he continue his education. He wanted to become a lawyer, but his lycée made a mistake. He did not get his baccalaureate certificate and wound up in a three-year program for ag technicians. He finished, but still dreaming of the university, he stood for the baccalaureate exam again as a free candidate and scored the top grade. He could have gone to law school, but that year, 1971, Fidel Castro came to Guinée and offered scholarships to top students. For the next six years Camara studied animal husbandry in Cuba.

Unlike the United States, where land grant universities were researching and teaching how to fatten overbred cattle on chemically dependent corn and soybeans, the Cubans were learning how to apply André Voisin's pasture theories in the tropics. They had even translated articles about Savory's work in Africa. That background served Camara well when he found himself later at a research station in northern Guinée that promoted the small but tsetse-resistant Ndama cattle. The research team kept the land healthy and production high by herding them in dense groups through subdivided pastures, and they confined them at night to foil predators.

In 1987, financial and political crises overtook the Guinéan government, and international funding for the Ndama project disappeared. Says Camara, "We had 500 animals and no staff or support, so we consigned the herd to a Peul who was heading for the coast, but he was in tremendous conflict with the farmers there. That started 'Projet Transhumance.'"

"There were 60 thousand head of Peul cattle down there. We had to give the farmers something they wanted—manure, as long as the stock didn't damage the harvest. We asked the Peul, and they wanted a place to park their animals at night. There I got the idea of 'community.' We got everyone together in spite of their differences. In 1992 we built the first 'night park' for 2000 head. The Peul stock arrived a month before the end of the harvest and stayed through the dry season until new grass had five or six leaves. They agreed with certain farmers to pay for grazing on the crop residue. Those farmers doubled or tripled their harvest the very next season."

"Suddenly, everyone wanted a park, and instead of charging, the farmers beg the transhumants to come."

Years later, in regard to the Pilot Pastoral Program, Camara would say, "Manure is my war horse in promoting it."

On the strength of such experience, the Guinéan team chose sites for the pilot carefully. According to Camara, every "Chef de Poste" along the Mali border wanted to take part. Some sites, they eliminated because of ongoing land disputes, some because the local farms objected, some because leadership seemed weak. In most sites the stock raisers were Peul and the farmers Malinké, but they felt they could bring the two interests together more easily if some Peul also farmed.

Thus, they chose Dafouna, but even so, four out of eleven villages declined to join the plan. For the seven that participated, they laid out 22 grazing areas by painting numbers on trees. When the women complained of having to walk too far to milk, the community made a smaller unit by subdividing several areas further with red paint. Though this may slow improvement on the land, a side benefit has been that the women now use the manure from the night parks for floors and gardens. More recently, the four dissenting villages asked for a plan of their own. Again, they might manage grazing time and herd density better with a single plan, but Holistic Management means considering the whole.

"Ahmed Nadif from Tchad warned us," says Camara now. "'Don't make promises or give money, only advice.' Dafouna needed water points, so we said, 'So, dam a stream. If you do one by yourselves, we'll help you with the second one.' They organized and did it, and the animals had water until April."

Mali and Burkina, Attempts that Left Tracks

Mali hosted the first WAPPP workshop in Bamako in late February 1994 and over the next seven years established three Pilot Pastoral Perimeters in different parts of the country, none of which developed into a self-replicating entity with long term prospects. Early on, illness sidelined the program coordinator for a full year. The very frank report submitted by national leadership team complains, however, that "the principle bottleneck of the pilot program was the refusal of the supporting projects (the programs to which the WAPPP was attached) to support it at the moment when the extension agents began to master the approach and mutual confidence was established between them and the communities."

The reference is to another World Bank-funded project in Mali, the Projet pour la Gestion des Ressources Naturelles (PGRN) through which the WAPPP was to be implemented. Without reconstructing the details of the relationship, the complaint highlights the weakness of any program with only step-child status. In general the WAPPP flourished in countries like Tchad, Senegal, and ultimately Guinée, where supporting agencies took it seriously, and it stagnated to various degrees elsewhere.

Thanks, however, to the general enthusiasm of the people who actually tried to implement Pilot Perimeters the Holistic Management Model continues to influence decision-making in Mali. Their report claims continued reduction of conflict in communities and recommends that "today the approach should extend beyond the pastoral sector and embrace the general management of territory in the context of decentralization. One would thus have a model of development applicable to the region, the circle, and/or the commune with surely all its sectoral branches."

In fact the Holistic Management Model has been invoked in two other projects in Mali, centering on the commune of Madiama near Djenné in the Niger Delta. One, supported by USAID organized and trained a communal Natural Resources Advisory Council, the other supported by the U.S. National Aerospace Agency (NASA) is investigating how improved herd management can increase the amount of atmospheric carbon squestered in the soil. If the application of the Holistic Management Model is diluted somewhat in these projects the weakness comes from the American side.

Similarly in Burkina Faso, the local coordination team chose two sites in 1995 and made some preliminary surveys, but as orphans in a department that had other priorities, they never managed to organize appreciable activity on the ground. On the other hand, the Holistic Management Model assumed a life of its own in a different context.

Quite independently of WAPPP, the USAID-financed Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Research Management Collaborative Research Support Project (SANREM/CRSP) conducted extensive training in Holistic Management for field technicians not far from the WAPPP's Gadeghin site. WAPPP staff attended one 10-day session. Not long thereafter, the USAID project itself suffered a breakdown in relations with its collaborating local agency, and restarted the project in Mali. Nevertheless, the veterans of the training officially incorporated themselves as an NGO in Burkina under the name Association pour la Gestion Holistique au Burkina (AGEHOR/B) and though now dispersed continue promote Holistic Management in their regular work. The most active, an extension agent in the Provincial Agricultural Service named Joanny Ouédraogo uses the WAPPP training materials developed in Senegal, giving his presentations in the local language, Mooré.

Meanwhile the local coordinator of SANREM's reincarnation in Mali is the most recent WAPPP associate coordinator Lassine Diarra of the Institute for Rural Economy, and SANREM has engaged WAPPP's Tchad coordinator Ahmed Nadif as a consultant.

Mauritania and Niger, Dissenting Views

Among the reports prepared for the final WAPPP workshop in February, 2002, the ones from Mauritania and Niger stand out as explicitly negative. If in Tchad, Senegal, and Guinée, a combination of committed leadership and a supportive structure guaranteed a measure of success in spite of difficult circumstances; and if Mali and Burkina Faso show that within a weak support structure ideas may yet survive, even where actions don't; then Niger and Mauritania might represent what happens when leadership is not committed.

This writer has no direct experience of Niger, either of WAPPP's work there or of the country itself, and can judge only on the basis of a number of personal contacts and conversations with national WAPPP coordinator Maidaji Bagoudou and the final report written under his direction. Both indicate fundamental disagreement with the idea that the producer/clients of the program will ever accept the suggestion that organizing their management differently can bring long term improvements that justify the effort. In fact the WAPPP Niger did designate three sites, though only at one, Tanatahamo, still shows signs of viability.

As stated in the report:

In reality, the producers have a preoccupation different from that pursued by the Model in regard to their degree of indifference to environmental phenomena. Through the Model our preoccupation is to create a healthy environment to permit them to produce better. Their preoccupation is to draw the maximum profit from us without great effort . . . . Long term vision doesn't exist among stockmen, rather a profound reserve toward exterior technical innovations.

The Niger leadership continually criticizes the Pilot Pastoral Program for expecting to convince short term thinkers that it's more important to manage animal impact than limit the number of animals, which they could easily do by denying well water to transhumants. Why promise them that vanished species of perennial grass will return, when we don't know scientifically that the tools suggested by the Holistic Model will work in the Sahel. Better invest money in tangible improvements, including the introduction of new species and let that be their incentive to learn better management.

The tone of these statements would make them easy to dismiss, but they represent only a rather overstated version of a not uncommon reaction among people trained to look first to technical innovation and see that as the unique domain of the formally educated. They echo somewhat the reaction of the Bank evaluation team that John Hall accompanied to Texas in 1980. It requires an enormous leap of faith to surrender long-held positions and accept that people who don't read might reverse decades of degradation by simply learning to make better management decisions. It threatens power. Yet in fact, most examples, even in Tchad, do still fall short of expectations, especially in the eyes of someone who judges by the immediate, though often ephemeral, results that technology often promises.

The kind of cynicism stereotyped in the Niger report is in fact symptomatic of clients who have seen enough expensive projects fail to no longer expect much benefit other than the money. What project today doesn't encounter that?

Though the Niger leadership recommended the opposite of Nadif's advice to the Guinéans ("Don't ever make promises or give money, only advice") their report contains the following passage toward the end:

The experience of the pilot program has produced the effect of an oil spot in relation to the surrounding non-participating communities, but the extension workers cannot determine at present if this is happening in a positive or negative sense. In a spontaneous manner some communities set out to secure a system of management following the drought of 1997 after only observing what happened at the Tanatahamo site.

and finally in the annexes:

On the chart of the evolution of forage production on the site, one will note a tendency toward the growth of average production by site and in all subdivisions. It is, moreover, this net increase in the production of biomass compared to the immediate surroundings of the site that explain disorganized attempts to implement management on numerous pastoral areas nearby and the growing requests for identification of new sites in the pastoral zone.

Documented increases are in fact modest, but the comment indicates that at least some pastoralists do notice long term effects.

Criticism from the Mauritanian leadership similarly focused on the presumed unlikelihood that pastoralists will consider new management principles without a material payoff. In their report, they write under the rubric "Validity of the Elements of the Creation of the Pilot":

It's an error to believe that a transfer of capacities can be made directly to the communities concerned . . .


A consultant coming from outside will say that this community has not understood the holistic management approach. No, it's because quite simply, they are accustomed to projects that bring something from outside, and the holistic management project is the first to appear among them without bringing either food or money.

. . . It is quite true that the zone is purely pastoral by vocation, but the pastoral practices there do not at all deliver success to such a program that depends essentially on overseeing and herding the animals which is considered taboo in this community.

The report also criticized the program for promoting the commercialization of milk for violating the custom of giving excess production to the needy.

The remark about herding is peculiar as it is hard to imagine a taboo against overseeing livestock in a nation that takes great pride in its pastoral roots. Since the days of The Prophet and before, the people of D'Khaina have lived in tents, taken the flocks in their care deep into Mali when conditions compelled, which indicates a willingness to guard and herd as diligently as any people in the Sahel. Milk is indeed a symbol of hospitality and charity among pastoralists both Moor and Peul, but the criticism may have other explanations.

That said, at some level the Pilot Pastoral Project clearly did not quite resonate with the political pulse of the sites chosen nor perhaps with the administrative structure of the supporting agency and the country itself.

At the workshop in Nouakchott in 1997 the question of why the people of Loubereid and D'Khaina put so little effort into the management plan unleashed passionate discussion of incentives among a group of administrators and technicians of diverse social and ethnic backgrounds. Many of them found the very idea of structuring benefits to motivate performance curious and potentially dangerous.

One of the technicians familiar with the situation explained that the stock at D'Khaina belonged to upper caste Moors in the town, not to the people in the tents. As serfs of the local ruling party deputy, they had rights to milk, small ruminants, and whatever they could grow, as long as the absentee-owned cattle had water. That made selling milk or even managing to increase milk production a potential threat to the overlord's interest. On the other hand, as drawers of water, the serfs were actually suspicious of a new wind pump and tanks (although built below specifications) because it undercut the Cheikh's reason to keep them on the land at all. Meanwhile the people of Loubeïred, who owned their stock, turned bitter when the WAPPP promised them a well, which the PGRNP took years to dig.

The full story no doubt includes deeper subtleties, and the Mauritanian sites Loubeïred and D'Khaina do differ in many respects, but the details are less important than the fact that WAPPP never reconciled its bottom-up participatory approach with the structure of caste, clan, ethnic, and political relationships that prevail in Mauritania.

The overlord of D'Khaina, Cheikh Mohammed Lemine Ould Sid Mohammed, was also president of the Pastoral Association of West Timbedra. The pilot program might have encountered less difficulty working directly through this semi-private structure than through a government agency, the PGRNP, if prevailing World Bank procedures had allowed it. The pastoral associations really control the livestock economy of Mauritania. Though Mauritanians of his class and position tend toward social conservatism to put it mildly, Cheikh Lemine is no doubt a man of good will. In might have been possible to have worked more directly through him and his association. On the other hand, participatory projects in Mauritania are a new idea.

The then deputy coordinator for the Pilot Program with the PGRNP, another Mohammed Lamine, argued warmly in 1997 that the conflict and extremism that characterized relationships between Arab countries and the West, including Western institutions like the World Bank, were, as holistic jargon would have it, symptoms of cultural misunderstanding, not causes.

Lamine went to some pains to say that he did not mean to blame the Bank for problems in Mauritania. He admitted freely that Mauritania did indeed have to come to terms with racism, the position of women, and nepotism, among other problems if it would survive into the next century. He believed that Islam would help. So could holistic management, he believed. If we could find a way to present it so that Mauritanians would find in it help in addressing their cultural questions as well as their environmental ones, it would pass like lighting throughout the Arab world. Thus, he said, it is terribly important for the Bank that it succeed in his country. It hasn't, so far, but WAPPP has left behind a number of people who believe it can.

The Bespectacled Crocodile

Holistic Management has everywhere suffered from its beginnings as a new theory for managing livestock in brittle environments, long after the difficulty of applying those ideas in pure scientific form forced the evolution of the Model into a general framework for making management decisions. Because it remains almost unique in recognizing the special characteristics of brittle environments, the Model continually falls captive to agencies and programs narrowly focused on grazing and livestock issues, as it did at the Bank.

In all seven Sahelian countries participating in the Pilot Program, the supporting agencies had to weld it into their academically driven culture of traditional agricultural extension: We specialists learn the latest research and tell you, the herder what to do about it.

This reflected the subdivision in the early 1990s of World Bank functions into specialties and subspecialties and dictated both the form and content of the early information and training workshops. To interest delegates from a Ministry of Livestock to participate, for example, John Hall and his team of expatriate consultants gave detailed presentations on how management of time, stock density, and animal impact could contribute more to reversing desertification than reducing stock numbers. Many delegates went home, chose sites, waited for one of the Bank's expatriate consultants to come around and lay out a grazing plan, and began telling the residents what they should do.

In some places this worked, as in Tchad where extension agent Yalngar M'baitoudji grasped the model well, lived close to the community he served, and passed ownership of the idea to a solid base of people.

The Savory Center of Holistic Management encountered similar difficulties even in the United States among college-educated ranchers who frequently did not change practices even after paying expensive Holistic Management consultants for advice, much less when ordered by a holistically trained government agent. This led to a change in emphasis toward direct training of ranchers, and when the Center opened a training site near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in 1994 they began the direct training of people on the neighboring communal lands. Without pressure to publish quantifiable results by the end of a grant period, they could afford to let management changes gestate on their own time.

At the same time USAID's SANREM/CRSP project in Burkina Faso was attempting to introduce holistic management concepts directly to villagers in hopes that it would enhance their ability to participate on a more equal footing with academics in the design and conduct of research projects.

The Zimbabwe work had scarcely begun, however, when John Hall and other WAPPP leaders on their own began to realize that their initiative would never become self-perpetuating until their clients in their tents and villages could perpetuate it themselves. The moment was auspicious because institutions like the World Bank and many of their client states in Africa had begun to recognize that the post-independence model of strong central government and externally subsidized state capitalism was failing.

Decentralization and local participation had become the latest buzz words among development theorists, but already experience was showing that merely putting power and money into local hands didn't guarantee that grass roots decision-makers would use either efficiently or support the Greater Good in wielding their autonomy. If the Holistic Management Model provided a roadmap to better decision-making, it did not teach itself. In fact, when, as displayed earlier in this paper, it was presented in print in the inscrutable jargon of a foreign tongue, it came to symbolize the gap between First World Egg Heads and Peasant Reality.

By this time, however, the spread of Rapid Rural Appraisal techniques (and its variants in other languages and forms—PRA, PRAP, MARP, ZOPP, etc.) had awakened scholars of development to the fact that very sophisticated ideas can pass back and forth between non-literate people, and even across linguistic and cultural barriers. Graphic displays, role playing, making graphs, models and maps, sorting images, facilitated small group discussion and other methods replaced the chalkboard lecture and the anthropologist's questionnaire. The movement matured in the 1980s, much of it on the basis of work in India by Indian, British, and Canadian organizations, but by 1994 it had spread to the World Bank.

Methods first originated to help outsiders understand non-literate communities they soon became the medium for education and conscientization, the word Paolo Freire used to describe his ideas of motivating the poor by leading them to analyze the causes of their situation. The parallel to holistic management's principle that the condition of resources reflect management is obvious.

John Hall favored a less confrontational version, "Education for Growth," developed by Lyra Srinivasan with Jacob Pfohl, Ron Sawyer, and others. She called it SARAR for Self-esteem, Associative strength, Resourcefulness, and Action planning, and Responsibility for follow through. She describes it as "people-centered rather than issue-focused. . . . concerned with the development of individual capacities through the group learning process."

At the annual WAPPP workshop in 1998, held in Senegal, Hall proposed creation of an illustrated set of materials designed to help a trainer/facilitator, who would not have to be a livestock or range technician, introduce holistic management in a camp or village. The main work was carried out and field tested by a team of four Tchadiens and four Senegalese including an artist from each country during two three week sessions in Senegal and Tchad in the summer and fall of 2000. They worked with one expatriate consultant in holistic management and another specialized in SARAR techniques. A working draft was presented at the 2001 annual workshop held in Mauritania. It contains a set of over 450 illustrations and a 300 page manual that gives step by step instructions for each of the 38 modules plus advice on how to organize groups, use flip charts, felt boards, and manage conflicts.

The draft manual has since undergone further refinement at the two WAPPP sites in Senegal and has been well-received where an extension agent trained in Burkina in holistic management during USAID's SANREM project has used it in his work.

Early on, the project acquired a nickname and graphic symbol, The Bespectacled Crocodile. The term comes from a Senegalese saying, "You don't have to tell the crocodile where to find the bog." It evokes the SARAR notion that the community, in this case pastoralists, already have basic knowledge and instinct, and the facilitator/trainer's task is to help clarify and enhance potential—thus to give the crocodile glasses that let it see better yet what it already knows. So far all tests have turned out well.

Monitoring and Evaluation

In 1999 a mid-term review team sent out by the Bank visited sites in Tchad, Senegal, and Mauritania and summed up the main issue in two paragraphs.

The most remarkable result observed by the mission is probably the nearly general satisfaction of the people of the project sites. This satisfaction was expressed for nearly all aspects linked to pastoral or agro-pastoral production: the impact on the environment (vegetative cover, reappearance of rare plants), animal production (increase in dairy production, better fertility and animal health), the management of rangeland (extension of use periods during the year, better control of space and the flow of transhumants), domestic economy (freeing labor for other activities, increased income from livestock), and social prestige (recognition by administrative and political authorities, the renown of the locations of the sites), in particular the chance to have access to water and land was often cited by neighboring communities interrogated by the mission.

This very positive evaluation from the beneficiaries could not, however, be confirmed by the mission except in the most limited way from quantitative observations on the ground.

The report goes on to criticize both the quality and kind of data provided, observing as well that the program's popularity might come from secondary factors such as the new well or more efficient milking and care of animals through more organized herding, though they didn't think the condition of the livestock looked as good as the owners had claimed. They also didn't find a measurable environmental improvement except for a minimal increase in litter and suspected that the all-important grazing plans weren't actually followed rigorously enough to produce one.

As a comment on the mean condition of such varied sites as they visited and the indicators they measured, that conclusion is hard to fault, but neither is it particularly helpful to either the Bank or the projects.

Since the end of the Cold War, when actual development became the objective of development aid institutions like the World Bank began to insist that recipients set quantifiable goals and report progress towards them in trustworthy numbers. Accountability. No progress, no more money. Individual careers and ideas as well as national economies rise and fall on the scorecard.

The change has given a healthy shock to a system that had grown flabby in the days when superpowers shelled out cash mostly to buy votes in the United Nations General Assembly, but keeping score for program evaluation differs fundamentally from monitoring to improve holistic management.

Program evaluation tends to track past quantities. How much comestible biomass did the average acre produce? How many Animal Unit Days were harvested? How many calves were weaned? How many families paid their school fees for their kids?

In the service of management, monitoring serves to keep track of whether progress is on track toward a holistic goal that combines quality of life, production, and resource base. Then, when reality inevitably jumps the rails of the plan, something can be done to head it back toward the goal, even if that means replanning the whole affaire. Failure is never the result of a bad plan, as all plans fall short sooner or later, but rather of not replanning in time to achieve success. How fast is the grass growing? Is litter increasing or decreasing? What are the animals eating now? Will the forage last until we can count on rain? How many can afford school fees next semester?

In the management context, objectivity and rigor count less than timeliness, and self-evaluation is considered an essential part of management.

Objectivity and scientific rigor are important, so self-evaluation by program participants lacks credibility. Independent evaluators, however, may still err by tracking conspicuous indicators and missing underlying trends or measuring phenomena irrelevant to the holistic goal. The mid-term evaluation team, for example, took only passing interest in the WAPPP preoccupation with plant litter as ground cover, the percentage of bare ground, and crusted-over soil. Granting that even WAPPP's internal monitoring reported few dramatic improvements, these indicators have little direct relationship to animal production and economic well-being. On the other hand they play a big role in the germination and survival of seeds, the infiltration and retention of water, and erosion and thus in the long term prospects for reversing desertification.

Likewise, the team questioned the relevance of recording the spacing of perennial grasses and the presence or reappearance of rare perennial species:

The declared objective of the management described, which is to favor the density of herbaceous perennials (and/or woody plants) does not rest on an analysis of the dynamics of vegetation which has been validated in the Sahel. Nor has it been established that, in the Sahel, perennials are of better forage quality than annuals. To the contrary, in many cases annual species are more favored. It would thus be desirable to enlarge the conceptual base of the approach to "states and transition" and "disequilibrium" models that permit recognition of the predominant place of annuals in Sahelian landscapes and the primordial influence of climatic factors in Sahelian vegetation.

The passage ignores the fact that the residents of every single WAPPP site put a return of perennial grass high in their holistic goal. In not a single one did elders not vividly recall landscapes dominated by perennial grasses, name half a dozen or more once prevalent species that had virtually disappeared, and describe their economic value. Perennials, they said, provided forage in drought, greened up early and after range fires, persisted long after the rains stopped, furnished thatch and mat material, held soil, stopped floods and sheltered game—all that, even though today's dominant annuals indeed might technically produce the same total biomass and digestible protein.

Thus, by a participatory decision, grazing plans were all designed to promote regeneration of perennials, even at the expense of some production and effort. The evaluation team points out correctly that annuals can't be overgrazed in the dormant season, because they are all dead anyway, and they question the use of planning to move stock in the dry months. One reason among several is that perennials, especially near sumps and water courses, may never go entirely dormant. If the stock never moves, they will be grazed to death and all regeneration destroyed, which is why they tend to disappear under continuous grazing pressure.

Both the objective and the management perspectives have their place, but sorting out the difference, gathering consistent and relevant data for both program evaluation and management, and actually putting the information to use has been an ongoing challenge.

On the assumption that only masses of data would convince skeptics at the Bank that the program was not "soft science," the first extension agents went into the field with sheaves of data forms including monthly transects on the land, each involving multiple observations from 100 random points. In addition they had to ask extensive socio-economic questions that beneficiaries found intrusive. Compliance was irregular. Paper piled up. The "beneficiaries," the agents, and the program officers all complained. Management-oriented techniques and routines were not developed as well as they should have been.

Following the 1999 mid-term report, the program leaders accepted a suggestion from the evaluation team to contact the program evaluation to an independent entity and develop participatory, management-oriented monitoring as a component of local management. Easier said than done.

In a commentary several months later, Task Manager John Hall's successor François Legall wrote:

The ecological (resource base) monitoring (was) intended to be done by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Niamey, Niger. Their investigator indicated that they couldn't use our transects and could not see that our program had made a significant difference on the land. I tried to explain the indicators we are monitoring, but they didn't feel comfortable with them, so I said, "All right, do your own evaluation with your own methodology and indicators." Right away they turned around and said, "Ah, that is difficult and will take many years, etc."

A contract was negotiated in August 2001 in Senegal for an extensive ecological and socio-economic study of sites in the Ferlo Basin with a scientific consortium based in Dakar, the Pôle Pastoral Zones Seches (PPZS) composed of the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), the Centre de Suivi Ecologique (CSE) and Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar (UCAD). Results will not be forthcoming for some time but donors and academic observers should find them credible.

Meanwhile many questions concerning both external and internal monitoring remain under intense discussion. The latter are especially important if communities are ever expected to manage holistically on their own. Unfortunately misunderstanding about the role of monitoring in management affects them, too. Changing this must become a more important objective in future community-level training.

All of the original grazing plans, for example, were laid out by expatriate consultants, who programmed the moves to allow 30 days of recovery during rapid growth and 90 days in slow growth. These are extremely arbitrary numbers, given the variability of conditions, and the local livestock committee should continually adjust moves according to the recovery of grazed plants that herders actually see, rather than what's written in the extension agent's notebook. They should report when animals are starting to eat litter.

The search for more sensitive, easier to monitor, indicators has nevertheless progressed since the early days of WAPPP, and will continue. Milk production and distribution, for example, is an extremely good reflection of range quality, herd fertility and economic well-being. Although absolute numbers are hard to collect, a women's organization or marketing coop may provide representative data. A sampling of flocks that come to a certain well, the number of adobe houses built, the length if time it takes for sumps to fill and soil to dry after rain, the size of the space a good herder thinks could feed a cow for a day . . . . In the spirit of the WAPPP training program, they are all ways to put the spectacles on the crocodile.


As the clock ran out on the West African Pilot Pastoral Program, its veterans gathered for a five-day discussion of lessons and opportunities that eight years of field experience, conferences and correspondence would leave behind.

This meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in February 2002, would be the last of seven annual WAPPP conferences that brought together the thirty or forty national coordinators, field agents, consultants, and bank administrators who most intimately contributed to the WAPPP experience.

Project leaders François LeGall and John Hall had engaged an independent facilitator to orchestrate a synthesis of diverse opinions through a progressive refinement of brainstorming exercises, small group discussions, and plenary summations. Diery Pape Sene, who cut his teeth in group discussion management organizing uprooted peasants into urban cooperatives in his native Dakar, did not blink at the varied nationalities and perspectives of the WAPPP network. In the spirit of Twenty First Century Convention conventions, the group consumed a ream or two of flip-chart paper, a gross of felt tip pens and no end of coffee and tea as they sifted the past for lessons, achievements, and warnings.

Despite clear differences in the performance of pilot sites from one country to another and criticism of the program itself in the reports from Niger and Mauritania cited above, an unambiguous consensus emerged on one point. The collective experience of wrestling with the holistic model has indeed created an international network of people who would henceforth approach some of the core challenges of development differently. The natural resource management policy machinery of seven countries has been leavened by people who share a vocabulary of analysis and planning, a new perspective on common problems, and e-mail addresses. Constructive cross-fertilization has already occurred. The training materials, The Bespectacled Crocodile, developed in Senegal, have been used successfully in Burkina. A WAPPP veteran, Ahmed Nadif of Tchad, has been hired as a consultant for a USAID program in Mali. One can question a Guinean policy's impact on the mineral cycle or succession, and someone in both the livestock office and the village development office will know what you're talking about.

Practical questions remain, nevertheless. Should the various national programs and supporting donors seek to replicate the format of WAPPP and promote holistic grazing management community by community? Can the lessons apply to broad policy priorities such as alleviation of poverty, gender equality, decentralization of government, biodiversity, land tenure, etc.? Will they fit gracefully into the framework of current programs that support specific sectors—livestock, public health, agriculture, small enterprise development? What about infrastructure programs such as water development irrigation and transport?

Following WAPPP's final conference in Burkina, John Hall began work on a "tool box" for program and policy designers. It lists lessons and applications explored by WAPPP. These range from the definition of a "Holistic Goal" as a basis for developing plans to advice on introducing the decision-making model directly to farming and herding communities. Other notes cover its relevance to women's issues, the promise of negotiating land use conflicts at the community level, and many other specific topics.

Most of these observations reflect four main areas of agreement that Pape Sene distilled from the comments of the program veterans.

  • Future projects should capitalize on the desire and the capacity of communities to work together and in harmony with others.
  • In most situations, problems of land tenure, access, and grazing rights can be addressed through mutually beneficial negotiations between parties
  • More widespread understanding of the decision-making model at both the institutional and community levels as a tool for enhancing, communication, organizing action, and resolving conflict will produce the cooperation between communities and government and NGO services that decentralizing reforms demand.
  • The regional network has inspired and supported innovative thinking and generated an esprit de corps that crosses national boundaries.

Conspicuously absent from this list are several points nearly always raised by groups dominated by livestock technicians and natural resource managers. There was little mention of emergency response to drought or disease. None at all about coercive enforcement. Although legal and land use problems were frequently discussed, blanket legal reform or the institution of national or regional "pastoral codes" got low priority. Technical questions, including the particulars of grazing management, took a back seat to the high priority on organization and training.

Certainly this reflects the increasing emphasis on decentralization, grassroots participation, and inclusive organization in development thinking generally. Nevertheless, the holistic management model provides more than a road map for traditionally hierarchical and technology-oriented agencies groping for ways to adapt. It introduces new tools such as management of grazing time in lieu of stock reduction. Its axiom that changing management will change outcomes also helps overcome the fatalism that kills initiative.

The value WAPPP veterans place on general management training witnesses to the relevance of the approach in a wide range of program contexts. In most communities, livestock, crops, trade, water, fuel, health, nutrition and other issues intertwine. Just as animal husbandry specialists in WAPPP have come to recognize the importance of a woman's interest in milk and a farmer's in manure, so the health specialist and the agronomist cannot ignore livestock. In rural Africa, in fact everywhere, resource management involves all aspects of community life, no matter where one starts. The Bespectacled Crocodile will serve in every situation where degradation of the landscape affects the quality of life. We can now see how, even without the benefit of literacy, a community can learn to identify its own management deficiencies and seek the expertise and support that will correct them. This reverses the familiar pattern of "We tell you our problems, and you give us a project, according to your specialty."

Nothing illustrates this better than the WAPPP experiences in addressing land use conflict on the basis of complementary advantage rather than statutory right. When, in 1994, the powerful livestock merchants in Massaguet, Tchad, accepted the management plan of the lowly villagers of Fadjé and Djekéne, thereby enabling village women to enhance their beauty by selling enough milk in the dry season to pay for soap, the whole game changed in that place.

New territory awaits exploration, but the road leads toward relief of the great sorrows of Africa and elsewhere—the impoverishment of land, the loss of forests and wildlife, the depletion of water sources, the sterilization of soil, and the attendant dislocation and violence among people.

In 1984 Sam Bingham wrote a short book for Navajo country called Living from Livestock. Though one or two items are outdated (such as the recommendation to build radial grazing cells) it is a wonderfully illustrated and trenchant introduction to the relationship of grazing to ecosystem function in an arid environment. Thanks to Sam we are able to offer it as downloadable pdfs. (Right click, Save As, to download.)

http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock.pdf (about 8 MB)

or in sections:

http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock0.pdf http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock1.pdf http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock2.pdf http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock3.pdf http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock4.pdf http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock5.pdf http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/livingfromlivestock6.pdf

and in French:

http://managingwholes.com/village/livingfromlivestock/vivredesontroupeau.pdf (about 7 MB)