Rural Sahelians depend on natural resources not only for their food, water, shelter and warmth, but also overwhelmingly for their livelihoods and incomes. With a rising population and a changing climate, sustainable use of natural resources is becoming ever more important. With reserves dwindling, competition for access to resources can be extremely high. This competition can often lead to tension and violent conflicts between different livelihood groups, particularly farmers and pastoralists (nomadic herders). A key priority for SOS Sahel UK is to work with communities and livelihood groups to promote sustainable natural resource management as a means to protect the environment and promote peace.
With a dependence upon natural resources for their lives and livelihoods, and an increasingly volatile climate, the people with whom we work are often extremely vulnerable to droughts and floods that can leave their livelihoods destroyed. We work with communities to reduce their vulnerability to these climatic events, partly through encouraging them to diversify their livelihoods. This means that communities stop being solely reliant on one form of income, and have something to fall back on should they need it.
The countries in which we work – Sudan / South Sudan / Ethiopia – are overwhelmingly reliant on agriculture and agro-pastoralism for their livelihoods, many practicing subsistence farming. With a lack of infrastructure, limited new technologies, a growing population, and a volatile climate, many of the people we work with are vulnerable to food insecurity and hunger. SOS Sahel UK works with farmers, pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and fishermen to improve their livelihoods, develop more sustainable fishing, farming and grazing techniques, increase food production, and protect local environments from damage through over-use.
Pastoralist livestock production (herding animals over rangeland) is practised throughout Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Livestock rearing contributes significantly to livelihoods and local and national economies. Despite this, pastoral populations face poverty, vulnerability and marginalisation. SOS Sahel works with pastoralists to improve their livelihoods and security and to strengthen their capacity to influence the decisions that affect their lives.
SOS Sahel International UK works with independent national partner organisations who implement activities on the ground. We support these experienced NGOs by promoting effective partnerships, helping them to increase their scale and income, and facilitating innovation, learning and improvement. Furthermore, many of our projects involve developing the capacity of community-based organisations and village groups, to ensure that local communities are actively involved in development initiatives.
With a volatile climate, dwindling resources and a growing population, comes competition and tensions. In the environments in which we work (particularly Sudan and South Sudan), national civil conflicts can affect the social thread of communities, limit pastoral migratory roots and increase IDPs (among many other secondary impacts of war). These effects can fuel local tension, with already fragile ways of life being pushed further towards breaking point. Conflict between pastoral and farming populations is becoming more frequent, as the livelihood groups compete for scarce water and land use. SOS Sahel works with communities to promote peace, help communities and local government manage natural resources more fairly and sustainably, and revitalise traditional forms of cooperation between herders and farmers.