What value for pastoral livelihoods? An economic valuation of development alternatives for ephemeral wetlands in eastern Mauritania

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Abstract

Pastoralism in Africa faces new challenges in an era of climate change, despite some improvements in policy and legislative frameworks as well as sporadic investment in pastoral development. There are concerns that pastoralism will not be sustainable in a climate-affected world, and this is seeing the return of policies to settle pastoralists and introduce modern cropping. Pastoralism is not yet understood as a specialisation to take advantage of instability and variability, and as a result, the trend has continued towards replacing pastoralism as a livelihood strategy rather than investing in it. It is in this context that a study conducted in eastern Mauritania between 1999 and 2001 is presented here to demonstrate the economic value of ephemeral wetlands as multi-use resources for pastoralism, agriculture and biodiversity. At the time the study was conducted, governments and aid agencies across the Sahel were targeting wetlands as areas of high development potential to combat poverty and increase food security, converting them from multi-use resources to single-use, arable resources. The study assesses the benefits of multiple-use systems compared to such single-use systems through economic valuation of production from the respective systems. Arable agriculture, livestock rearing and botanical and other natural resources are valued in the case of multiple-use systems and compared to arable production from single-use systems. Multiple-use systems are found to out-perform single-use systems based on annual production values, when opportunity costs and the replacement costs of wetland resources are taken into account. The results also show that the multi-use systems are better adapted to a highly variable climate than single-use arable systems that are highly vulnerable to rainfall fluctuations. This has implications for production in a climate-constrained world where diversification and investment in pastoralism as a strategy for managing variability in drylands will be increasingly important. The methodology used to value the wetlands remains relevant 15 years later, as governments, aid agencies and international organisations develop policies to guide pastoralism in dryland systems that are becoming increasingly variable and unpredictable in the face of climate change.

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APA

Shine, T., & Dunford, B. (2016). What value for pastoral livelihoods? An economic valuation of development alternatives for ephemeral wetlands in eastern Mauritania. Pastoralism, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13570-016-0057-x

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