Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Confined and Sustainable? A Critique of Recent Pastoral Policy for Reindeer Herding in Finnmark, Northern Norway

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Confined and Sustainable? A Critique of Recent Pastoral Policy for Reindeer Herding in Finnmark, Northern Norway

Article excerpt

Abstract

Recently, an increasing number of development plans and strategies for pastoral communities have failed to ensure the sought sustainability, especially in ecosystems characterised by fluctuating environmental conditions. Many of these strategies are centred on a policy of confining, controlling and settling the nomadic herders. This article illustrates some of the principles and pitfalls of this approach with the case of semi-nomadic reindeer herding in Northern Norway. It juxtaposes the management views advocated by the herders with those expressed and implied by the recent state policies for reindeer herding. The focus is placed on the changes in land tenure and resource access. On the one hand, the state policy is founded on the assumptions of the tragedy-of-the-commons theory and argues for a formalised individual tenure regime as the only arrangement able to prevent/redress the alleged environmental degradation. On the other hand, the herders argue for a complex, and at times paradoxical, tenure and management regime, one that ensures both tenure security and flexibility, an adaptation of customary principles to the present situation. Our conclusion supports increasing evidence from elsewhere that gaps between the policy prescriptions and the pastoral management strategies have often resulted in negative social and environmental consequences. We argue for the need to include the experience and expectations of the herders in the design of legitimate and enduring co-management regimes as the only sustainable alternative.

Keywords: pastoralism, reindeer, land tenure, commons, institutions, Finnmark. Norway, rationalisation

Introduction

The last decade has seen the emergence of increased movements aimed at harnessing science and technology in the quest for a transition towards sustainability. While the intentions are salutary, the premises and approaches of the development plans and strategies for pastoral communities have, more often than not, failed to ensure the sought sustainability. This situation has reached a dramatic level in ecosystems characterised by fluctuating environmental conditions combined with poverty and the lack of alternative sources of income. In many of these settings, the central administration has embraced a policy of confining, controlling and settling the nomadic herders (Adams 2001) in an attitude often criticised as stemming from an 'intellectual tradition of anti-nomadism' (Horowitz and Little 1987).

State intervention has often sought legitimacy in concerns about environmental degradation (e.g. desertification) and used stereotyped and flawed ecological evidence to back up its attempts to make nomads settle. State development strategies have relied on the control of livestock numbers (through destocking and commercial off-take) and of grazing pressure (through fencing and padlocking), advocating changes toward sedentarisation, formal land tenure and capitalist production (Adams 2001). Various groups of outsiders (e.g. conservationists and farmers) often became stakeholders within the pastoral systems by adhering to this discourse through either political or scientific pathways, thus re-producing and supporting it at a larger scale (Roe 1999).

The herders, though, present the realities of mobile pastoralism in spatially and temporally variable environments as very different from these prescriptions; these realities may determine potentially conflicting needs for secure resource tenure and (socially and spatially) flexible patterns of resource use (Fernandez-Gimenez 2002).

The gaps between the policy prescriptions and the pastoral management strategies have often resulted in disruption of local norms and rules of managing the resources, destitution of the communities and the degradation of resources (Ostrom 2000). While this scenario has local variations, it has come to represent one of the few constants in the world of nomadic pastoralism. …

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