Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Managing Pastoralism and Water Rights in the Upper West Region of Ghana: A Blame Game among Actors

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Managing Pastoralism and Water Rights in the Upper West Region of Ghana: A Blame Game among Actors

Article excerpt


This paper examines the interaction among actors in pastoral practices and right to access water in the Upper West Region of Ghana. Water rights, the environment and pastoral practices have been the main issues of discussion in many countries, and Ghana in particular. The focus has always been the negative effects of pastoral activities on environmental resources with less attention on the positive side of it. This paper presents findings on the relationship among various actors (government agencies, community members, herdsmen, livestock owners, and chiefs) in managing pastoral practices. Focus group discussions and key informant interviews were held with the various actors to understand their relationship with one another on pastoral practices and water rights in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The study revealed that the various actors perceive one another as the cause of weak management of pastoral practices in the area and as such blame each other in pastoral practices. This attitude (blame game) has affected the activities of all the actors with serious implications on social and food insecurity in the area.

Keywords: pastoralism, water rights, blame game, herdsmen

1. Introduction

The interplay of water rights, the environment and pastoral practices has been a central issue of discussion in many countries. The central issue of discussion has been on the negative dimension of pastoral activities on environmental resources. As such, pastoralists have borne the greater part of the blame for environmental degradation, and many policy makers have been compelled to address its related issues (Katjiua & Ward, 2007; McCabe, 1990; Thébaud & Batterbury, 2001). Thébaud and Batterbury (2001) argued that the conditions that pastoral communities face are related to the negative discourse that is being discussed about pastoralism within development policy by government officials. Thus, to view pastoralism with negative lenses is a common feature of pastoral areas in sub-Sahara Africa, and perhaps a lack of adequate communication among the actors. Hence, Adger et al. (2005) maintained that access to information and its proper communication is important in minimizing conflict over environmental issues. This can be the result of high rate of development intervention failure, often due to misconceptions by decision-makers and planners of local resource management and livelihood systems (Nori et al., 2008). But Robinson and Berkes (2011) hold the view that policy makers and development programmes do not adequately acknowledge the complexity of pastoral system because many do not have the requisite framework to understand pastoralism and plan accordingly.

For some decades, some researchers held the view that pastoralism is less harmful to the environment (Hogg, 1987). On the contrary, the pastoralists equally seek to maintain a balance between pastures, livestock and people (Nori et al., 2008). Recently, it was argued that climate change increases the risk of pushing farmers to cultivate on marginal lands, and pastoralists are better placed to reclaim such areas (Nori et al., 2008). Again, pastoral areas are not suited to widespread agriculture or more intensive or sedentary forms of animal husbandry, and as such, investing in pastoralism has low opportunity costs (Hesse & MacGregor, 2006). Pastoralism offers the most cost-effective way of supporting relatively large populations in these areas and at minimal environmental cost. These arguments support the need and relevance of pastoralism and that the neglect of pastoralism carries huge potential costs, since poverty, environmental degradation and conflict are likely to increase due to local people losing their livelihood base and struggle for survival. This is because extensive pastoral production is practiced on 25% of the global land area, from the dry lands of Africa (66% of the total continent land area) and the Arabian Peninsula, to the highlands of Asia and Latin America Alive (2006) cited in (Nori et al. …

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