Lesson: The Human Ecology of Pastoralism in Kordofan and Darfur

This module tracks shifts in perceptions of dryland environmental change in 20th century western Sudan where views about the existence and root causes of desertification have oscillated with changes in ideology, scientific knowledge and rainfall. During the Condominium, positive views of the environmental practices of pastoral nomads, fairly unique in colonial experience, were bolstered by the cultural and linguistic fluency of government officers. In the post-colonial period, during the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, perceptions of desert boundaries shifted to emphasize desert encroachment, and were intertwined with narratives of overpopulation, bad grazing and agricultural practices, reflecting a broader consensus in the international and donor arena. Geographers later challenged this consensus using remote sensing techniques to relate shifting desert boundaries to fluctuations in rainfall. The module musters archival material and technical documents to investigate these issues in two provinces in Sudan, Kordofan and Darfur, illustrating both the ideological and scientific bases of beliefs about desert boundaries and linking them to broader trends in sub-Saharan Africa and the international community. Teachers and students will be able to understand the uses of remote-sensing technology in representing environmental change.

Intriguing Questions

    1. Is the Sahara advancing in Sudan?
    2. What are the debates about "desertification"?
    3. What are strategies of public policy for mitigating land degradation?
    4. Will changing land rights destroy pastoralist cultures?
    5. How is satellite imagery enhancing understanding of agrarian and pastoral change in western Sudan?

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This teaching module is coordinated by Leslie Gray


Module Teaching Resources: Resource created by the Understanding Sudan project.


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