Accueil » Consultation and empowerment of agro-pastoral communities in Mauritania
Published on 15/03/2021

Consultation and empowerment of agro-pastoral communities in Mauritania

GRET has been present in Mauritania since 1991, focusing on various subject areas. In 2014, it launched its first activities in the area of agriculture and management of natural resources. Ever since, the teams have been working to construct innovative intervention approaches with populations, aiming to favour the empowerment of agro-pastoral communities.

 

Agro-pastoralists’ and partners’ engagement led GRET to extend its intervention as collaborations proceeded. New projects in agriculture and concerted management of natural resources were implemented in Assaba (Rimrap – 2016), Gorgol (SAP3C – 2018) and Brakna (Safire – 2019), in diverse geographic and social contexts, but featuring common intervention principles being continued today, with several new projects launched in 2020*.

 

The long-neglected agro-pastoral world

Mauritanian family farming, whether flood recession, rain fed, irrigated or pastoral is constrained by multiple factors. Farmers are regularly experiencing highly uncertain situations, in terms of rights and access to land, risks related to climate change, unstable market prices, investment difficulties and uncertain quality of available seeds. These constraints are all factors preventing farmers from fully investing in agricultural activities, and some are looking at ways to diversify family income, such as intermittent work in urban areas, mining or national and international migration.

Rural communities are also trapped in situations where they depend on external aid (distribution of seeds, inputs, food), which are often maintained by public policies and underfunded technical services, as well as by some international organisations. The implementation of infrastructures without prior involvement of future users or dissemination of best agricultural practices without considering farmers’ realities are obstacles preventing farmers and local authorities from continuing to invest sustainably in agricultural activity. In parallel, public policies’ lack of focus on local agricultural products (apart from rice produced in the lower Senegal River valley) is blocking the progress of local sustainable production.

Recurrent agroecological constraints such as extreme climate events, pests and soil erosion receive too little focus from fragile national agronomic and zootechnical research.

In addition, demographic growth is accentuating pressure on natural resources (cultivable land, pasturelands, forests, surface and ground water), aggravating difficulties and risks of malnutrition for inhabitants in a country where more than one in child in five in rural areas suffer from chronic malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies, related mainly to low dietary diversity.


Salad harvesting on a market garden © Gret

Tomato and eggplant harvests in a market garden © Gret

Corn and sorghum cobs © Gret

Farming field school © Gret

Farming field school © Gret

Farming field school © Gret

Farming field school © Gret

Market garden perimeter © GRET

Cattle mouthing © Gret

Market garden perimeter © GRET

Market gardening © GRET

Market gardening © GRET

Market gardening © GRET


Meeting of a farmers' group © GRET

Threshold and gabion dike © Gret

Threshold and gabion dike © Gret

Visit to a plot of a farmer field school © GRET

 

Putting agro-pastoralists at the heart of development actions

To deal with these constraints, GRET’s action takes place over the long term, responding to immediate needs (investments, strengthening of technical capacities, etc.) while including them in a long-term perspective for empowerment of agro-pastoralists. Creating a relationship of trust with stakeholders in the territory is a transversal issue underpinning GRET’s approach, in order to be capable of strengthening these stakeholders and involving them in strategies developed and actions conducted.

 

In Guidimakha, the first activities enabled farmers to test innovative, sustainable agroecological practices, and to have appropriate infrastructures and equipment. These actions were led by village groups that became progressively organised and strengthened. Today, GRET continues to support these groups with networking and pooling of efforts, in order to improve the services they provide to their members for issues they themselves identified, such as supply of quality vegetable seeds, peer learning or collective advocacy among local authorities. Ultimately, the objective of this support is to enable groups to advocate for Mauritanian farmers’ rights in an autonomous, sustainable manner and to ensure their access to quality services so that their members can collectively act for their own well-being.

 

Alassane Sow, Manager of the agriculture component at the Kaedi office,
“We work with public stakeholders in various ways and at different times in our interventions, beyond the requirements of our presence in territories or sectors under their responsibility.
For example, concerted management of natural resources requires strong involvement from communes, technical environment services and prefects, because the objective is to ensure real delegation of rights for users in the territory concerned.
The mayors and technical services also took part in committees to select the micro-projects that would be awarded a grant from the Guidimakha support fund. The transparency of the process enabled public stakeholders to distance themselves from certain “clientelist” practices.
However, public stakeholders’ participation remains low for the agricultural advice system, despite our invitations; they consider NGOs as a means to provide these services for them, so they don’t see the point of getting involved”.

 

Acquiring participative, integrated understanding of territorial dynamics and resources

Mauritania’s multi-layered agrarian history created an overlay of rights and claims to resources, sometimes generating serious conflicts, such as the crisis between Mauritania and Senegal from 1989 to 1991. Understanding the complexity of these situations is essential for the implementation of effective intervention methodologies that are accepted by populations, particularly when installing infrastructures such as small dams aiming to increase flood recession cultivated surface areas. GRET’s teams conduct indepth studies to analyse different points of view and internal mechanisms to regulate access to resources. Continuous facilitation and proximity with rural populations make it possible to change these regulations for greater inclusion of some people who were previously excluded from resources or poorly equipped, in particular women. This approach also enables prevention of conflicts that could emerge following the construction of infrastructures or enhancement of land.

 

 

Seydou Gandega, Agricultural adviser and then coordinator of concerted management of natural resources with the SAP3C project, tells us about concertation approaches
“Our approach is participative, local and concerted. I go to the localities to meet villagers and give them as much information as possible on the project and its objective. Together, we set up management committees, define mapping and implement agreements for management of natural resources that are subsequently recognised by the administration. Throughout the process, populations propose, decide and validate, and this enables them to become empowered. An agreement can for example resolve conflicts on the closure or opening of fields during cropping seasons in concertation with the various users of the space (livestock producers, farmers, agro-pastoralists, etc.).”

 

 

 

Sidi Mohamed Hmeida, Project manager and now senior technical assistance trainer with the Rimfil project, talks about the farming field schools (FFS)
The farming field school is a process mobilising a group of farmers in synergy with other stakeholders, using a physical system (a test plot) and peer learning methods. The FFS respects and valorises farmers’ knowledge and ensures participants feel comfortable so they can better comprehend internal relationships in the group and relationships with their environment.
The first FFS initiatives launched by GRET in Mauritania in 2015 quickly gave participants perspectives for global change in their field, in terms of agroecological practices, evolution of production systems, food diversification, marketing of products and more balanced relationships with local institutions. This technical support responded to a glaring lack of support for farmers, who quickly adhered to it, as did development partners.
Facilitation of the FFS requires technical knowledge and facilitation skills. GRET trains farmers-facilitators so that they can acquire technical know-how enabling them to test and innovate to meet their needs, and to acquire facilitation skills to lead an initiative within their group.

 

*Several new GRET projects started in 2020:

  • The Adrao project aims to consolidate actions in three communes in Guidimakha through a network of famers’ groups and support for the development of more equitable relationships with stakeholders in the public and private sectors. To this end, GRET entered into a partnership with national NGO Amad, which conducts similar actions in Gorgol and Brakna.
  • The Rimdir social engineering project in Guidimakha aims to support the installation of productive agro-pastoral infrastructures. It is being conducted with Enabel and draws on GRET’s local concertation experiences, with a view to preventing conflicts over use of land and natural resources.
  • Technical assistance to the Rimfil project, being conducted by the Belgian development cooperation and the Ministry of Rural Development to train and support 60 farming field school facilitators working with flood recession crops.

 


Objectives and key figures of our actions for fair agricultural development that respects natural resources in Mauritania

  • Support the emancipation and empowerment of agro-pastoral populations (in particular women) through structuring of the farming world.
  • Help farmers to innovate and invest to cope with climate change, improve their living & working conditions, and their food. Agroecological practices are at the heart of these preoccupations, and are accompanied by reflection on the links between agriculture and nutrition. Systems awarding subsidies for collective investments can be pertinent in some cases, provided they are led by stakeholders in the territory.

 

  • Reduce and anticipate conflicts over different uses and users of natural resources (land, forests, surface water) through concerted management of these resources.
  • Give particular attention to the most vulnerable when choosing which populations GRET works with and in methodologies developed. The actions supported also contribute to greater inclusion and representation of vulnerable populations in local decision-making forums, and strengthens their autonomy.
  • A team of fifteen Mauritanian employees and one volunteer.
  • Actions in approximately twenty communes in 4 regions.
  • 7 projects already implemented or being implemented in the last 7 years.
  • Actions conducted in close collaboration with more than one hundred farmers’ groups.
  • Partnerships with national NGOs: Mauritanian Association for self-development, Tenmiya, Ecodev, and international NGOS: GRDR, Caritas.
  • Various donors: European Union, Agence française de développement, Enabel, CFSI.

 

More information on:

See materials produced as part of projects implemented (in French only):

See some elements of context on GRET’s regions of intervention (in French only):