Frameworks, tools, and approaches for the assessment of rangeland governance

June 19, 2019
Published by
Aymen Frija
The region of Tataouine is dominated by pastoral and agro-pastoral production systems
The region of Tataouine is dominated by pastoral and agro-pastoral production systems

Rangelands are widespread areas of pastorally grazed, native vegetation; thus, ensuring the sustainable management and maintenance of these natural resources is complex, requiring consensus and cooperation among rangeland stakeholders. It is also well known that the economic and environmental importance of rangelands is mostly compromised by the weakness of its land governance.

ICARDA elaborated a comprehensive framework and operational guidelines for participatory assessment of rangeland governance to identify a set of influential socio-economic and environmental variables on successful collective rangeland management.

Case study Southern Tunisia

The region of Tataouine is dominated by pastoral and agro-pastoral production systems with high degrees of livestock activity and traditional pastoral mobility. Rangelands in the area are directly managed by farmer associations known as Groupements de Développement Agricole (GDAs) that decide the day-to-day management of biomass resources. The region is also characterized by the existence of collective land tenure systems, where rangelands tend to be communal or tribal property. Land Management Councils (LMCs), comprising land owner representatives, are established by local communities to coordinate access to rangelands with the GDA, based on customary laws and agreements.

Our study of rangeland governance in Tataouine, south Tunisia, started early 2017. A workshop was conducted on 3 and 4 October 2017 in the region with the objective of: (1) co-defining an appropriate and relevant research question in relation to rangeland governance; and (2) to use the research question to develop a causality network structure, with the help of local partners and experts through focus group discussions.

The workshop was attended by 28 participants in total. These included 19 participants from different professional backgrounds from the region of Tataouine, and nine participants representing support structures such as research institutions (IRA, ICARDA) and donors (International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD]). Participants at the workshop represented 10 institutions and rangeland end users and manager groups.

After data collection and desktop analysis, a final workshop was organized on 21 June 2018 in Douz, Tunisia, to validate our results about the major drivers of good rangeland in the region. Local stakeholders were invited, not only from the Tataouine region but also from other neighboring governorates such as Kebili and Médenine, both located in Southern Tunisia.

The Bayesian Belief Network (BBN)

The Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) methodology was applied in our research activity to assess key variables that affect the probability of good rangeland governance under contrasting contexts of land tenure in Southern Tunisia. The BBN offers scope to characterize complex causalities and attribute realistic weights to identified causal linkages that are relevant for the study of natural resource governance. The BBN methodology provides a framework for combining knowledge and data derived from a range of sources with variable accuracy, including the capacity to integrate social, economic, and environmental variables within a single model. The framework used is based on multi-stakeholders’ participatory discussions and focus groups to reveal actors’ perceptions and knowledge about local rangeland governance.

One of the weaknesses of the BBN is the need to discretize continuous variables: this reduces the content and quality of information. Direct integration of feedback loops is not possible, due to the structure of parent nodes that affects the conditional probabilities of their respective child nodes, and the scope of the BBN structure lacks explicit temporal and spatial representations of the results, which forces the construction of separate networks for individual periods and regions, thereby dramatically reducing the data bias.

The most important feedbacks ICARDA and its national partner l’Institut des Région Arides de Médenine  got from local stakeholders were related to the importance of the participatory approach for an effective understanding of good governance and sustainable rangeland management.

They also insisted on the need to assess the strategic role of the Groupement de Développement Agricole (GDA) and conduct a careful analysis of its deficiency, weakness and strengths (in terms of financial resources, human resources). Local actors also emphasized and agreed about the importance of effective and smooth coordination between the GDA and the management councils and the coordination between the government agencies and the end users of rangelands.

CGIAR Research Program Policies, Institutions and Markets supported the study. A development project to improve rural livelihoods and local capacity building in the study areas is also being implemented by the regional agricultural administration with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

For more information, please contact Aymen Frija Agricultural Economist (Economic Modeling) at ICARDA: Mongi Sghaier is agricultural economics researcher at IRA Médenine.