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Good rangeland governance in southern Tunisia

ICARDA and IRA Médenine, national partner, gain insight into rangeland social-ecological systems (Photo: Aymen Frija/ICARDA)

By Aymen Frija and Mongi Sghaier

Good rangeland governance is critical in sustainable conservation of pasture lands. The role of social practices – including broad participation and the chance to voice specific concerns – is central to achieving good rangeland governance. Together with targeted investments, they are essential in improving rangeland governance.

Yet evidence-based guidance on policy and investment has remained limited. To inform policymakers, ICARDA and its national partner l’Institut des Région Arides de Médenine used an innovative methodology to identify a set of influential socio-economic and environmental variables on successful collective rangeland management.

The partners used Bayesian Belief Network to pull together all the factors affecting rangeland governance such as land tenure systems, performance of farmers’ associations, and collective and private land ownerships. They then identified which were the most influential and “enabling” factors that could economically, environmentally, and institutionally stimulate good rangeland governance under local constraints like land-tenure systems.

The use of Bayesian Belief Network, which investigates the causal relationships of an outcome or an event, provided a significant insight into the complex rangeland social-ecological systems using minimum data.

Key findings: The social capital of farmers and their capacity to organize have a positive association with good rangeland governance; the homogeneity of the farmers in terms of size and annual income is also positively related to good rangeland governance; land tenure and development investments are some of the top influential variables.

Another important variable is the relationship between landowners and land users. In many dryland areas, rangelands are managed through collective land-tenure systems, which means that landowners and land users are not always the same. As a result, they have different opinions on rangeland use and management, which often hampers ambitions to achieve good rangeland governance.

Additionally, the study revealed that the improvement of governance in collective rangelands is possible if some conditions are met.

To follow up on the findings of the study, IRA Médenine and ICARDA jointly organized a validation workshop. It brought to the table all the stakeholders: farmers, community and agricultural organizations, local authorities from the governorates of Médenine, Tataouine, and Kebili. The participants developed scenarios to test tools to enhance participation in rangeland governance and made suggestions for improvement.

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.

Aymen Frija is agricultural economist at ICARDA. Mongi Sghaier is agricultural economics researcher at IRA Médenine.

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