Agricultural Change, Land and Violence: An Examination of the Region of Darfur, Sudan.
Osman, Abdal Monium.
the past two decades, protracted conflicts have become a prominent feature in many
African countries. In Sudan, it is almost nine years since the crisis in Darfur
manifested itself to the international community in the form of massive displacement and
killings following the brutal counterinsurgency campaign in 2003. Though the violence in
Darfur has attracted much attention and... read moreanalysis, the local dimension of the crisis
remains a gap in these analyses. The most important elements that have been accorded
little, if any, attention are the agricultural change and the related changes to the
land-rights and land-use system. This thesis explores the connection between these
issues and violence. It is composed of three analyses that examine (1) the nature of
change in agriculture and land use, and how such change affected the resource
utilization pattern and the interdependence between pastoral livestock production and
shifting crop cultivation; (2) land allocation and acquisition between groups and
individuals in a context of changing land use; and (3) the implications of these changes
for the local-level traditional institutions that oversee land rights and settle
conflicts, and their further implications for violence in the region. The study area is
located in North Darfur State and forms the northeastern extension of Jebel Marra. The
study area is a hub of interaction of farming and pastoral livestock production and is
characterized by chronic conflicts and social tensions. Qualitative research methods
were used to examine the research questions. Data were collected from farmers and
transhumant pastoralists in 28 villages in the different agricultural zones in the area,
from pastoralists in 8 pastoralists settlements, and from key informants and business
groups in the study area. Data collected were transcribed, imported, and analyzed using
computer-based qualitative analysis software (QSR NVivo 8). The thesis investigates
changes in land use since the nineteen-sixties. Shifting crop cultivation first changed
into continuous land use and since then has evolved into a stabilized agricultural
system of mixed farming. This change in land use has had serious consequences for the
cyclic use of land, which allows crop cultivation and pastoralism to take place on the
same land. It has also disrupted the multiple and overlapping land-use systems, eroded
the mutual interdependencies between cultivation and pastoralism, and broken the
traditional twining between these two systems of land use. The interaction between the
groups involved in these two systems of production has become competitive. In addition,
the customary tenure system has evolved from usufruct rights with reversion to common
property on abandonment to an individualized control system. The rise of the individual
land control has taken place within a context of conflicting dual land tenure of the
customary and state land law. The dual land tenure system, the evolution of a contested
individual land control, and the tension ensuing from both have resulted in confusion,
lack of access to land and landed resources for large sectors of the population, and
insecure access to land and landed resources for others. The implications of these
changes in access to agricultural resources are discussed in terms of the disputes,
violent conflict, and non-conflict armed violence in the region; the customary land
management and conflict resolution authorities; and the ethnic trajectory that the
violence has taken. In addition, the structural link between land, ethnicity, and power
in Darfur makes access to land liable to political and ethnic mobilization. The rise of
individual land control, the erosion of the customary authorities, and the dual land
tenure system present a policy challenge. Individual land registration in general has
been an appealing policy strategy. But in a situation such as that in Darfur, where the
viability of the different production systems and the groups involved in them are solely
based on land use and land claims by several resource users over different times,
individual registration would present serious technical as well as social challenges.
This dissertation argues for further research on the changing nature of the agricultural
system and land system to inform context-specific solutions, policy debates, and
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2013.
Submitted to the Dept. of Food Policy & Applied Nutrition.
Advisor: Helen Young.
Committee: Robert Houser, and Jennifer Coates.
Keywords: Social research, and Agriculture.read less