1. External support to the livestock sector in semi-arid regions has increasingly emphasized the development of pastoralists' groups as a means of facilitating links between pastoralists and support services, especially in animal health, and also to help improve management of rangeland and water resources on which pastoral livestock production is based. Little assessment has been done of the development and performance of pastoralist groups of this type. The Second Livestock Project in Mauritania staked its success on such a scheme. The evaluation focuses on the performance of the project in developing pastoral cooperative associations (PCAs), and reviews their development, current position, and the issues that are arising in their continued evolution two years after project closing. It was based on a review of Bank files, including project completion and appraisal reports, field visits to project sites, and interviews with project beneficiaries and government and Bank staff. The evaluation team used a variety of participatory techniques to obtain the views of the principal stakeholders, direct beneficiaries (principally pastoralists), agency staff, government staff, and others related to the livestock sector.
2. At present the 39 PCAs formed under the project are grouped in a national organization, the National Grouping of Agro-Sylvo-Pastoral Associations. The PCAs have an estimated membership of 20,000, or more than one-third of the pastoralist households in the country. In principle this is a considerable achievement, but membership is often nominal, and the PCAs, are in a highly variable but generally precarious state. Almost two-thirds of the PCAs investigated by the evaluation (8 out of 13) consist entirely of Maurish tribes, while the others are ethnically mixed. The vast majority of PCA leadership is male, generally aged between 45 and 56, but women are much more active at the level of the member cooperatives. The leaders of the individual PCAs investigated are generally figures of some importance, having both urban and rural interests. Members of the committees are predominantly local. The active membership is small, the PCA assemblies seldom meet, and only the smaller management committees meet with any regularity. Most maintain a small revolving fund for the purchase of veterinary supplies, and have undertaken small productive miniprojects. The PCAs were not able to achieve effective control over their grazing areas and performance in resource conservation and measures to improve management were limited.
3. While the project succeeded in establishing the PCAs, it was inconsistent over time in its approach to the organizations (moving from experimenting with a few pilot associations to expansion and back to consolidation). This inconsistency created confusion and conflict between the various roles of the associations and kept them from developing a clear status in the country. This problem was increased by the large size and scale of the PCAs (typically they cover 2,000-2,500 knis with a population of about 5,000), which made it difficult for them to overcome internal heterogeneity of interests. Furthermore, the project continued to emphasize range management even though the PCA members were more concerned with water and animal health, and despite evidence that the efforts to establish a freer system of distribution of veterinary products were appreciated by the herders and proved the most frustration to PCA membership was that, at the outset, they understood that the project would place priority on rehabilitating or drilling wells for stock water points. However, this only materialized in a minor way at the end of the project.
4. Following completion of the Second Livestock Project, support to the PCAs was continued with a view to their playing a role in the successor Rainfed Natural Resource Management Project (PGRNP), approved in FY97. This project also has a primarily natural resource management focus, with greater emphasis at the local level on village development, and involving the full range of land users. To date the PCAs have not been formally involved in this process, and they believe they are being sidelined in favor of more village-based entities, to the potential disadvantage of the pastoralists. It is important for the Bank to recognize that it cannot help to initiate community groupings and then ignore them in subsequent operations that affect them, if it and they are to retain credibility.
5. In summary, the PCAs have not developed a clear role and consequent visibility, either locally or nationally. They risk becoming sidelined and withering into insignificance. Given the marginality of pastoral livestock producers and their need to integrate into the larger economy, this is increasing frustration and could lead to tensions that will undercut other efforts, including those of the PGRNP. If this is to be avoided, it is essential that the PGRNP recognize and, as far as possible mesh with, the structures developed under the Second Livestock Project. The PGRNP should: (a) work in a fully participatory manner with the PCAs and other local groupings in further developing its strategy for natural resource management and development, and (b) give high priority to improvement of stock water points and, to the degree feasible, complete the program identified under the Second Livestock Project, otherwise confusion and disillusionment are likely to result, to the detriment of the PGRNP's ultimate performance.
6. The findings of the study indicate a number of more general lessons for efforts to support pastoralists. First, an emphasis on resource management requires intensive support for local initiatives, at least for some time, but it also requires recognition of the limited array of new technologies available for extensive production and natural resource management systems. Priority should be given to actions that will help pastoralists better integrate into the larger economy and society, rather than to attempts to devise and introduce improved technologies. Second, consideration should be given to actions that will foster the growth of a broader pattern of local leadership in the communities, seeking neither to simply reinforce the position of the traditional leadership nor to promote an unrealistic degree of "popular participation," but to provide an enabling environment for new initiatives and the emergence of new cooperative groupings. Third, when strong local structures for development-oriented activities do not exist, a sequenced and process approach to project operations is required, especially when the local socio-economic and resource management systems are not well known.