Participatory Appraisal with Pastoralists at Wadi Sayq

“I shall always remember how I was humbled by those illiterate herdsmen who possessed, in so much greater measure than I, generosity and courage, endurance, patience and lighthearted gallantry. Among no other people have I felt the same sense of personal inadequacy”

Sir Wilfred Thesiger

lawrence camelOver three weeks in April and May 2014 I carried out participatory appraisal methods with 30 pastoralists across nine villages at Wadi Sayq. Using participatory GIS (PGIS) methods I collected spatial data on grazing regimes and livestock-predator conflict, and qualitative data on the drivers behind overgrazing in the area.

lawrence ballThe Research Objectives of this study can be seen below.

1. What is the spatial and temporal arrangement of past and current livestock grazing activity?
2. What problems do livestock owners currently face?
3. To what extent does grazing activity coincide with predator distributions?
4. What are the barriers to a more sustainable grazing regime?

The initial findings of this study:

  • Pasture degradation is a greater long term threat to pastoral livelihoods in the area than livestock-predator conflict.
  • Pasture degradation is forcing a reliance on expensive supplementary livestock feed.
  • The feed itself has caused a behavioural change in the livestock which makes them strip bark from trees, killing the tree.
  •  There is a rapidly diminishing market for camel produce, and the distance to the market from Wadi Sayq, leads to accumulated large herds. 
  • Over-extraction of groundwater and unreliable monsoons rains are leading to poor vegetation recovery. 
  • The leopard is ranked the greatest threat to livestock and is reportedly responsible for over 80% of attacks. 
  • The main road intercepts the predator-prey interface between Leopard and Ibex.
  • This research demonstrates the effectiveness of citizen and low-budget research in Oman. 
  • Livestock owners in Oman are willing to participate and work towards improving their pastoral lifestyles. Also noteworthy, is their understanding of the fundamental drivers of overgrazing and awareness of requirements for improvement to more sustainable practises.
  • This research has made it possible to identify a flow of themes identified by those most affected by changing pastoralism, the livestock owners, at Wadi Sayq.
  • There is concern that degraded lands might not recover in Dhofar (see Kurschner et al., 2004; Miller, 1994)

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