Africa's Sudano-Sahel is a distinct bioclimatic and ecological zone made up of savanna and savanna-forest transition habitat that covers approximately 7.7 million square kilometers of the continent. Rich in species diversity, the Sudan-Sahel region represents one of the last remaining intact wilderness areas in the world and is a high priority landscape for wildlife conservation. It is home to an array of antelope species such as giant eland and greater kudu, in addition to African wild dogKordofan giraffe, African elephant, African lion, leopard, and giant pangolin.

This region is also home to many rural communities who rely on the landscape’s natural resources. Among these communities are pastoralists, whose livelihoods and cultural identity are centered around strategic mobility – including across national borders – to access seasonally available grazing resources and water. Instability, climate change, and increasing pressures from unsustainable land use activities pose growing threats to the resilience of the Sudano-Sahel’s iconic wildlife and people.

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Image of cattle with text: "Urban Elites' Livestock Exacerbate Herder-Farmer Tensions in Sudano-Sahel

Kordofan giraffe in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Photo Credit: Matthew Luizza / USFWS

Fulani herder prepares to vaccinate his cattle, Ouka prefecture, Central African Republic. Photo credit: Catianne Tijerina

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has supported projects in the Sudano-Sahel region since 1990. In recent years, the long-distance seasonal movement of livestock, also known as transhumance, or transhumant pastoralism, has posed a growing challenge to protected area management, with a rising number of pastoralists and their herds illegally entering protected areas in search of resources or refuge from armed conflict.

Human and environmental security are inextricably linked. The protected areas supported by USFWS hold the last vestiges of wildlife in the region and are often the only places in the broader landscape where law enforcement and good governance provide security for people and wildlife. At its core, this challenge is one of natural resource access, fueled by a lack of governance and exacerbated by the presence of an array of armed groups, with transhumant pastoralists being both the perpetrators and victims of armed conflict. USFWS recognizes that this is not solely a conservation issue, a security challenge, or a development concern. It is all three, and it requires multi-sector holistic solutions that incorporate and apply aspects from all three realms to this landscape-scale challenge that affects wildlife and people.

Africa's Sudano-Sahel region. Map credit: Matthew Luizza/USFWS

In September 2017, USFWS Africa Branch released an issue brief exploring the emerging conservation and security impacts of transhumant pastoralism in Central Africa. This work sheds light on the role of transnational transhumance in conflict-conservation dynamics in Central Africa, specifically, in the transboundary regions around Central African Republic. It highlights the drivers that undermine or support the resilience of transnational transhumance, protected area governance, and broader regional stability.

On October 4, 2017, USFWS hosted a one-day informational meeting with project partners and relevant stakeholders to discuss the interconnected conservation and security challenges associated with seasonal long-distance and transboundary migrations of pastoralists and their cattle (i.e., transnational transhumance) in Africa's Sudano-Sahel. The meeting provided a unique opportunity to share information and engage in discussions among experts spanning conservation, security, and development sectors, to gain a better understanding of the interconnected conservation and security issues associated with transnational transhumance and identify key questions that need to be answered in order to better support field activities and address the conflict dynamics that affect wildlife, natural resources, and people in the region. Read the full meeting report here.


Left: Informational meeting on transhumant pastoralism at USFWS.
Photo credit: Levi Novey/USFWS

The USFWS supports initiatives that address emerging regional conservation challenges associated with transboundary cattle movements in Africa's Sudano-Sahel (i.e., transnational transhumance), including the following projects:

Sudanese cattle grazing outside of Chinko Protected Area, Central African Republic. Photo credit: Matthew Luizza/USFWS

Chinko Protected Area, Central African Republic

In partnership with the African Parks Foundation, USFWS supports the development of a transhumance strategy for protected area management in the Central African Republic's Chinko Protected Area. Despite decades of civil war and ethnic violence as well as poaching and illegal grazing, Chinko has retained remnant populations of important wildlife species and represents one of the largest ecosystems with the greatest conservation potential across Central Africa. Activities supported include recruiting, training, and equipping herder sensitization teams to engage incoming cattle herds identified through aerial surveillance and fire monitoring, and leading them along designated transhumance corridors outside of the core conservation zone.

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Livestock market Banikoara, Benin.
Photo credit: Leif Brottem

University of Wisconsin-Madison, W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (West Africa), Chad, and Central African Republic

In partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USFWS supports efforts to understand the threats posed by transhumance to wildlife populations in priority conservation landscapes in Chad’s Zakouma National Park and CAR’s Manovo-Gounda-St. Floris National Park and Chinko Protected Area. Goals of the project include analysis of transhumance governance structures in southern Chad and CAR in relation to those in West Africa’s W-Arly-Pendjari protected area complex, a Chadian transhumant pastoralism mobility analysis, and geospatial analysis of pastoral resources in both countries.





Fulani pastoralists arriving at the edge of Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria.
Photo credit: Wildlife Conservation Society

Wildlife Conservation Society, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, and South Sudan

In partnership with Wildlife Conservation Society, USFWS supports efforts to improve conservation management and security for people, livestock, and wildlife through engagement on transhumance in four transboundary landscapes in the Sudano-Sahel, spanning Yankari Game Reserve (Nigeria), Bouba-N’djida  and Sena Oura National Parks (Cameroon and Chad), Bamingui-Bangoran and Manovo-Gounda-St. Floris National Parks (CAR), and Southern National Park (South Sudan). Goals of the project include completing a detailed desk study on transhumance, conservation, and security dynamics across the four landscapes, socio-economic field studies with pastoralists, in addition to assessing the impacts of transhumance on key wildlife habitats and species, mapping and monitoring the seasonal movements of cattle through participatory mapping and identifying key zones for corridors, producing a final report outlining key strategies to improve security and promote improved co-existence between wildlife and transhumance across the four landscapes, and  designing and measuring the impact of a program for conservation sensitization with pastoralists in and around the four landscapes.


Ecoguards evaluate fire burnt in Kimbi-Fungom National Park. Credit: Jerry Kirensky Mbi
Ecoguards assess fire burnt in Kimbi-Fungom National Park, Cameroon.
Photo credit: Jerry Kirensky Mbi

Kimbi-Fungom National Park, Cameroon

In partnership with Jerry Kirensky Mbi, USFWS supports efforts to reduce the threats posed by transhumance to wildlife in Kimbi Fungon National Park (KFNP) by strengthening ranger law enforcement capacity within the park, recruiting and training community eco-guards (including Mbororo pastoralists) from villages surrounding KFNP to integrate into park patrol and monitoring activities, and through outreach and engagement with pastoralists and surrounding villages to garner broad support for the park’s protection.





Peuhl children in transhumance work alongside their parents, Ouka prefecture, Central African Republic. Photo credit: Catianne Tijerina