International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Drought, the Collapse of Resource Access Regulation Mechanisms and Impact on Human Security Sudan’s Darfur Case

Khalid Ali El Amin

University of Khartoum, Development Studies and Research Institute, Sudan


Human environment interaction has proved to be of mutual influence and the response of each is detrimental to one another. While human actions could lead to environmental deterioration, the latter in turn equally impacts on human livelihood, the pattern of their social and economic interaction and almost all other aspects of their life.

This paper takes the case of Darfur in Sudan and investigates the ways in which humans have responded to changes in the environment in complex forms that encompassed almost all aspects of their life including human security. This mutuality of influence resulting from human environment interaction is also exhibited by examining how forms of human responses also impinge negatively on the environment. Specifically taking the impact of drought and focusing on access to land and water, the paper describes in some detail some changes in economic activities and social behavior consequent of years of rainfall shortage that placed great strain on the mechanisms regulating resource access and use. Interacting with other external socioeconomic and political factors, these changes have resulted in the breakdown of law and order and the eruption of violent conflicts and the collapse of human security.

The paper relies mainly on primary collected during frequent field visits which the author has made to Darfur since early 1990s using qualitative data collection methods; i.e., gathering data through informal interviews from resource persons. Some secondary material is also used which covers some reports from various sources; including government departments, NGOs and some books and articles.

On the basis of analysis of field and secondary data the paper reaches the following conclusions;

  • That change in the environment has led to changes and adjustments in economic activities, patterns of human behavior, group interaction and some modifications in values and cultural norms. These changes have created relative resource scarcity and intensified competition over resource access and use;
  • That the resulting changes have overall impinged negatively on the environment and contributed the degradation of natural resources, in turn intensified competition and placed great stress on inter group relations;
  • That, while the change in the environment has created resource scarcity and contributed to the intensification of inter group tension, the main factor behind the eruption of conflict and breakdown of law and order is the collapse of mechanisms that tend to regulate competition over resources combined with external socioeconomic and political factors.

Some recommendations for policy action are advanced which, although drawn from Darfur experience with its own historical, geographical, socioeconomic and political specificities, could have relevance to similar situations elsewhere in the developing world;

  • First, for the maintenance of security and the environment, the socio-political mechanisms have to function bottom and reinforced for effective organization of resource access and use;
  • Second, better utilization of land and water resources through capital investment and the application of appropriate modern technology to counteract relative scarcity;
  • Third, a well panned geographical spread, where possible, of water yards and water installations could diffuse group competition and furthermore halt natural resource depletion;
  • Fourth, the adoption of policy measures that reinforce the mutuality of inter group interests which while enhance peace and security, could simultaneously improve the environment and the natural resource base.