Livelihood security among pastoralists in Northern Sudan: post-hunger development in a country at war

Livelihood security among pastoralists in Northern Sudan: post-hunger development in a country at war

Drought coping strategies: migration and return

This paper focuses on the Hawaweer, a nomadic pastoralist group inhabiting the Northern part of Sudan. The Hawaweer were forced to migrate in the mid-eighties because of drought and hunger. The Hawaweer were selected for study mainly because of a rather successful return process providing empirical evidence that return and post-hunger development are possible if sufficient resources and capable leadership are made available. However, successful return of people who once had been forced to migrate should not be understood as evidence that return is always the best solution. The right to stay where forced migrants settle down might be as important as the right to return to one’s homeland.

The Hawaweer experience also provides opportunities to increase our understanding of what is forced and what is voluntary migration. Migration is a normal part of many people’s livelihoods. But what may seem normal for some may be perceived as forced by others within the same group and situation. The Hawaweer experience also provides an opportunity to challenge the term "environmental refugees" and to illustrate why environmental factors can not be assessed in isolation from a broader political and socio-economic context.

The paper also addresses what people do when old household coping strategies have been exhausted and how new ways of livelihood diversification can contribute to disaster preparedness and decreased vulnerability. It looks, as well, at the impact of forced migration on processes of change, modernisation and long-term development.

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