Jonathan Otto

Publication Date



This paper explores NGOs working in natural resources management in the Sahel. By combining historical perspectives and cultural analysis, the paper provides an overview of the issues and actions taken over the past 40 years. Special attention is given to national and international NGOs, grassroots organizations, donors and the governments involved.

The Objective of this paper is to situate the NGO movement of the West African Sahel within the context of the evolving regional situation, with particular reference to the paramount concerns for managing natural resources. What is the impetus for the emergence of NGOs and rural organizations, how do national and foreign NGOs relate to each other and to other institutional actors; What are their roles in reshaping local governance of resources; what are the opportunities, responsibilities and risks for NGOs at this juncture. These are the questions we will attempt to address.

This survey of NGOs and other major actors involved in natural resource management presents an overview of the complex institutional relationships found in the Sahel. In taking this focus we will touch upon other related issues, such as public finance, economic policy, ethnic factors, the special problems of rural women, pre-colonial history, and technical aspects of agro/silvo/pastoral production systems, among many others. Although the focus on institutions emphasizes political factors, this emphasis in no way denies the environmental, economic, demographic and other factors, contributing to the current crisis in the Sahel. It is hoped that this overview of relationships among institutional actors will open the door to further, more integrated investigation of relationship dynamics and to better understanding of how improved relationships can improve the management of natural resources.

Book Series Title

Occasional Paper Series on Non Governmental Organizations