Seasonal movements of herds to find new pastures and water holes are essential to national economies in the Sahel region of Africa. However, these migrations also cause problems for the environment, promote risks of animal diseases and can cause conflict between fixed and nomadic populations.
Coumba Sylla describes an initiative of the International Veterinary Science and Medicine School of Dakar, Senegal, to help solve some of these problems using information and communication technologies (ICTs). Instead of relying on conversations at weekly markets, the pastoralists are able to track the movement of herds and obtain information on the state of different pastures using mobile phones, the Internet and global positioning system devices, which use prepare maps based on satellite data.
The project is still at a pilot stage, and problems — primarily illiteracy and technical hitches — are being encountered and addressed. The organisers point out that the purpose for now is to demonstrate to decision-makers and the population that ICTs can be used to improve living and working conditions for pastoralists.