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Cornell University (1981)

Problems of nomad settlement in the Middle East with special reference to Saudi Arabia and the Haradh Project


Titre : Problems of nomad settlement in the Middle East with special reference to Saudi Arabia and the Haradh Project


Université de soutenance : Cornell University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 1981

There are now probably more than 25 million nomads in Africa and Asia. Nomads constitute a large percentage of the population in many Afro-Asian countries, ranging from 60 percent in Somalia and Mauritania to 15 percent in Saudi Arabia and five percent in Syria. Temporary and permanent settlement is a part of nomadism, influenced by internal factors (e.g. droughts, animal diseases, and population pressure) and external factors (e.g. a reduction in demand for nomads’ products and services from other sectors, government actions to encourage settlement and assure public safety, and the expansion of employment opportunities outside nomadism). The proportion of nomads in many Middle Eastern countries has declined since the turn of the 20th century. In OPEC countries, nomads have been settling under the lure of stable employment in the military or in the lower part of government bureaucracies which have been enlarged to accommodate their influx. Meanwhile, these countries face a chronic shortage of labor and migrant labor constitute a large part of the labor force. Many governments have tried to settle their nomads, with various degress of success. Government efforts to settle nomads have been in the form of pasture improvement schemes, grazing cooperatives, collectivization of pastures and herds, and irrigation projects. This research concentrates mostly on irrigation settlement projects in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Jordan, although the other settlement efforts are discussed also. The aims of this thesis are : (1) to study the concept and historical patterns of nomad settlement, (2) to review nomad settlement efforts in the world, (3) to find out the factors behind the poor record of nomad settlement projects, (4) to study the Haradh Project in Saudi Arabia and find out why it has not been used for nomad settlement and why it has failed as a state farm, and (5) to suggest policies to improve the nomads’ standards of living. In doing this research, I have relied on library sources, and on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Sudan. My fieldwork included : (1) field observation of nomad settlement projects and nomad squatter settlements in urban areas, (2) interviews with government officials involved in nomad settlement, (3) interviews with settlers in settlement projects, and (4) a questionnaire distributed to persons connected with the Haradh Project. The major findings of this research are : (1) Nomadism is a delicate system ; attempts to alter it without full understanding of the relevant factors and the cooperation of nomads have often led to disasters ; (2) Despite initial problems, the Mongolian experiment with collectivization of herds and pasture seems to offer a successful example of the efforts to improve nomads’ living standards ; (3) Most pasture improvement programs, grazing cooperatives and irrigation projects have not been successful ; (4) The lack of nomad participation in the design and administration of settlement projects is a major factor behind the failure of settlement projects ; (5) Irrigated agriculture may not be the best method for nomad settlement. In OPEC countries, settlement in industrial projects may be a more viable alternative since industry (a) is more capable of offering nomads sufficient financial incentives to settle, (b) provides a higher return on investment, and (c) offers a better opportunity for close supervision which is necessary when a major change in people’s work habits is being attempted—the oil industry has been, in effect, a successful nomad settlement project ; and (6) In countries without the capital resources required for an industrialization program, agricultural schemes should be regarded as one alternative among many, depending on the habitat and the people involved ; marketing of nomads’ products is one area where there are many opportunities for improvement.

Mots clés : Arabie Saoudite - Bédouins - Développement rural - Economie pastorale - Ferme d’état - Géographie humaine - Irrigation - Monde - Nomadisme - Projet Haradh - Projet d’aménagement - Semi-nomadisme - Structure sociale - Système de peuplement – Sédentarisation

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Page publiée le 26 novembre 2016, mise à jour le 11 décembre 2018