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This article seeks to assess the impact of development on the lives and livelihoods of pastoralists and hunter-gatherers in Sub-Saharan Africa. It queries the discourses on human rights and on indigenous peoples and whether they accurately describe and address the situation confronting pastoralists and hunter- gatherers. The importance of access to land for pastoralists is examined and evidence is presented showing how policies have undermined livelihoods. The effect of ‘forced’ and of ‘voluntary’ sedentarization is discussed, and is followed by a review of the situation of contemporary hunter-gatherers. Finally, the article concludes by arguing for the need to move beyond the rhetoric of rights and to better understand how and why policies create and undermine pastoralists and hunter-gatherers.