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East Africa can–and should–help livestock herders cope better with drought

The Dasanech: nomadic homes

Dasanech nomadic homes near Omorate, in southern Ethiopia (photo on Flickr by Carsten ten Brink).

Cathy Majtenyi of Voice of America reported on meetings in Nairobi this week to look at options for mitigating drought-induced food shortages.

They say pastoralism is the best land-use practice in the region’s drylands and are looking at ways to help herders maintain their lifestyle.

Herders have been getting a bad environmental rap. The common thinking is that large groups of animals wandering around a parched, drought-stricken territory further degrade the land and water supplies.

The best strategy, popular opinion suggests, is to settle herders onto farms to grow their own food, especially in times of severe food insecurity.

Bad idea, says David Mwangi, researcher with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. . . .

Mwangi and other experts say that pastoralism is the most efficient use of arid and semi-arid lands, both environmentally and economically.

‘. . . During their meeting this week, scientists and other experts discussed concrete ways to support herders and their lifestyle. . . .

A recent report by the International Livestock Research Institute lists additional pastoral-support strategies, including the construction of roads, access to market information, and schemes that pay herders for wildlife conservation and other ecological services.

Read the whole article at Voice of America: Experts debate how East Africa livestock herders should handle drought, 2 Sep 2011.

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