Africa / Directorate / Drylands / Environment / ILRI / Pastoralism / Vulnerability

Livestock herding and resource management: Good (natural, rangeland) bedfellows

Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Pastoralism—herding cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminant animals to find new grazing grounds—should be recognized as a key sector in resource management, said experts meeting at a Brussels Development Briefing on Pastoralism held on 22 Feb 2012.

‘Recurring drought and land disputes have recently placed nomadic pastoralists under the media spotlight. Their skill at managing livestock and the quality of the meat they produce . . . is however largely ignored by national political elites.’ In 2011, the African Union began to redress this by launching the Pastoral Policy Framework to strengthen the role played by pastoralism within the African economy.

‘“Nomadic pastoralism is not an evolutionary impasse”, says Jeremy Swift, who has spent most of his working career at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex in the UK. . . . “Pastoralists here are livestock experts. Far from being a subsistence economy, their contribution to the national economy is significant if seldom acknowledged”. The point made by Swift highlights one of the greatest challenges for pastoralism: being included in the government’s official statistics.

‘It is estimated that there are around 20 million pastoralists in Africa and 50 million in the world. Both these numbers are to be taken with a pinch of salt, however, as they only take nomadic pastoralists into account and not agricultural pastoralists. In West Africa pastoral livestock is one of the keys to integration . . . . In Mali the livestock sector accounts for 44 per cent of the agricultural GNP.

‘. . . The socio-economic advantages of pastoralism are especially relevant in Eastern Africa. In Sudan, the pastoral-dominated livestock sector accounts for 80 per cent of the agricultural GDP and Somalia is the major livestock exporter to the Gulf States. In Ethiopia, the livestock-dependant leather industry is the second largest source of foreign currency after coffee. In Tanzania and Kenya, pastoralism and tourism try to co-exist and in South Africa 60 per cent of the country’s cattle herding exports [are] supplied by pastoral breeders.

‘Being recognised by government statistics is one thing, being properly represented in politically elected bodies and in the social services is another. And yet interesting initiatives are beginning to emerge. . . .

‘Unlike other economic actors, in Africa pastoralists do not have access to credit or insurance which would enable them to safeguard themselves against a whole host of hazards, including weather hazards. A pilot insurance project was launched in Northern Kenya in January 2010.

This system, which will be extended to Ethiopia, has ensured that pastoralists were able to buy food without sacrificing a part of their livestock and protecting them from the risk of falling into extreme poverty,” explains Shirley Tarawali, Director of Institutional Planning at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based in Nairobi.’

Read the whole article at Afronline: Seeking recognition for pastoralism, a key sector in resource management, 7 Mar 2012.

Read more on the ILRI News Blog, with a link to the presentation made by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali: Options to enhance resilience in pastoral systems: The case for novel livestock insurance, 22 Feb 2012.

Note: The Brussels Development Briefing on pastoralism in ACP (African, Caribbean and the Pacific) countries was organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in partnership with the African Union Commission, the European Commission (DG DEVCO), the ACP Secretariat and Concord, and in collaboration with CELEP (Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern African Pastoralists). This article is published in the framework of an editorial project supported by CTA in the framework of Brussels Development Briefings, but does not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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