Achieving sustainable development impact among pastoralists in Ethiopia
The Pastoral Risk Management (PARIMA) project worked on the Borana Plateau of southern Ethiopia from 2000 to 2009. It used participatory methods to learn about development needs and apply the knowledge gained to benefit local communities. The report “Achieving sustainable development impact among pastoral and agro-pastoral people”, published by the Ethiopian Society for Animal Production (ESAP) in 2012, tells the PARIMA story – about both the process and the impact – and draw lessons from this decade of research for pastoralist development.
PARIMA focused on ways to increase incomes and diversify livelihoods through collective action, micro-finance and capacity strengthening, including field tours for pastoralist group members to see other places and people. It helped create new livestock marketing channels and facilitated conflict management. Group formation and visits helped inspire beneficiaries to envision a more hopeful future. Livestock marketing and small-business ventures fuelled personal confidence and generated a new base of diversified wealth that reduced food insecurity and drought vulnerability. Women predominate in the 59 collective-action groups that started in 2001 and continued throughout the decade. By 2009, the groups were merged into government cooperatives, and PARIMA phased out.
Some key lessons learnt: (1) Start small scale and build trust; (2) Encourage authentic participation and aim for impact; (3) Build real partnerships with other development actors; (4) Focus on women; (5) Build human capacity and the ability to see a hopeful future; (6) Use innovative peers in the learning process; (7) Help establish market linkages and networks; (8) Respect local cultures and use culture to integrate new concepts; (9) Manage conflicts that come with change; and (10) Help create sustainable cooperatives.
Creating sustainable impacts via collective action and capacity building requires time, patience and skill – it is not a quick fix. The process of taking untrained, illiterate volunteers and transforming them into functional and durable collective-action groups took about three years on average. Many factors needed to come together so that the project could achieve impact. These included a strong network of collaborators, a traditional production system under pressure, long-term funding support and devotion among team members to assist the pastoral community.