Visit of Member of European Parliament Thijs Berman to Turkana

In the period of 13 – 16 May 2011, Member of European Parliament (MEP) Mr Thijs Berman visited the province of Turkana in Northern Kenya as well as Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, on a fact-finding mission.

Mr Berman was invited for this visit by CELEP (Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern African Pastoralism). The special focus of his trip was the actual and future role of pastoralists in the use of arid and semi-arid lands. Mr Berman is spokesman for development policies for the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament.

Mr Berman visited several locations in South and Central Turkana, areas under immediate threat of a new drought period, which might affect the already vulnerable population of pastoralists. Mr Berman spoke to pastoralists, village people, local leaders and elders. During the visit, he also met representatives of pastoralist organisations from Southern Sudan and Uganda and spoke with officials in Turkana and in Nairobi.

Mr Berman considered after the visit that:

– The current drought in Northern Kenya and adjacent areas is a serious threat to the people and the livestock, and the situation may deteriorate due to the changes in climate patterns;

– The people in Turkana and in neighbouring regions are fully convinced that their future lies in pastoralism in these regions;

– The pastoralists are looking, with external support, for ways of coping with prolonged dry periods and harsh conditions, based on their local knowledge, complemented with new strategies;

– The contribution of pastoralists in the livestock production and food security in Kenya and the other Eastern African states is considerable. It would lead to high losses and high opportunity costs for all if pastoralists would lose the capability to exploit the arid and semi-arid lands in Kenya and other countries;

– Pastoralists face a number of constraints and limitations because of the poor infrastructure and market structures, the growing restrictions on their mobility (national and cross-border) and the continuous insecurity in the areas;

– Education and health systems are not adapted to the special needs of pastoralists.

Mr Berman recommended in his conclusions:

– Make sure the Ministry for the Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands will be successful in its high ambitions for these regions, with full support of other concerned ministries of the Government of Kenya and of the international donor community;

– Fully recognise the role and high potential of pastoralism in the exploitation of the arid and semi arid lands, as is now gradually been accepted in policies of several countries of Eastern Africa and recommended in the AU Policy Framework for Pastoralism (October 2010);

– Put more efforts into developing the potentials of pastoralism at local and national level and in the EU programmes for cooperation;

– Governments in neighbouring countries and international cooperation should better focus on the development of infrastructure, market access, tailor-made access to services and in particular health and education, and make common efforts in order to enhance the security for pastoralists and jointly combat livestock theft;

– Support the role of the local producers, local leaders and elders to promote cooperation, local security and participation in policymaking by building their capacities

– For the EU to develop a long-term vision on strengthening the economic development of the arid and semi-arid lands, in the framework of its programmes for food security, climate change, the national indicative programs and other relevant EU policies for international cooperation.

The full report on Mr Berman’s visit can be found here: Pastoralism and the future of arid lands.

Posted on 17 May 2011 in CELEP Documents, News, Pastoralism, Policy & Power