NRM in the drylands in the Horn of Africa

The natural resources in lowlands in the Horn of Africa are used mainly by pastoralists and agropastoralists trying to cope with low and unreliable rainfall, low soil fertility and recurring drought. It is important to ensure that policies and institutions are in place to improve resilience and productivity, in order to reduce recurring drought and food insecurity in the context of climate change. Doing so will save lives and improve livelihoods among the region’s 160 million inhabitants.

The 50-page technical brief “Natural resource management in the drylands in the Horn of Africa” prepared by the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa (CGIAR Consortium / FAO Investment Centre) focuses on how local NRM deals with the instability inherent in dryland ecosystems in the Horn. Pastoralism appears the most appropriate livelihood strategy in economic and ecological terms in most of the drylands because:

1) the landscapes are grazing dependent; grazing stimulates plant growth, prevents bush encroachment, fertilises the soil, enhances the soil’s water filtration capacity by hoof action, aids in seed dispersal to maintain pasture diversity, and enhances nutrient cycling across the ecosystem through wet and dry seasons;

2) pastoralists manage herd dynamics – herd size, breeds and movements – to capitalise on the fluctuating availability of natural pasture and water. Farmers and agropastoralists in zones that can support cropping integrate livestock and trees into their systems; they conserve and manage soil, water and nutrient resources to sustain productivity.

The relationship of biophysical and social constraints in these systems has led to a situation of greater vulnerability to risks and lower resilience. The disruption of interrelated ecosystem processes (water and nutrient cycles, biological diversity and energy) and seasonal variability within a water-scarce environment threaten the capacity of the systems to support food security and livelihoods in the future.

Institutional challenges undermining continued adaptability and resilience are associated with access to and tenure of land resources, grazing rights, access to inputs and basic services, social marginalisation, increased conflict, disintegration of traditional institutions, cross-border relationships, infrastructure and the nature of planning, administration, policymaking and policy implementation. As a result of this, some people in the Horn have abandoned pastoralism or added cropping or other enterprises to their portfolio. Only a few wealthy pastoralists have benefited, increasing herd sizes by appropriating resources in a context of tenure insecurity. Smallholder farmers are increasingly unable to afford production inputs and are often forced into drier areas or threatened by land allocation to large commercial operations.

Some initiatives are underway with the potential to support sustainable NRM in the Horn. These initiatives can help identify priorities in research, policies and investment strategies that will enhance the resilience and productivity of livelihoods and landscapes in the Horn. The brief suggests priority areas of intervention.

Posted on 11 August 2013 in Pastoralism & Climate Change, Pastoralism & Natural Resources, Pastoralism, Policy & Power, Pastoralist Livelihoods & Nutrition