Pastoral innovation systems in Ethiopia and Kenya

The paper “Pastoral innovation systems: perspectives from Ethiopia and Kenya” reports on a “University of the Bush“ seminar held in the Borana area in March 2009, where over 50 pastoralists from southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya from several thnic groups gathered to debate key pastoral development issues. The week-long event was hosted by the Oromia Pastoralist Association and organised by the Democracy, Growth and Peace for Pastoralists project of the Pastoralist Communication Initiative. After two days of discussing the implications of mobility and land-tenure changes, the seminar focused on innovation in pastoral systems. The pastoralists defined innovation in their various languages and brought examples from their experience. The discussion highlighted a number of key issues, including:

  • Key preconditions for successful innovation are peace and political stability in pastoral areas.
  • A view of development and modernity (and so sources and directions of innovation) as being from outside the system and not based on indigenous skills and expertise is reinforced by inappropriate educational systems.
  • External interventions – especially in “emergency” and “food aid” mode – can disrupt pastoral systems and the innovation capacities that underpin them.
  • Formal innovation through the government and informal innovation by pastoralists are usually separate; outsiders rarely recognise informal innovation; in any case, there is very little presence of formal research in pastoral areas.
  • NGOs are important facilitators of innovation in pastoral areas, providing new ideas and support, but are poorly connected with formal research systems.
  • Successful innovation in pastoral areas often occurs through collective action; when people are organised, they can plan, innovate and demand change. Politics and organisation are very much part of the innovation process.

FAC seeks to bring together pastoralists and their informal innovation networks with those formally charged with research and development and science and technology policy working in Ethiopia and Kenya and internationally.

Posted on 11 August 2013 in Pastoral Research & Innovation, Pastoralism & Natural Resources, Pastoralist Livelihoods & Nutrition