Pastoralism, policies and practice in the Horn and East Africa

by Sar Shadrack Omondi & Michael Ochieng Odhiambo, RECONCILE

This publication forms one of a series of six reports prepared under the ECHO-funded project on ‘Reducing the vulnerability of pastoral communities through policy and practice change in the Horn and East Africa’. The aim of the project is to raise awareness among planners and policymakers about the full potential of pastoral systems to make a significant contribution to the economies of the region. Each of the six reports presents evidence-based research findings to overcome misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding particular aspects of pastoral livelihoods, and highlights appropriate policy recommendations that favour pastoralist systems. The reports present evidence to help inform thinking in order that policymakers can keep abreast of new opportunities and threats in the rangelands. Understanding pastoralism and its future is the subject of fierce debate. The term ‘pastoralism’ is used to describe societies that derive some, but not necessarily most, of their food and income from livestock. For many decades, governments regarded pastoralism as ‘backward’, economically inefficient and environmentally destructive, leading to policies that have served to marginalise and undermine pastoralist systems. More recently, pastoralism has come to be regarded by many as a viable and economically effective livestock production system, but the policies needed to reverse its historical marginalisation and address the chronic levels of poverty and vulnerability faced by many pastoralist communities have yet to be put in place. We define pastoralists both in the economic sense (i.e. those who earn part of their living from livestock and livestock products) and also in the cultural sense, in which livestock do not form the main source of income, yet people remain culturally connected to a pastoralist lifestyle in which the significance of livestock is more cultural than economic. Based on the evidence presented in these reports, we believe that herding livestock over rangelands will remain part of a vital and dynamic production system for many – but not all – who live in the arid and semi-arid lands of the Horn and East Africa. Appropriate policies are required that support both the economic potential of pastoralism and pastoralist lifestyles that depend on alternative livelihoods. As such, the series aims to help create a vision for development in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs).

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Posted on 21 September 2010 in General Policy Documents, Pastoralism, Policy & Power, Value of Pastoralism