Where have all the nomads gone?
Mobile African pastoralists are probably undercounted or excluded from many data sources because of the difficulties in enumerating them. In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is expected that everyone will be counted and their characteristics measured. It is therefore important to develop appropriate strategies for including mobile pastoralists. In the article “Where have all the nomads gone? Fifty years of statistical and demographic invisibilities of African mobile pastoralists” (Pastoralism 2015, 5:22), Sara Randall documents the extent to which pastoralists have been invisible in the demographic records in the last half century and analyses how this invisibility has come about in census and survey data collection in several countries stretching from Mauritania to Kenya. Her review reveals different forms and intensities of statistical invisibility of nomads according to national and socio-political context. Deliberate exclusion has been much reduced in recent years, although there remain issues of clarity and definition.
Although the availability of data on mobile pastoralists is improving, it is impossible to document with any accuracy any transformations in the numbers of these populations over the last 50 years. Considerable work on developing appropriate categories and definitions needs to be done if statistics on characteristics of mobile pastoralists are to be appropriately represented in the SDGs.