How can a new narrative on pastoralism influence development policy and practice?
In the face of climate and economic uncertainty, reframing the narrative to better include pastoralism in development policy is paramount for creating sustainable and equitable food systems.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this was core to the conversation as policymakers, public officials, pastoralist representatives, experts and researchers convened for a three-day workshop in March 2023. Their mission was to explore how development policy can better accommodate the complexity, flexibility and adaptive capacity of pastoral systems.
Pastoralism is a livelihood that works with the variability in rangelands, which cover 54% of the world’s land surface, to produce animal source foods often where no crops can grow. They are significant contributors to many countries’ economies. In Africa alone, some 270 million pastoralists provide more than half of the continent’s meat and milk.
Pastoralists are also natural stewards of the land, providing important ecosystem services, such as maintaining grasslands and carbon sequestration, maintaining and even increasing biodiversity, cycling nutrients and removing biomass to prevent fires.
But pastoralism is facing increasing climate- and policy-related pressure and challenges – from increased competition for pastures to policies that lump all livestock rearing together – putting the next generation of pastoralists at risk of losing their livelihood.
It is these dilemmas that stakeholders at the workshop were determined to address.
‘My hope is that your deliberations here will synthesize the information you have generated so that pastoralist communities can benefit,’ said Namukolo Covic, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)’s Director General’s Representative to Ethiopia, CGIAR Ethiopia Country Convenor and CGIAR Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
She also emphasized the need to better include pastoralist communities in the discussion at the United Nations 28th Conference of Parties (COP 28), building upon the successful inclusion of food systems for the first time in COP 27.
Photo credit: A herder with his livestock in Isiolo County, Kenya (ILRI/Dorine Odongo)