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Eastern and Southern African pastoralists demand recognition and support

Over 20 pastoralist organizations from eight countries in Eastern and Southern Africa team up

Ugandan cattle ©FAO/SFE

21-22 January, Lukenya, Kenya--Pastoralists across Eastern and Southern Africa face a long list of threats: conflicts and violence, blocked migration routes, the expansion of farming into the best grazing areas, a lack of services such as schools and health care. Now the region’s herders are getting organized to deal with these issues. A group of over twenty organizations from eight countries have agreed to work together to press for recognition for herders’ contribution to the economy and society.

Thirty representatives of pastoralist organizations from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda met on 21-22 January 2016 in Lukenya, near Nairobi, to discuss the challenges that herders face. They called on governments and international organizations to involve pastoralists in making policy decisions that can benefit them.  

‘’Pastoralism was often seen in a bad light, but this is slowly changing. Officials and the public increasingly value the socio-cultural legacy of the herders, and their role in food security and provision of ecosystem services while maintaining the environment. This became evident during the discussions at the Paris Climate Change Summit”, said Yon Fernandez de Larrinoa, co-founder of the FAO Pastoralists Knowledge Hub.   

Violence is a big threat to the pastoralist way of life, delegates agreed. Such conflicts often occur across borders, complicating efforts to resolve them. Other major problems include the loss of grazing land to crop farming, extractive industries and private investors, as well as a lack of recognition for their rights to manage and use their lands.

“Policy makers assume that pastoralist lands are no-man lands, and make decisions on our traditional lands that can have a negative impact on our livelihoods” said Ms Sadia Musse Ahmed from the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) in Somalia.

Water scarcity, fuelled by rising populations and climate change, is generating conflicts around boreholes and other water sources. “Competition for water often benefits farmers over pastoralists, since our mobility and transhumance makes us more vulnerable to maintain the access to water sources” said Roba Fantalle Jilo from Labata Fantalle, a pastoralist organization in Ethiopia

Pastoralism contributes to national economies and export revenues with good quality products and foods. But the delegates called for more specific policies, infrastructures and targeted services.  “Often the government response is forced relocation or settlement instead of providing services to pastoral communities” said Benjamin Mutambukah from the Coalition for Pastoral Civil Society Organizations (COPACSO), which was chosen by the participating organizations at the meeting to coordinate regionally the various national pastoralist organizations for the next three years.

“Policy makers should listen to our needs and assist us. Our girls cannot attend schools. There is lack of education, water and road facilities where we live. In those countries where there is a pastoralist policy, it is not being implemented. If this situation is not reversed, young people will continue to migrate to the cities and neighbouring countries and pastoralism will progressively disappear” said Elizabeth Lesitei, a Masai from the Kimokouwa Pastoralist Community.

The meeting was jointly organized by the Coalition for Pastoral Civil Society Organizations (COPACSO) and the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VSF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The initiative is part of the efforts coordinated by FAO’s Pastoralist Knowledge Hub to help herders around the world to communicate among themselves and coordinate better with governments and development agencies.

The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, an initiative launched by FAO in April 2014, supports pastoralist development by increasing the cooperation between pastoralist networks and international organizations working with them and by creating opportunities for pastoralist networks to voice their concerns in the UN system.

Contact: Pastoralist-Hub@fao.org


More information:


FAO Pastoralists Knowledge Hub




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