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Maintaining mobility and managing drought,
Policy options for pastoral livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa

18 October to 13 December 2006


The traditional pastoral systems in arid and semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa used to cope effectively and in an environmentally sustainable manner with the prevailing harsh and erratic ecological conditions of those regions. The ability to move their herds over large distances, grazing the diffuse and scattered vegetation of the regions' rangelands, and being able to take refuge to more favorable sites during droughts, was the foundation of their system, and was critical to their livestock and their own livelihoods. However growing human populations are generating an increasing demand for food products and consequently increased competition for natural resources. This destabilizes the effectiveness of the mobile pastoral production system and creates the need to facilitate the development of the changing pastoral production systems. The aim of this e-conference is to provide a forum for local research experts, representatives of pastoral people and pastoral organizations, policy makers and experts from different disciplines to discuss the current development approaches and to define a long-term policy vision and the required steps to implement such vision.


The goal of this e-conference is to discuss and review two policy option papers “Community-Based Drought Management for the Pastoral Livestock Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa” and “Investing in Maintaining Mobility in Pastoral Systems of the Arid and Semi-Arid Regions of Sub-Saharan Africa” that have been written for the ALIVE multi-actor Partnership. The main purpose of these policy option papers is to inform African policy-makers and decision makers in international aid and financial institutions on the latest developments in key areas important for sustainable livestock development, and provide them with a range of policy options to address the potentials and constraints of the different sub-sectors in the livestock sector.

This electronic conference is part of the general elaboration process of the ALIVE policy notes, composed of three steps: a) the initial draft, b) the e-discussion and c) the regional workshop . The e-conference is designed to provide a forum for experts and stakeholders to exchange information and to discuss views. The results of this electronic conference will feed into a face-to-face regional workshop with a wide audience of African stakeholders to discuss and validate the final policy note.

Conference Agenda

The e-conference will be conducted in two consecutive sessions of 4 weeks length each. The discussion in each session will be based on the review of one respective policy options paper. For each session two thematic sub-groups have been set up and some key questions have been identified in order to structure the discussion. The issues posed for discussion and the questions asked do not cover the entire content of the policy note. They have been identified with the aim to fuel the discussion by pointing at the hot spots. Contributions need not be confined to the discussion of the questions. Please raise additional points that you consider as important for the thematic discussion as well as for the review of the policy paper.

Session 1: 18 October - 15 November (four weeks)

Pastoral livelihoods between aid dependence and self-reliant drought managementWhat are the reasons and options for reducing the vulnerability of pastoral livelihoods to drought?

Discussion based on the Policy Options Paper “Community Based Drought Management for the Pastoral Livestock Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa ”

The Policy Options Paper “Community Based Drought Management for the Pastoral Livestock Sector in Sub-Saharan Africa” seeks to info rm African policy-makers, and decision-makers in international aid and development organisations, of the urgency of managing drought for the livestock sector, particularly in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems, and the main options for doing so, at policy and investment level. It provides a summary of the rationale for involvement, stressing the public good elements; it provides an overview of the current and to be expected trends, which clearly point to an increased vulnerability of pastoral peoples, and gives recommendations for policy adjustments and investments, stressing the need for community involvement in drought management.

Sub-theme 1: 18 October -2 November

Why invest in a drought management system? Drawing a balance between the costs of late response to drought as opposed to the costs of developing and sustaining a community-based drought management system.

Costs and benefits of a comprehensive drought management approach:
  • Options to be prepared: What can pastoral people do to be better prepared for next drought? What can policy-maker do to support pastoral people to be prepared? What are the research needs and first results from pilot projects with saving and insurance measures such as the livestock banking model or index-based livestock insurance?
  • Options to mitigate: What are the lessons learned from past experiences with the operationalization of livestock early warning systems (LEWS), contingency planning, emergency funds, etc.? What are the lessons learned and experiences with measures responding to early warnings such as subsidized de-stocking, emergency feeding, cow-calf camps, drilling of emergency boreholes etc.? What are the key characteristics of marketing infrastructure required for fast de-stocking and restocking?
  • Reasons for late response: Why has the response to emerging signs of a drought often come too late for mitigation operations? Where are the technical and operational constraints? Are there political constraints?
  • Options of emergency relief: What are the lessons learned with emergency relief operations such as food aid, cash aid, food for work, cash for work, purchase of livestock for meat distribution etc.?
Drawing a balance between costs and benefits of late response vs. early response
  • Saving livelihoods through early response: How can it be estimated how many livestock were saved through implementation of activities for preparedness and mitigation? How can the loss reduction of livestock be valued? Can the value of livestock be reduced to the market exchange value? How can the Animal genetic resources be valued? How can we reflect the value of livestock for the subsistence of livelihoods? How can we estimate the long term costs and benefits of early response taking into account the decreased need for rehabilitation? How does the economics of doing nothing, (resulting in food aid dependency) compare with the economics of –subsidized—interventions?
  • Saving lives through late response: How can we estimate the long term costs of emergency relief coupled with increased need for rehabilitation?
Sub-theme 2: 3 November -15 November

How many people can the pastoral production system sustain? Shall public policies facilitate the rehabilitation of destitute pastoralists or support diversification and exit strategies of pastoral people?

Human Carrying Capacity:
  • Are pastoral populations indeed growing?
  • How many people can the pastoral production system sustain?
  • How can we determine a minimum viable herd size and a human carrying capacity of the rangelands and take into account the rising percentage of alternative sources of income?
  • Absentee herd owner: Are traditional institutions of redistribution and reintegration being increasingly replaced by contract herding for absentee herd owners? Is drought playing a role in the increasing number of absentee herd owners?
  • Restocking: Can restocking programmes be considered as a feasible alternative approach to reintegrate marginalized or destitute herders? What are the lessons learned from past experiences with restocking programmes?
Exit and Diversification:
  • Diversification: Are there (enough) alternative income-generating options for pastoral people in rural areas, which allow continued herd-mobility? What kind of alternative income-generating activities can pastoralists engage in? How can we prevent that alternative income-generating activities lead to increased exploitation and degradation of non-pastoral natural resources? How can damaging practices such as increased wood collection, hunting and poaching, etc. be limited?
  • Exit: What are the comparative advantages of pastoral people in the labour market in rural and urban areas? How can employment of pastoral people be facilitated?

Session 2: 16 November – 13 December (four weeks)

Mobility – the key to making sustainable use of arid and semi-arid areas in sub-Saharan Africa ?
Opportunities and threats to the mobile pastoral production system within a changing environment

Discussion based on the Policy Options Paper “Investing in Maintaining Mobility in Pastoral Systems of the Arid and Semi-Arid Regions of Sub-Saharan Africa ”.

This paper seeks to provide national and international policy-makers interested in the development of arid and semi-arid areas with background info rmation and policy options, on whether and how to invest in mobility of pastoral systems in Africa . It first describes the trends leading to declining mobility, followed by a description of the key underlying causes for these trends and their impacts on mobile pastoralists. It then provides the rationale for investments and finishes with policy options which policy-makers face when deciding on priorities to be allocated to overall pastoral development, and to specific actions within pastoral development.

 The policy note is accessible at the following link

 Sub-theme 1: 16 November – 27 November

Defining the overall vision: How can mobile pastoral production system contribute to sustainable development of arid and semi-arid areas in sub-Saharan Africa ? Is mobility the key element of pastoral production systems in sub-Saharan Africa ?

Contribution of mobile pastoral systems:

How can mobile pastoral production systems contribute to sustainable development of arid and semi-arid areas?

  • Social: What is the contribution of pastoral production to food and livelihood security? What are the prospects of feeding a growing population of pastoral people?
  • Economic: To what extent does pastoral production contribute to sub-regional an national economies? Is there scope for increased production? Can the mobile pastoral production system respond to the growing demand for livestock products often described as the livestock revolution?
  • Ecological: How does the mobile pastoral production system interact with the natural environment of the rangelands in sub-Saharan Africa ? Is the mobility of the pastoral production systems the key element to sustainable use of the natural resources of the rangelands? How can mobile pastoral production systems provide environmental services?
Alternatives to mobile pastoral production:

What alternatives to mobile pastoral production exist to make efficient use of the natural resources in arid and semi-arid areas?

  • Cropping: How can we interpret the gradual shift from pastoral production to agro-pastoral production followed by reintegration of livestock in mixed crop-livestock farming systems? What relative weight should be given to the development of high potential areas in the rangelands for arable farming vs. the protection of these areas for dry season grazing support?
  • Conservation: Can the proceeds from trophy hunting and game viewing, and payment for environmental services exceed those from livestock and thereby release the pressure on natural resources?
Reaching agreement over the use of contentious areas:

Regarding competition over natural resources between pastoral production systems, agriculture and wildlife, how can an agreement be reached over the adequate use of contentious areas ?

  • Exclusive use: Are there cases where it is necessary to facilitate exclusive use by the mobile pastoral production system in order to maintain mobility? Are there cases where the mobility needs to be reduced in favour of conservation of flora and fauna? Are there cases where continued mobility cannot be combined with cropping activities?
  • Combined use: What has to be in place to manage a combined use of the systems and to safeguard the mobility of pastoral production systems?
    What are the lessons learned from past experiences concerning land use rights, land tenure legislation and conflict management associated with land use?
Sub-theme 2: 28 November – 13 December

Pastoral livelihoods in transformation: What are the drivers of the observed trend of reduced mobility? Is there a window of opportunity to induce a change for the better and achieve poverty reduction and improved natural resource management?

Addressing the emerging needs of a changing pastoral production:

Is it possible to reverse the observed trend of reduced mobility by addressing the emerging needs of a changing pastoral production system?

  • Services: How can sedentary technical services such as veterinary care and livestock marketing, but also social services such as health care and education, be replaced with mobile services? What are the past experiences and the lessons learned from the development of mobile services? What are the minimal investment needs for equipment and training to build up such a system? How can the investment costs be kept to a minimum? Which arguments can be articulated to support the investment in these services?
  • Technologies: What are the experiences with the use of modern technologies such as clockwork radios, solar cells for cooking and electricity, satellite phones, etc. to enhance pastoral livelihoods?
  • Markets: How can better access to markets for pastoral products be achieved? What have been the experiences with milk collection centres, community based slaughterhouses, livestock auctions or processing of perishable products? What are the minimal investment needs in infrastructure such as trekking roads, trucking, water points, roads, etc.? From which sources might these be derived?
Addressing the restrictions to pastoral mobility:
  • State boundaries: Do administrative units or state boundaries necessarily need to restrict pastoral movements? How can the risks of uncontrolled transboundary livestock movements be controlled? What have been the experiences concerning the control of health risks and control of trade?
  • Transboundary regional management: What are examples of policies and programmes strengthening the management of transboundary rangelands?
  • Access rights: How can pastoral people get secured access to the high potential areas, such as valley bottoms for dry season grazing, etc. which are now encroached by arable farmers?