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Pastoralist organizations contribute to evidence-based decision-making processes

The result presentation meeting of the “Pastoralist-Driven Data Management System” project


08/04/2020 -

Basic information is lacking about pastoralist systems across the world. Data on pastoral household composition or livelihood practices are missing or not readily available. This is especially true for nomadic and transhumant pastoralists, who are hardly accounted for by official agricultural censuses. But what would happen if pastoralists collect their own data?

The knowledge gap on pastoralist systems was addressed by the “Pastoralist-Driven Data Management System” project, managed by FAO’s Pastoralist Knowledge Hub (PKH) and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Developed in partnership with the Centre de Coopération Internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), the project was implemented in Chad, Mongolia, and Argentina – three different contexts, with three different institutional set-ups – thanks to the collaboration of three pastoralist organizations: Réseau Billital Maroobé (RBM), the Mongolian National Federation of Pasture User Groups (NFPUG), and Fundación Gran Chaco.

The project puts those organizations and the pastoralist communities at the core of the implementation process. It aimed at improving their capacities to collect, process and share information from their areas, thereby boosting their ability to influence policy processes. The ultimate goal is to have better targeted, evidence-based, pastoralist-friendly policies at local, national and international levels.

After almost three years of implementation, the project was successfully achieved and led to unprecedented results. The final result presentation meeting was held on April 2, 2020, through the Zoom platform, gathering all the partners involved and allowing for cross-country experience sharing. As recalled during the meeting by Badi Besbes (chief of the Animal Production and Genetics Branch of the Animal Production and Health Division) and Antonio Rota (Lead Technical Specialist in livestock development at IFAD), this project represents a piece of a larger puzzle, since it fits into a long-term process happening at a worldwide level and within international organizations such as FAO and IFAD. This process has been leading to raising awareness about the importance of pastoralism, as shown by the Joint Evaluation Synthesis of FAO and IFAD on their Engagement in Pastoral Development.

Gregorio Velasco Gil and Serena Ferrari, who managed the project from the PKH side, explained how the project was successful in strengthening the capacities of the three pastoralist organizations, which conducted surveys among the pastoralist communities of their respective countries autonomously. Through an innovative approach jointly developed, these organizations trained their peers and collected data on the characteristics of the pastoralist households (family and herd composition, land tenure issues, water access) and on the contribution of pastoralism to the national Gross Domestic Products (GDPs).

Thanks to such a proactive involvement of the field actors, it was possible to gather extensive and unrevealed information. For instance, it emerged that pastoralists’ contribution to GDP – often underestimated – may go, when taking into account also self-consumption, up to 27 percent in Chad, up to 12 percent in Mongolia, and up to 1.4 percent in Argentina. The data also revealed wide inequalities in pastoralist contexts, resulting from deep inequities in resource access (land and natural resources, social services, infrastructures, etc.).

As pointed out by Abdrahmane Wane, economist at CIRAD, another main achievement of the project was the demonstration that, through operating in a shock-prone environment, pastoralists had developed their own resource-based strategies (e.g. through mobility, family labor, asset sales). In other terms, they rely primarily on their own family resources and social capital, thus dispelling the myth that they depended on official support coming from the state or other stakeholders. In addition, pastoralists have shown to know markets well, in the sense that they participate in markets in an opportune way, by balancing their short-term consumption needs and long-term herd-building strategy to meet future consumption. Nonetheless, markets do not know pastoralists as well, and the lack of a market-related enabling environment explains why business initiatives have difficulties setting up in most pastoral areas.

These achievements are producing and will produce important effects in each of the beneficiary countries. In Chad, the project has been leading to reinforcing the work and representativeness of RBM in the field, as Blamah Jalloh affirmed. Burma Dashbal, from the NFPUG, showed how, in Mongolia, the method developed under the project has being used by the organization to set up a raw material traceability system, in order to improve the participation of pastoralists in animal product-based value chains. Héva Anne Brunelle from Fundación Gran Chaco explained how the project is especially important in the context of Argentina, where pastoralists feel overshadowed by large-scale and intensive livestock production systems and lack of institutional recognition. In all cases, the information collected – that is freely accessible and available for the three pastoralist organizations – and the skills developed will be mobilized in the coming years to advocate for pastoralists’ needs and concerns and to strengthen their voice and participation in decision-making processes.

To learn more about the project, you can also read our articles on the project kick-off workshops held in Chad, Mongolia, and Argentina.

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