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Bridging the gap: New network links pastoralists to policy making

Pastoralism is practised throughout Eastern Africa, but few policies are in their favor


23/05/2017 -

Millions of pastoralists herd livestock in Africa’s drylands; yet they have little say in policies that affect them. The newly formed Eastern and Southern Africa Pastoralist Network (ESAPN) aims to advocate for better policies that support the lifestyle of mobile pastoralists. 

The ESAPN wants to change the negative perception of pastoralism. They are seen as backward and unproductive despite the important contributions they make. They produce food in areas too dry for crop farming, foster trade, conserve the environment and possess a rich culture.  

Poorly designed policies limit herd movements, urge communities to settle and exclude pastoralists from grazing areas they have traditionally used. This has made pastoralist communities vulnerable to loss of resources, conflicts, climate change and poverty.

“There is an urgent need for governments and development actors to put pastoralists at the centre of planning and implementation”, stated Sadia Musse Ahmed from the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa.

The ESAPN points to institutions like the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development and the East African Community that already acknowledge the important role of pastoralism. A good example is the African Union's Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa that provides strategies to improve the livelihoods of pastoral communities.

The ESAPN’s members represent civil society organizations from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The network plans to grow in numbers and to include other countries in the region. The network is currently chaired by Benjamin Mutambukah of the Coalition for Pastoral Civil Society Organizations (COPACSO), Uganda.                                                             

The ESAPN was established on May 19 in Arusha, Tanzania at a meeting supported by FAO’s Pastoralist Knowledge Hub and FAO´s East African regional office. The meeting follows the Lukenya Declaration that demands better recognition of pastoralism, agreed upon at the Eastern and Southern African pastoralist gathering in January 2016. 

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