Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Enhancing capacities for a country-owned transition towards CSA

Enabling Frameworks

Emerging responses to climate change in pastoral systems in Ethiopia and Niger


In 2008, an exploratory study Yohannes and Mebratu (2009) was made on how pastoralists in Ethiopia and Niger were responding to changing climatic conditions. It examined both technical and institutional innovations developed by pastoralist families and communities to adapt to new conditions. 


The study indicated that the vulnerability of pastoralists to climate change varies within and between areas and communities. Some innovations are locally specific and cannot be scaled up in other areas or communities. However, successful innovations do offer starting points for joint actions between pastoralists and other stakeholders (e.g. researchers, development agents and government authorities) to deal with changing conditions. Moreover, the study confirmed that pastoralists’ increasing vulnerability to climate change can be attributed largely to their marginalization in decision-making process on the use of resources. 

The study identified a wide range of different types of innovation to address food security, sustainable resource management and improved governance within a range of social-political units. Many of these innovations rely on maintaining mobility – a basic element for pastoralist resilience. Local innovations are characterized by flexibility, multifunctionality and a high degree of integration into socio-cultural systems. 

The study concluded that local innovations for adaptation to climate change need to be assessed along with other environmental, socio-economic and policy measures. The primary focus should not be on specific innovations, but rather on recognizing local innovation as a process, and stimulating the continuation of this process in collaboration with other stakeholders. Rather than waiting for climate change to happen and then reacting, proactive ideas for already feasible innovations should be tested in practice and within pastoral policy frameworks. Local adaptation capacities can be strengthened through joint experimentation and other forms of investigative action led by the pastoralists themselves. 

Source: Adapted by authors from Gebre, Michael et al., 2011.