Food Coalition

Safeguard vulnerable pastoralist and agro-pastoralist households in East and West Africa and the Sahel

In Africa, about two-thirds of the entire continent comprises arid or semi-arid areas land. Livestock keepers, who are pastoralists or agro -pastoralist, inhabit the majority of rural African drylands. Pastoralism appears as one of the most sustainable food systems on the planet. Pastoralists safeguard natural capital in more than a quarter of the world’s land area. Pastoralism is a livestock management system and a way of life that provides globally important ecosystem services, which are enjoyed far beyond the boundaries of the rangelands. Herd mobility is central to sustainable pastoralism and can be practiced at different scales depending on local conditions: from short-term localized movements to long-range seasonal migrations, as witnessed in Africa. Pastoral livestock production is crucial to the livelihoods and the economy of Africa’s drylands.

East Africa has a population of about 300 million people of which 10 percent are pastoralist and agro- pastoralists occupying nearly 60-70 percent of the land, which are semi-arid and arid lands. COVID-19 is hitting the sub-region hard; given it is already struggling with climate shocks (drought and floods), the worst Desert Locust invasion in 25 years, conflict instability and macroeconomic difficulties.

East Africa is predominantly comprised of low-income countries, with the majority of the poor in rural areas or informal settlements, and many people highly reliant on agriculture and casual daily wages for their survival. A third of East Africa’s population lives below the poverty line (AfDB 2019) and most of the countries rank low on Human Development Indices (OPHI & UNDP 2019). Nearly 35 percent of the children under five years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition, while acute malnutrition rates exceed 5 percent (UNICEF, WHO, WB 2020). Conflict and climate induced displacements are high, with 4.6 million refugees and 8.1 million Internally Displaced Persons IDPs (UNHCR. 1 July 2020). This displacement situation is putting a heavy strain on governments and humanitarian agencies alike.

Several countries in the East Africa, particularly South Sudan and Ethiopia, have struggled with ongoing macroeconomic challenges that have driven high inflation rates and declining foreign exchange rates, which have made imports of food and agricultural inputs more expensive and have led to an increase in food prices (FAO, 2020).

The adverse effects of COVID-19 is taking its toll on agriculture and food systems. Investments in agriculture, labour markets, processing, trade (including cross border and informal), markets, and humanitarian assistance are suffering as a result. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that Africa’s GDP growth could contract by as much as 2.6 percent due to the crisis, severely impacting agriculture and the whole food value chain.

The livestock sector is the backbone of many East African countries’ economies and people’s livelihoods, and it is critically taking a hit in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Ethiopia. East Africa’s livestock sector is composed of almost half of the livestock population in sub-Saharan Africa, supporting over 30 million people, the majority of which are being pastoralist and agro pastoralist communities.

According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, 22 million people faced crises (IPC Phase 3 or above) in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. During 2019 year, these countries held 16 percent of the world’s food insecure. An additional 23.4 million people faced food stress (IPC Phase 2) in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan. Between 19 and 20 million, people forecast to be in crisis (IPC Phase 3 or worse) in 2020 year (GNAFC & FSIN 2020). COVID is exacerbating this situation and recent projections suggest that actual peak figures for 2020 will likely be significantly higher than previously forecasted.

In West Africa and the Sahel, the pastoral populations are estimated at 20 million individuals in 2013 (World Bank, 2013). The sub-region is faced with a number of crises and structural vulnerabilities resulting in a debilitating effect on pastoral and agro-pastoral populations’ livelihoods and food security. Increasingly volatile seasons due to climate change and the proliferation of armed groups, the resurgence of community clashes and the rise of violent extremism have left communities in parts of the Sahel perilously vulnerable. Furthermore, low pasture and fodder  availability in pastoral areas – in Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria – is currently affecting transhumance and pastoral livelihoods. Moreover, due to several barriers, those populations have generally a limited access to social services, including social protection.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, given that governments have adopted strong measures to contain the spread of the disease. These measures include lockdowns, physical distancing, closure of schools, primary markets, borders and travel restrictions, which are placing a large strain on economic activities and local agri-food systems.

Even though control measures have been relaxed and softened more recently, the disease is still spreading across the sub-region. All countries are experiencing community transmission, as well as cases arriving from elsewhere.

In the short, medium and long-term, impacts on the Sahel’s economy, agriculture sector, food security and nutrition are predicted to worsen. According to the World Bank, countries in the region will experience a dramatic economic contraction in 2020, such as Chad (-0.2 percent), Liberia (-2.6percent) and Sierra Leone (-2.3percent).

All these factors have severe consequences on agriculture, food security, diets and nutrition in the region. Before the pandemic, over 19 million people in the region faced acute food insecurity (crisis or worse phases of the Cadre Harmonisé) The COVID-19 is set to worsen the situation, especially in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Nigeria where the increasing food insecurity has recently led to the displacement of 4.2 million people.

Priority Areas of work: Boosting Smallholder Resilience for Recovery
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 13. Climate Action, 16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Regional
Region: Africa
Country: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda
Budget: USD 180 million


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