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Improving pasture management in arid and semi-arid lands in the Horn of Africa through Pastoralist Field Schools

An implementation strategy to support pastoralist communities build resilience against drought

Recurrent drought, degraded rangelands and reduced access to traditional grazing lands have left pastoral communities in the Horn of Africa’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) more vulnerable and facing severe livestock feed shortages. During dry spells, pastoral communities suffer from food and nutrition insecurity, as well as shrinking incomes occasioned by livestock losses and reduced livestock production. Climate change adds an extra layer of vulnerability to this already fragile ecosystem, exacerbating the underlying causes of poverty and food insecurity.

Over the last ten years, the Horn of Africa has faced seven major drought events, which have killed more than half of the cattle population in the most heavily affected areas and decimated the livelihoods of millions of pastoralists each year. 

During the past two decades, FAO and its partners have conducted Pastoralist Field Schools (PFS) in the Horn of Africa’s ASALs to address this challenging context. Specifically, this document describes how their recent experiences with PFS in Kenya and Ethiopia have contributed to restoring the livelihoods of livestock-dependent communities through improved pasture management.

What are Pastoralist Field Schools and how do they help increase the resilience of livelihoods?

A PFS is a “school without walls”, where 25 to 30 pastoralists meet regularly and engage in hands-on experiential and participatory learning over a season/production cycle to improve a specific enterprise. Groups test and adapt good agricultural and marketing practices that assist members in achieving sustainable food production and improved livelihoods for their families.

PFSs help increase the resilience of pastoral communities through developing their critical analysis, decision making and communication skills, as well as the understanding of their agro-ecosystem. PFSs contribute to enhancing livestock production and incomes, thus improving household nutrition, supporting better management of natural resources and reducing the impact of natural hazards and climate change on pastoral households.

PFS is an adaptation building on the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach developed by FAO in Asia in 1989 for integrated pest management, and later adapted to a variety of topics and contexts across more than 90 countries. 

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