Policy Support and Governance Gateway
© FAO/Ami Vitale


Pastoralism is a livelihood system based on extensive livestock production. One of the key production systems in the world’s drylands is mainly characterised by animal mobility and common use of natural resources – key strategies to manage environmental variability and shocks. An estimated 200 million pastoralists raise livestock, e.g. cattle, sheep, goats, and camels – in drylands, which cover more than one third of the Earth’s land and where no crops can grow.

Promoting dialogue for pastoralist-friendly policies and regulations.

In spite of their social, economic, and environmental contribution to their communities, pastoralists are often misunderstood and excluded from policy processes affecting them. Therefore, FAO’s work focuses, among others, on raising awareness of the pastoralists’ contribution to national economies and local development, as well as the rationale of pastoralist land governance and transboundary mobility. Through the Pastoralists Knowledge Hub (PKH), FAO encourages, supports and leads the global dialogue to promote pastoralist-friendly policies and regulations. 

Key policy messages

·         Pastoralism is an environmentally sustainable production system that provides a range of ecosystem services, such as conserving and restoring biodiversity in the rangelands and the soil fertility in croplands, and providing markets with animal source food and by-products. The Pastoralists Knowledge Hub (PKH) supports research initiatives aimed at assessing pastoralism’s contribution to the ecosystems. It highlights its key role for the future of the livestock sector and, more broadly, for world food systems.

·        Pastoralism has shown extensive adaptive capacities to adapt to variable climate conditions and overcome external shocks. Climate change consequences – rising temperature, extended drought periods or changes in seasonality – affect pasture availability and reduce water sources. The PKH seeks to contribute to the resilience of pastoralists through advocating for their right to mobility and showing their complementary contribution to other livelihood and production systems, such as rain- fed agriculture or agroforestry.

·        To increase pastoralism’s recognition, data production is crucial for evidence-based policy-making. The collection of data is essential to understand the importance of pastoralism, its contribution to local and national societies and to better inform policies. The PKH supports and leads field activities aimed at assessing the true value of pastoral systems, such as its total economic tangible and intangible value.

·        Pastoralism is not simply a production system, but more broadly a livelihood and land-use system requiring a multidimensional approach (food, feed, environment, economic, social, etc.) within the policy setting. For this reason, the PKH encourages and leads dialogue with political institutions at different levels – local, national, regional, and international – to ensure that policies acknowledge pastoralism’s specificities.

·        By its very nature, Pastoralism requires adaptable and flexible systems of governance and tenure in order to work optimally. While established laws may allow beneficiaries to secure pastoral tenure and exercise their rights to access natural resources, it is often necessary to recognize and incorporate customary governance systems at the local level, and include informal systems of governance in the decision-making processes. For instance, the PKH  supports countries in the implementation of  the “Technical Guidelines on Improving Governance of Pastoral Lands”.

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