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Pastoralism – Making variability work. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper No. 185

Pastoral systems have evolved to function with the natural environment and therefore with variability. By identifying variability as an entry point, this paper aims at (i) engaging FAO in the mainstreaming of pastoralism by establishing the understanding of pastoralism, and its systematic inclusion in the normal operations of FAO, and at (ii) presenting an evidence based narrative on pastoralism to a specialists’ audience. Two main points are made in this document: First, pastoral systems are emblematic of farming with nature. Second, pastoral systems make use of variability in inputs (the environment) by matching it with variability in their own operational processes (flexibility in movements, animal breeds, labour force, etc.) in such a way as to reduce the variability in outputs (animal production and health, household’s food security, etc).

Since 2015, the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub (PKH) has helped creating an institutional space for connecting and coordinating work on pastoralism within FAO. An Inter-Departmental Working Group on Pastoralism has been formed. The conceptual framework of this paper and early versions have benefited from comments and guidance of FAO staff as well as of specialists of pastoralism worldwide.