Ethiopian experience sharing visit to Mali on climate change adaptation of pastoralists

In 2011, an exchange of Ethiopian scholars and NGO members to Mali took place to learn about best practices and share experiences concerning pastoralists’ adaptation to the effects of climate change.

The participants of the Ethiopian exchange group came from five different partner organisations of the DCG. The Malian hosts, the DCG Mali and the Malian Arid Lands Development Organisation (MALDO), facilitated the visit to the regions of Nioro du Sahel and Nara that took place in the end of 2011.

These regions, like many of the Northern areas of Mali, play an important role to Malian (and cross-border) pastoralism. During the last decades, partly due to the severe Sahelian droughts, the pastoral stocks in Mali got severely diminished. Nowadays, the arid zones are facing climate change induced hazards like reduced rainfall, desertification and deforestation. The increasing pressure on natural resources, like water and grazing land, also leads to tensions between farmers and pastoralists.

The principal goals of the Ethiopian visitors was to learn how Sahelian pastoral communities are adapting to the mentioned challenges, to learn lessons about interventions that support the adaptation to a changing climate and finally, to disseminate and replicate best practices of the Sahelian pastoralists in Ethiopian pastoralist regions. For acquiring relevant information, they interviewed governmental and non-governmental development actors, had focus group discussions with livestock market management committees and pastoral community members, made field observations and drew historical timelines.

One of the findings from visiting different cattle markets was that Mali has established quite a good infrastructure for cross-border trade with Senegalese buyers. Other positive aspects are the existence of smaller regional cattle market centers, which are quite well equipped and collectively managed by local cooperatives. Similar groups are also responsible for managing the pastoralist rangelands: On the one hand, the pastoral corridors used for transhumance (also by Mauritanian herders) and on the other hand, pastoral perimeters that usually cover 20.000 to 30.000 hectares of rangeland, which can be used as dry season grazing reserves (e.g. the Baoule grazing area).

In addition to those established grazing areas, pastoral organisations, the government and NGO initiatives are funding watering ponds and boreholes for animal watering, vaccination parks and protection measures against wildfires and desertification, to ensure that pastoralists are not displaced from their original areas. Other initiatives to protect pastoral livelihoods are to support the regeneration of different grass and plant species, the promotion of milk production, the establishment of better facilities at livestock markets, like slaughterhouses for added value to livestock products, and pastoral capacity building through literacy classes, schools etc. The government subsidises industrial feed like cotton cake for livestock fattening. Furthermore, collaborative mechanisms between herders and farmers, which include the use of farm residuals as pasture, are supported to reduce conflicts.

The Ethiopian visitors agreed that cattle markets and vaccination parks in Ethiopia could be improved. There is a need for more storage facilities and periodic animal vaccination, like it is common in Mali. Furthermore, they found that the harmonised cross-border cattle trade between Mali and Senegal can be used as an example for East Africa and increased trade between Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. Although grazing reserves like the pastoral perimeters in Mali have been tried out in Ethiopia without success, further research about the Malian model and assessment of its potential could be useful. Pastoral corridors, on the other hand, are regarded as a very good means for sustainable natural resource management and the mitigation of conflicts between herders and farmers in pastoral areas.

The Ethiopian exchange partners were able to learn a lot about potentially appropriate technologies, which could be explored further for their adaptability in the Ethiopian pastoral context. In particular, the decentralising Malian policy initiatives have strengthened the position of pastoralist associations and made it possible for them to collaborate in the management of grazing land, cattle markets and in projects like the purchase and distribution of industrial feed. A shift to agro-pastoralism is not being promoted by Malian governmental institutions.

More information about the project here.