Pastoralism


Pastoralists often live in marginal environments with poor access to infrastructure, few subsistence alternatives beyond livestock, and thus are highly vulnerable to environmental and climatic changes.

One of the major groups inhabiting dryland areas are the pastoralists. A pastoralist can broadly be defined as a livestock farmer who derives more than 50% of economical activity and subsistence from livestock keeping. There are different categories of pastoralists such as agro-pastoralists who are partially or fully sedentary to nomad pastoralists who are highly mobile and do not rely on any cultivation. Generally, the more the area is arid, the more the pastoralists will be nomadic (mobile). Mobility is an essential aspect of the pastoralists' lifestyle as it is a way for them to reach the most optimal production in a varying landscape subject to an unstable climate. The pastoral people move and migrate in search for water and forage, a mobility that is affected by drought. Periods of drought are usually characterized by travelling long distances from usual grazing areas to adequate water sources for the livestock and pasture.

Pastoral people often live in marginal environments with poor access to infrastructure, few subsistence alternatives beyond livestock, and thus are highly vulnerable to environmental and climatic changes. Even though pastoral people have developed a range of responses to crisis situations, these have become increasingly ineffective due to population growth and land encroachment by cultivators. In addition to rainfall variability (drought), livestock diseases and theft also represent threats to the pastoralists. It is important to note that even though mobility is a survival strategy for the pastoralists, it is also a source of conflict with other communities and may as well lead to the spread of diseases. On the other hand, based on the pastoralists' mobility and range management systems, conservation of natural resources is promoted through the establishment of use regulations and mobility, which allows a fallow period. Because of their nomadic lifestyles, pastoralists do not fit into modern states which leads to conflicts with governmental institutions.

Based on the location of pastoralists in dryland areas and their vulnerability to droughts, they are a target group for DCG's work. DCG's involvement in pastoralism consists of conducting research, holding workshops and seminars, and publishing studies and proceedings. This sharing of information among different stakeholders (governments, NGOs, research institutes, and pastoralists) is meant to promote sound policies for environmental management, sustainable livelihoods, and food security for pastoralists. For example, DCG conducted a study on the traditional coping strategies in response to drought of two pastoralist groups in Ethiopia. The gathered information would then be disseminated to communities in order to help them rebuild and strengthen their coping strategies in this particular situation.

(Sources: DCG Proceedings 8, DCG Report 17 and 31, Noragric Working Paper 29, IFAD, and Tor Arve Benjaminsen).

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