Supporting improved livelihoods for pastoralists
27 January 2012
Pastoralism is often depicted as an anachronistic system that cannot cope with the demands of modern development. However, practical experience reveals that pastoralism is not only capable of changing with the times, it is often the only viable livelihood option, particularly for communities living in remote, dryland environments. This collection of case studies from SNV Netherlands Development Organisation demonstrates that external support can help to strengthen pastoralists' voice in policymaking, enhance their engagement with markets and improve service provision and natural resource management in some of the most challenging environments in Africa today.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than 25 million pastoralists (people whose livelihood is based on mobile livestock keeping) and over 200 million agro-pastoralists (people combining mobile livestock keeping with agriculture). They represent over a quarter of the total population in Africa and occupy 43% of the continent’s total land mass. Moreover, livestock production is a fast-growing sector globally, due in part to changing diets as a result of urbanisation and rising middle classes.
Despite the high economic and environmental potential of drylands, most statistics show high levels of poverty in agro-pastoral areas: the arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia as well as North-Ghana and Benin are among the poorest in these countries. Mali, Burkina, Niger, Sudan, Tanzania and Ethiopia find themselves in the low ranks of the human development index (HDI). In many countries, pastoralist communities have limited voice in policy debates compared to more settled agricultural groups and urban populations. They are more likely to be marginalised and treated as second-class citizens. These patterns of inequity are also reflected within pastoralist societies, where certain groups have traditionally been excluded from decision making and where there is growing socio-economic differentiation along wealth and gender lines. SNV supports (agro-)pastoralist communities in the sustainable management of livestock and natural resources, better integration to markets and improved access and management of basic services such as water.
This Practice Brief brings together a wide variety of cases from across the continent that draw out a number of commonalities in pastoralist practices, for instance their management of water resources in Tanzania and Niger. But it highlights as well the diversity of the contexts within which pastoralism operates, as seen in the contrasting scales of dairy processing in Kenya, Niger and Burkina Faso, or the different roles played by local brokers in the livestock markets of Southern Sudan and Benin.
The case studies highlight two common strategies adopted by pastoralists to increase their income and deal with climatic shocks: product diversication and commercialisation. Product diversification involves branching into a variety of agricultural by-products (dairy, crop and tree products) to spread the risk of livestock loss. Secondly, a small group of pastoralists isincreasingly ‘moving up’ the chain by targetting higher-value markets, including export. However, this strategy requires considerable assets, including specialised labour and inputs. Most (agro-) pastoralists manage to gradually raise their incomes by pursuing a range of diversification strategies and is the group requiring most support.
The Practice Brief is part of a periodic series that aims to highlight insights, experiences and emergent knowledge from the capacity development practice of SNV and its partner organisations.
See also: Blog post by Rinus van Klinken and Joost Nelen, co-editors of the Brief.Search Terms sustainable development africa community empowerment casestudies