Defying drought: nomads have the answer

Mobile pastoralism is part of the solution to the drought in the Horn of Africa, according to the IUCN-hosted World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP).

Garba Tula drylands project, Kenya

“This crisis was predictable and predicted,” says Pablo Manzano, Global Coordinator of WISP. “Irrigated crop farming and abandonment of pastoralism are being proposed as solutions in order to prevent future crises. But analyses on the subject often don’t take into account the ecological, economic and social factors that make pastoralism highly sustainable in drylands.”

In the current crisis in the Horn of Africa, media and economic experts are accusing pastoralism of being an ineffective livelihood that is periodically subjected to similar crises. Irrigated crop farming is proposed as a panacea but it deepens overuse of water resources and exacerbates conflicts. Livestock mobility is a much more rational land use, allowing the exploitation of patchy resources in drylands and is also an important tool for climate change adaptation.

Securing land tenure for pastoralist communities is needed to conserve resources so that droughts are countered and capital inputs are leveraged for development. Long-term strategies should be based on allowing people to move with their livestock across manmade boundaries, which have been key during other food crises. But even if the present crisis was predicted almost a year ago, no action was taken. Famines are more related to political turmoil than to the amount of rainfall, and they do not occur unless pastoral areas have other problems.

“Investments in drylands by government and international aid agencies have to be reoriented, taking into account local ecological conditions as well as local capacities,” adds Manzano. “Investments should include infrastructure to export pastoralist products, financial services for remote areas, high-quality adapted education, and skills for securing land rights, ideally adapting traditional management to modern legal frameworks.”

“Most of these solutions have been adopted by pastoralists themselves in different parts of the world, often with no external help. It becomes clear from overwhelming evidence from around the world that to use investment to support pastoralism, rather than replacing it, is the only realistic solution.”

Brian Thomson, IUCN Media Relations, t +41 79 721 8326, e [email protected]
Ewa Magiera, IUCN Communications Officer, t +41 76 505 3378, e [email protected]

Work area: 
Climate Change
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
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