Pastoralism: more than meets the eye

Pastoralism continues to be undervalued despite its contribution to developing countries’ economies and environmental sustainability, according to a study by the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP).

The report focused on six countries including Ethiopia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Peru and Spain. It studied the total economic value of pastoralism and found it was not just limited to direct benefits such as milk, meat, manure, transport, wool, hides and skins. The report showed pastoralism also had indirect benefits, such as environmental services which help conserve species and contribute to tourism.

It needs to be acknowledged that pastoralism is more than an agricultural production system, so that the indirect values such as environmental services can be promoted,” says Jonathan Davies , Regional Drylands Programme Coordinator for IUCN’s East and Southern Africa Regional Office. “Taking this into account, governments must adopt an overarching policy objective of sustaining and building pastoralism that transcends sectoral policy dialogue.”

The study found that the role of pastoralism in reducing carbon dioxide emissions may have important implications for populations far beyond the drylands. The report also found there is an extremely poor understanding of pastoralist economies and a severe lack of data on this in some countries.

The study was a follow-up to the 2006 Global Economic Review, which highlighted the importance of pastoralism to national economies and pointed out that most of its benefits were rarely considered.

In response to those results the six-country study applied a methodology of Total Economic Valuation taking into account both direct and indirect benefits of pastoralism, was meant to piece together knowledge regarding the benefits of pastoralism and to discuss the merits of different methodologies for assessing its value. It was part of WISP’s knowledge management effort aimed at improving understanding of the economic value of pastoralism.

The study indicates that knowledge of the multiple values of pastoralism remains poor and recommends that governments allocate resources to routinely gather appropriate data to assess and understand its real benefit.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Jonathan Davies, Regional Drylands Programme Coordinator ESARO IUCN, Mob +254 736 855 440;
Nikola Rass, Project Officer World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism Mob: 0049 17663103605;
Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations Officer, Mob +41 79 528 3486;;

Link to full report:
Download the global report here:
Download the policy brief here:
French report:
French Policy brief:
Spanish report:
Spanish policy brief:

About The World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism

The World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP) is an advocacy and capacity building initiative that seeks a greater recognition of the importance of sustainable pastoral development for both poverty reduction and environmental management. WISP enables pastoralists to sustainably manage drylands resources and to demonstrate that their land use and production system is an effective and efficient way of harnessing the natural resources of the world’s drylands. It is a global knowledge management network, funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by United Nations Development Programme and executed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
More information can be found at:

Mobile pastoralists the world over are the subject of an unusually large number of myths and misconceptions. These misconceptions have led to inadequate, often hostile, development policies and interventions which have erected major barriers to sustainable land management and have entrenched pastoral poverty. In order to achieve the twin goals of WISP, dryland environmental sustainability and pastoral poverty reduction, it is therefore necessary to overcome anti-pastoral prejudice and bring an end to damaging policy and practice.

About IUCN

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

The world's oldest and largest global environmental network, IUCN is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts in some 160 countries. IUCN's work is supported by over 1,000 professional staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN's headquarters are located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland.

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