Taking the bull by the horns: NGOs and pastoralists in coalition

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London, England: Overseas Development Institute (ODI)


Five strategies are undertaken by the 20 million African pastoralists who derive the majority of their income from domestic livestock-keeping, namely mobile grazing, livestock and cereal exchanges, the establishment of diverse herds, herd splitting, and non-pastoral activities. There are constraints faced by the government in its attempt to deal with drought, for example the emphasis placed on the modernization of pastoralists, and the insecurity suffered by those living in marginal areas. This leads to a transfer of livestock from the subsistence farmers to the commercial sector, a practice which is particularly prevalent during time of drought. Added to these problems is the fact that pastoralists are under-represented politically and are consequently vulnerable to political action. These factors result in the breakdown of traditional exchanges, which leads to a weakening of indigenous barter systems and concomitant increased vulnerability, which culminates in an increasing number of pastoralists being forced to liquidate their herds or watch them die before joining the drift towards the city. The article challenges the traditional northern view of pastoralism as ecologically and economically unproductive or destructive by rejecting the concept of a single optimum livestock carrying capacity, and arguing that livestock-plant relationships must be taken within specific management systems. It asserts that subsistence pastoralism is more efficient when the maximum number of animals are maintained, even if the health of individual animals is compromised. The role of NGOs in future must be determined by the lessons learned from pastoralism, and must focus on advocacy as a means to development. There is a need to monitor and report on human and land abuses and projects that have a deleterious effect on pastoralists in order to create more effective and informed support to pastoralist communities. -b/m


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Rural development, Livestock carrying capacity, Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Local knowledge, Pastoralism, Pastoralist communities, Strategies, Ecosystem Governance


Pastoral Development Network Paper 33d