Arusha-In the wake of the impacts of the drought in East Africa, pastoralists call for a paradigm shift from the narrative of calamity and despair to one of a vibrant and viable sector.
This is in recognition of the immense contribution that pastoralism provides to Africa’s national and regional economies and development. The Eastern and Southern Africa Pastoralist Network (ESAPN) recognises the potential of pastoralism as a key pillar for the realisation of the continent’s sustainable development goals.
Sadia Musse Ahmed, country representative of PENHA Somaliland/Somalia says “there is an urgent need for governments and development actors to put pastoralists at the centre of planning and implementation to ensure sustainable and people-centred development at the national and continental levels.”
The persistent negative narrative within policy and media on pastoralism and pastoralists ignores the fact that research and reality portray a totally different situation. This sector has for millennia provided critical services in ecological health and conservation of biodiversity through sound rangeland management.
The key role played by pastoralism is acknowledged by the African Union, Inter Governmental Authority on Development and East African Community, European Union and the United Nations that have consistently demonstrated the contribution of pastoralism to agriculture and food security, resilience, preservation of traditional knowledge and technologies that form a strategic development pillar for eastern and southern African countries.
“The value chain of livestock and other peripheral and complementary services provides a broad spectrum of options for investment such as wildlife based tourism. Hence the need to support pastoralism by providing an opportunity for pastoralists to participate along the value chains,” observes Abdi Abdullahi Hussein-chair of the Pastoralist Forum, Ethiopia.
ESAPN advocates for the recognition of pastoralists as the first African groups to propagate Pan-Africanism through their “pastoralism without borders mobility” which provides a model/tool for regional integration.
ESAPN engages in policy-making processes to ensure large-scale land-based development and resource extraction activities do not threaten pastoralist systems and their ability to contribute to food security and economic development.
The network, with the support of the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub and the sub-regional East Africa office of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works to empower pastoralists to consolidate their voices and sustainably improve their productivity and livelihoods.
* Benjamin Mutambukah is the chairperson of the ESAPN.