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Survival of the fittest. Pastoralism and climate change in East Africa

This paper analyses the policies required to enable pastoralist communities to cope with the impact of climate change. 

Although pastoralism makes a significant contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) in many parts of East Africa and provides a livelihood for tens of millions of people in the region, they have the highest incidence of poverty and the least access to basic services. Apart from climate change pastoralists also face political and economic marginalisation, inappropriate development policies, and increasing resource competition. To address climate change the authors propose that:

  • pastoralist communities need more investment in good basic services, which include: drought and flood mitigation and preparedness systems, access to climate information, and effective conflict-mitigation mechanisms
  • civil society and local communities need support to build strong and representative pastoral organisations.
  • governments must support the activities that pastoralists are already undertaking in order to deal with climate variability and climate change.
  • there is a need to create alternative livelihoods for people who have dropped out of pastoralism

Pastoralist communities could have a sustainable and productive future in a world affected by climate change, given the right enabling environment. To achieve this, the authors recommend the following action by national governments in East Africa:

  • recognise and protect pastoralists’ land and resource rights
  • put an end to inappropriate development policies aimed at pastoralists, including the assignment of fixed grazing lands to pastoralist communities.
  • empower pastoralist communities to influence policy and implementation at the national level, including the planning of climate-change adaptation strategies.
  • invest more in appropriate development initiatives that have climate- change adaptation integrated into them in pastoralist areas
  • reward pastoralists financially for all the environmental services they supply through well-managed pastoralist grasslands