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The future of pastoralism in a changing climate

Pastoralism is a free-range livestock production system. It is practised in all of Africa’s dryland regions, and in some communities it is the main source of food security and income. But will pastoralism survive in the changing climate? This issue of Joto Afrika provides research findings, lessons learnt and success stories from across Africa.

Statistics from African Union’s policy framework show that pastoralism contribute between 10 to 44 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in the countries that they live in. Pastoralism has immense potential for reducing poverty, generating economic growth, managing the environment, promoting sustainable development, and building climate resilience.

But despite these positive aspects, pastoralists are experiencing rapid changes in their environment and welfare as a result of the changing climate. Pastoralists are becoming increasingly marginalised. The future of pastoralism in the changing climate is the subject of national and global discussions. The concerns are catalysing the scientific community to generate knowledge and share experiences and best practices that may offer solutions for the survival of pastoralism and the millions of people dependant on this livelihood.

Key messages in this brief include:

  • recognise the multiple processes and stressors that govern the vulnerability of pastoralists to climate change: policy makers and development agencies should respond to the other non-climate stressors that affect pastoralism
  • protect pastoral land and enhance the mobility of pastoralists and their livestock: strategies, such as  mobility strategies for the sustainable management of dryland vegetation and water resources, need to be enhanced through appropriate landuse policy frameworks
  • consider index-based livestock insurance schemes as one of the strategies for protecting livestock keepers against climate risks: lessons coming from pilot livestock insurance schemes should be considered before repeating and up-scaling
  • invest in building the capacity of pastoralists: education and training programmes enhance pastoralists’ skills and help them to diversify their enterprises, improve resource management, and take up employment opportunities.