(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Pastoralists have their own solutions

[Kenya] Pastoralists are turning their
backs on centuries of nomadic lifestyle and instead settling near permanent water as recurrent drought again decimates their animals. This caravan was trekking to water 45 miles away. [Date picture taken: February 2
Mike Pflanz/IRIN

Pastoralists' mechanisms for managing their resources and determining access rights among different communities in the Kenya-Ethiopia borderlands should be given much more attention at the national policy level if the viability of pastoralism is to be strengthened, states a new report.

"The rangelands are not open tracts of idle land, over which pastoralists and their livestock move randomly to use water and grazing land," states a Humanitarian Policy Group September Working Paper, Rules of the range: natural resources management in Kenya–Ethiopia border areas.

"Rather, the existence and enforcement of customary rules and norms of reciprocity around natural resources management have historically played a key role in controlling and regulating both land use and social relations between ethnic groups."

But traditional herd movement is being threatened by activities such as the expropriation of rangeland for irrigation farming, fragmentation by settlements and conflict.

Mobility has often been blamed for fuelling conflict but mobility is the cure, not the problem, says the study, arguing that "conflict, food insecurity and land degradation are mainly the results of policies designed to restrict mobility". It recommends the recognition of the cross-border nature of pastoralism and the involvement of customary land institutions in rangeland management.


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