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Feature - Pastoralism viable despite constraints

[Kenya] Women and girls, from one of the ngadakarin (cattle camps), do the milking, not men. It is an important job to them. The cows are milked in the morning before they go out to graze, and in the evening when they return home. It can take a woman thre AU-IBAR
Kenyan Turkana woman milking cows - women and girls do the milking, not men
They are found in at least four African countries. Most of the men are named after their bulls. They live in some of the harshest environments in the world. Conflict and migration is part of their daily life. They are pastoralists from the Karamojong Cluster who, with the help of a technical agency of the African Union (AU), are out to show that pastoralism is a viable way of life, despite all the constraints. An exhibition, featuring photos taken by the pastoralists themselves, is currently underway at the Kenya National Museums in Nairobi - an attempt by the organisers to help policy makers and the public better understand the lives and needs of pastoralists. It highlights the viability of pastoralism and the problems pastoralists face. PERSONAL ACCOUNTS Alongside the pictures on show are brief write-ups by the photographers about themselves. Gabriel Ochwe, a Pokot from Alale, Kenya, sums up the hardships of a pastoral life: "I have little property, but I live well with my family because I have my cows. I got them recently, just this year. I have two cows only. I have a lot of problems, like starvation, cultivation and few livestock. The problems I have are common to the community. The Turkana and Karamojong often kill my people during the raids. Raids exacerbate the existing problems. We need peace with our neighbours." Lotikori Yarakal, a Merille from Omorate, Ethiopia, says: "I am about 70 years old. I have seven wives and very many children. When I was young and the Italians were present here, I used to stay in Kenya. Then, the British forced us back to Ethiopia. I became famous through raiding and was promoted to a troop leader. My community suggested that I should be their chief in 1986. The first thing I tried to do was to stop people from going for raids. I tried to mediate for peace." KARAMOJONG CLUSTER The Karamojong Cluster are groups of pastoralist communities living on the border areas between Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Ethnic communities such as Kenya's Turkana and Pokot, Uganda's Dodoth and Upe, Sudan's Toposa and Ethiopia's Merille are part of the Karamojong Cluster. For these people, pastoralism is the only way of life they know. Ahmed Khalif, an assistant minister in Kenya's Ministry of Livestock, officially opened the exhibition which features pictures taken by pastoralists who, in April 2002, were given disposable cameras and told to "capture what you see around you". The photographers were not trained. Some of them are livestock owners, community-based health workers and chiefs. The photographers did, indeed, document their own lives in words and pictures. In February 2003, the Community-Based Animal Health and Participatory Epidemiology (CAPE) unit of the AU's Interafrican Bureau for Aminal Resources (IBAR), retrieved the cameras in order to find out more about the pastoralist way of life. The unit processed about 1,000 photographs from 50 photographers but those featured at the exhibition are photos taken by those whom CAPE staff managed to interview in 2003. CONSTRAINTS Living in arid or semi-arid areas in the four countries, the pastoralists mostly lack vital infrastructure such as adequate roads, schools, markets and health facilities. Due to their physical and social isolation, there are limited government services available in such pastoral areas. Moreover, pastoralists remain isolated because of poor economic integration with their national economies, and their difficult circumstances are exacerbated by conflict within and outside the communities. In fact, conflict between different communities has long affected the Karamoja region along the Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan borders. Moving from place to place in search of pasture and water for their livestock is a lifelong routine for pastoralists. The little cultivation they carry out is for the supply of vegetables and cereals for subsistence. The main staple is meat and milk. Livestock includes cattle, goats, sheep, camels and donkeys. For a majority of these people, boundaries denoting the various countries hold little meaning because where they pitch camp is not dictated by any administrative structure, but by climatic conditions and availability of water and pasture for their livestock. UNDERSTANDING PASTORALISM Richard Grahn, IBAR Natural Resources and Conflict Adviser, told IRIN that migration was one of the key components of pastoral livelihood and should not be stopped. He said that vital development interventions, such as education and health service provision, would have to recognise and adapt to this aspect of pastoral life. IBAR, which started working with the communities in 1999 to help them improve the health of their livestock, advocates an integrated approach to conflict and development in pastoralist areas. It says this should be undertaken jointly by all development partners and built on traditional social institutions to allow pastoral livelihoods to flourish. Grahn said that contrary to popular belief, most pastoral communities have internal communal mechanisms that govern resource maintenance and migration patterns. He said that IBAR would take the exhibition to cities in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda, as well as to towns in pastoral areas such as Kitale, Kapenguria and Lodwar in Kenya. [A preview of the exhibit photographs is available online at www.eldis.org] [For more details about pastoralism, go to: www.cape-ibar.org] [Map of the Karamojong Cluster pdf Format]

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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