Day 1 & 2 Summaries

A conference summary  of day and 2  by Amdissa Teshome, FAC Ethiopia.

Day 1 – March 21st


The long awaited conference on the future pastoral has kicked off successfully. I don’t have the exact figures for now but 70-80 participants have attended the first day.

His Excellency Dr. Shiferaw Teklemariam, Minister, Ministry of Federal Affairs opened the conference. In his statement, Dr. Shiferaw highlighted the significance pastoralism to the Ethiopian Economy and government efforts to capitalise on this potential. He appreciated the two organisations for organising such an important conference and looked forward to the final outcome.

Dr Shiferaw attended the first opening session which was a brief presentation from four panellists on the status of pastoral policy:

AU pastoral policy framework

The challenges facing the Government Southern Sudan on issues of pastoralism and other governance issues

The situation of livestock and pastoral development in Northern Kenya representative

Pastoral development in Ethiopia

After tea, we were given a re-cap of research efforts on livestock/pastoralism over a period of 40 years and how the focus has been changing. This was followed by an introduction to the ten parallel session over the three days.

In the afternoon, the participants joined parallel sessions of their choice. I joined the “Regional Policies on pastoralism and the politics of pastoralist policy”. There two presentations.

Legislation for pastoralism: lessons for West Africa

Pastoralim and Regional Policy in East Africa: the case of COMESA

The key message from the first presentation was that West Africa countries have has some of the best legislations for pastoral development but the situation of pastoralists is not significantly better than those without such legislations. Which means that it takes more than legislation to improve the lives of pastoralists. Other vested interests and old belief about pastoralism (from policy makers themselves, implementers, clan leaders, etc) often reduce the effectiveness of these legislations. If governments are serious about their legislation, they should have the political will to tackle these vested interests.

The key lesson from the second presentation was that there are better opportunities than ever before to have regional policies on pastoralism and livestock (the AU, the RECs). The recent AU framework is the outcome of this opportunity. There are also challenges:–

  • limited organisational capacity,
  • the old beliefs/mindset that pastoralism is wasteful,
  • organisational orientation (e.g. COMESA strong on cereals but weak in livestock/pastoralism)
  • national security issues associated with cross border trade/movements
  • national tax revenue issues

Having said that some progress has been made:

  • AU pastoral policy framework drafted
  • IGAD pastoral policy on process
  • COMESA policy drafted but reluctant to ratify

You may ask yourselves do we need all these policies? I would say yes because the context of each regional group (COMESA and IGAD) is different. I personally don’t have a problem with having separate policies but they should be designed in an integrated manner. They should not contradict or a policy for one should not be a barrier to another group. AU of course is the overall framework.

Some of you might say no.


Day 2 – March 22nd

The second day began as packed as the first. Four very senior pastoral researchers were asked to kick start the day by presenting their respective FIVE things that have changed in the last 30 years. The following are the key synthesis of issues presented by the four speakers (there are some overlaps):


  1. Limited information flow (getting information from one man [sic] in the 70s versus the internet today). This was meant to indicate that if one was working on a livestock/pastoral project in the 70s, the source of information was very limited but today plug into the internet for a given topic or issue, you will be overwhelmed with information
  2. Primary focus on productivity – we were driven by increasing productivity of livestock and paid little or no attention to other [human] aspects. Veterinary service and modern range management based on Australian and USA models was the focus.
  3. Population has increased dramatically (per capita holding dropped; economic diversification became necessary).
  4. Land fragmentation – not in the highland sense of the land being divided because increase in family size but land being divided for different activities leaving little land for grazing. Agriculture being practiced for subsistence; wage labour and tourism also increased but pastoralism still dominant.
  5. Small town – with population growth small towns have grown and are within reach of pastoralists.
  6. Education – has progressively increased especially when fees were waived. It used to be considered immoral in the old days. Presently, more educated pastoralists are pursuing national level professions and vocations strengthening pastoral profile and increased voice in the national development agenda (enhanced language ability, mathematics, computing skills). For example, in the first conference on the future of pastoralism in 1971, there were no pastoralists; no women; and most participants were anthropologists. Now it is different – we have pastoralists, we have lots of women and anthropologies are in the minority.

One of the panellists, a pastoralist, a researcher and a Professor, declared “I am a pastoralist . Education has never changed me and it will never do. Pastoralism is a being. Goes beyond accumulation of property”. I wonder how many of us coming from farming parents can say “I am a farmer; education has never changed me ….”?

With these thought provoking ideas, we went into three parallel sessions. I joined the alternative livelihoods and exists from pastoralism session.

There were three presentations but let me give you a highlight of the first one.

It was a comparison of pastoral and settled livelihood. Settled life is attractive because of social services (education, water, health) and food security. Pastoralism requires mobility, pasture and protection. Pastoralists look for alternatives because of declining livestock; drought and famine; loss of grazing land; conflict. However, settled life also has costs: poor housing; decline in moral economy; increased idle youth; change in belief and customs. Overall, on nutrition grounds for example, pastoralist children are better nourished than settled children because milk consumption. Under normal circumstances, pastoral children consume three times more milk than settled children.