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Pastoralists Face Extinction Unless Govts Act To Save Them
Addis Ababa, August 7 -13, 2006 – Over 300 pastoralist groups from 19 countries gathered for eight days at Qarsa Dambe village in Yebello District of southern Ethiopia to discuss their plight. They were from the Horn of Africa, West Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The meeting, organized by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Pastoralists Communication Initiative, also attracted a number of UN agencies dealing with pastoralists, USAid and governments representatives for the Horn of Africa.
On the agenda were three major issues relating to increased productivity of pastoralists and the quality of their herds, access to markets and the global livestock trade, and the exploration of suitable governance structures to enhance pastoral economy and security.
Still, despite complaints that pastoralists were not given their due for contributing to the economies of the region, the meeting recognized that it is up to them to take the initiative by ending conflicts and organizing themselves into lobby groups.
Ali Wario, chairman of the Kenya Parliamentary Pastoralist Group and MP for Bura, lamented that, in Kenya, there were only two recognized land use systems – farming and town planning.
Mr. Wario said despite the fact that 80 per cent of the Kenyan land mass is arid and semi-arid and falls under pastoral areas, pastoralism is not recognized as a land use system.
"Most governments and policy planners view pastoralism as a way of life that is not viable. If pastoralism is not viable, then what alternatives do we have for those communities that have practiced it for thousands of years?" asked Mr. Wario, who hails from the Orma pastoral community of the Kenya Coast.
Kenya was represented by pastoralist groups from Northeastern and Eastern provinces, the districts of Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, West Pokot, Turkana, Marsabit, Moyale, Isiolo and Tana River.
Of concern to the pastoralists, were political boundaries and administrative policies that hinder cross-border trade. Along the Kenya-Ethiopia-Somalia border, for example, the local residents consider themselves one people but live in three different countries with different laws.
As a result of strict laws on livestock movement and marketing of livestock byproducts across the borders, pastoralists have learnt to use risky, illegal routes that are not only costly but deny their respective governments revenue.
In West Africa, however, pastoralists have multiple citizenship, which allows them to cross from one country to the other. Besides administrative, tax and currency confusion, the meeting, however, recognized that there was no unified veterinary service, especially in vaccination campaigns, making it easy for diseases to spread from one country to the other.
Of major concern was the lack of sufficient skills in the pastoral areas to treat animals.
In Ethiopia, for instance, the Oromia region – officially known as Oromia Regional State – comprises 61 per cent of the Ethiopian land mass with a population of 10 million livestock. The region holds 75 per cent of Ethiopia's sheep flock and 100 per cent of the camel herd.
However, pastoral communities from the region complained of marginalization and under-representation during the time of the Derg regime of former president Mengistu Haile Mariam.
While calling for close co-operation between regional governments on pastoralist affairs, Turune Zena of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the current government is trying to improve the situation through the Pastoral Area Development Programme, which involves the provision of health, water, rural microfinance and infrastructure.
Dahir Isse, an MP from Djibouti, said 78 per cent of his country's population were pastoralists and singled out the biggest obstacle facing trade and access to markets as government policies restricting cross-border trading and insecurity.
Apart from man-made obstacles, the pastoralists noted that one of the biggest threats to their survival is the advent of prolonged and severe droughts in the Horn of Africa, which has lengthened the post-drought recovery period. Besides government intervention, which comes late in the form of relief food, the meeting discussed various mechanisms for drought preparedness, drought management and post-drought recovery measures.
Customarily, one of the easiest methods of restocking has been cattle raids, otherwise known as cattle rustling.
But this practice is being discouraged by both governments and pastoralist leaders, who are urging their people to revert to traditional methods of surviving drought.
Pastoralism, the livelihood of millions of people in the Horn of Africa, is threatened with extinction unless governments recognize it as a viable economic activity.
Apart from the perennial conflicts over scarce resources, the incidence of drought has become more frequent and more severe than it was 20-30 years ago. Increased allocation of grazing land to agricultural activities and game reserves, lack of market access and issues of animal health are threatening to drive pastoralists out of their traditional way of life.
An estimated 15 million people who derive their livelihood from herding animals across the thinly populated lands of Somalia, Somaliland, northern Kenya, Oromia region and Ogaden in Ethiopia, northeast Uganda and Djibouti, are now appealing to their governments to help them survive the harsh new reality.
Source: The East African