By Daniel Kandy
“In my 80 years living as a pastoralist it has never been like this.” These are the words of Bote Bora, a pastoralist from Isiolo, Kenya, according to a new report from the United Nations and members of the UN-backed Security in Mobility initiative. Bora was referring to the environmental changes he has observed during his lifetime, such as unpredictable rainfall patterns and higher temperatures. But he and other pastoralists are also noticing changes in their communities and villages: increased migration to urban centers like Nairobi and Kampala, growing distances for pastoralist migrations, and the eruption of conflict over scarce resources. These are the confluence of effects brought on by climate change.
Pastoralists have found themselves increasingly needing to cross national borders to find food and water for their livestock, but often there are no formal laws or policies to guarantee their security. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
The report represents a call to action over the growing disruption of pastoralist lives in the Horn and East Africa region, where a combination of factors—including climate change, inappropriate policies, and a lack of basic services and infrastructure—is turning natural hazards into major emergencies. Unpredictable weather patterns are affecting pastoralist migration routes, resulting in rising conflict over water and grazing resources, especially in border regions. Pastoralists have found themselves increasingly needing to cross national borders to find food and water for their livestock, but often there are no formal laws or policies to guarantee their security.
The report calls on governments to implement strategies to manage and prevent these rising conflicts. Although some local governments facilitate cross-border mobility for pastoralists, especially in periods of drought when grazing ranges expand, others will need to consider similar strategies, the report concludes. It calls for policies that facilitate the safe movement of pastoralists within their countries and across borders, as well as efforts to address climate change, boost humanitarian assistance, and improve infrastructure and access to basic services in order to ensure the long-term survival of pastoralist communities.
In a region where so many people depend on nomadic pastoralism for their livelihood, it is important for East African nations to work together to implement policies to address the issues now confronting pastoralists as a result of climate change and regional instability.
Daniel Kandy is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet.