Ignoring Livestock Keepers at our Own Peril

For centuries, pastoralist peoples have traveled with their animals—cattle, goats, even camels—along well-established migration routes in Eastern Africa. But that’s changing—due to conflict, water shortages, shrinking regional and international borders, and expanding crop production. According to the International Institute for Environment and Development, the influx of guns into countries like Kenya (where we are now) has, not surprisingly, made conflicts over land and water between pastoralists and farmers more deadly.

A letter-to-the-editor from Northern Kenya in The Nation, one of the daily newspapers, expressed concern not only over guns, but the marginalization of pastoralists in this country. Because of their nomadic existence and their lack of land tenure, both governments and NGOs have often ignored the needs and rights of pastoralists here in Kenya, as well as other countries in the region. But as the impacts of climate change become more severe—and as poverty and hunger increase in sub-Saharan Africa—countries that choose to overlook pastoralists do so at their own peril. According to IEED, at least 90 percent of the meat eaten in Eastern Africa is raised by pastoralists, injecting some $USD 800 million into the economy.

Later this week, we’ll be visiting with Jacob Wanyama, coordinator for the Africa LIFE Network, a group helping empower pastoralist communities through the use of local breeds. We’ll keep you posted about our meetings with him and the communities he’s working with outside of Nairobi.

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