Working Paper 154

Lands of the Future: transforming pastoral lands and livelihoods in eastern Africa

Jon Abbink, Kelly Askew, Dereje Feyissa Dori, Elliot Fratkin, Echi Christina Gabbert, John Galaty, Shauna LaTosky, Jean Lydall, Hussein A. Mahmoud, John Markakis, Günther Schlee, Ivo Strecker, David Turton

Abteilung ‚Integration und Konflikt’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 154

Pastoral and agro-pastoral areas in eastern Africa and elsewhere on the continent have long been regarded as peripheries, especially in economic terms, but also in terms of social and cultural accomplishments. Although biased perceptions of the ‘unproductive’ uses of pastoralism have become outdated, government policies still do little to formally recognise or integrate pastoral lands as critical parts of rural livelihood systems and economic development models. Instead, many states give preference to large-scale agricultural investments in pastoral areas, resulting in the loss or fragmentation of rangelands, induced sedentarisation of pastoralists, and a radical reduction in livestock numbers. The Lands of the Future Research Network supports the view that alienation of pastoralists from productive lands often is unwarranted, unproductive, and unadvisable. In such cases it would be better for the overall economy and society to leave things as they are, or, if ‘development’ comes in, to discuss the development potential of pastoralism. In other cases of integrated economies, combining old and new forms (‘mixed agriculture’ on a societal scale) might offer advantages to all groups of participants as well as the national economy. Drawing on research from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Tanzania our paper looks at the significance of pastoralism as a productive economy and the positive bearing it has on the environment, wildlife conservation, and on the health and well-being of pastoral communities. The paper also reflects on what is at stake when one form of land use is replaced by another and when customary rules and practices regarding land access, land use, and traditional law are not fully recognised by policy makers. Using historical examples (e.g. from Afar) and current development trends (e.g. Ethiopia’s river basin development in the Omo Valley), the paper shows how the impacts of such development need not be negative (e.g. forced displacement, resettlement, conflict). The authors urge development planners and governments to integrate the expertise of agro-pastoralists into development models and to establish strong relationships between investors, NGOs, GOs, policy makers, researchers, local communities, and other stakeholders in order to find equitable and long-term solutions for changing land uses.

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