Drylands / DRYLANDSCRP / Event / ILRI40 / Kenya / Pastoralism / Resilience / SLS

What policy options for sustainable pastoralism and rangeland governance? Experts hold discussion at a Nairobi conference

Managing mobility in African rangelandsManaging mobility in African rangelands







How can policy assure that devolution in pastoralist rangelands meets the needs of all three pillars of sustainability

This was the central question in a panel discussion convened by Lance Robinson, an environmental governance and resilience specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) during the 6th All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture (AACAA) held in Nairobi, Kenya on 27 to 30 October 2014 .

The panel discussion on ‘Devolution, rangeland governance and pastoralism’ explored the opportunities that devolution presents, in regards to governance and management of rangelands in pastoralist settings, which form a basis for the livelihoods for many farmers and livestock keepers in Africa.

A choice of highly seasoned practitioners for panelists

In the recent past, a lot of emphasis has been laid on the need to use research findings to influence policy, as well as the need to strategically communicate findings to the right audience, hence the birth of the phrase ‘evidence-based policy’. This is in an effort to ensure that the research carried out by scientists not only ends up on library shelves in form of journal articles and reports but that it also trickles down to the end-users or beneficiaries.

The sixth AACAA conference gave Robinson a platform to bring together researchers and policy makers in one forum to discuss policy options in rangeland governance and pastoralism, building on the researchers’ experience and findings.

The panel focused on key issues around institutional arrangements and governance of natural resources. The panelists were seasoned practitioners and policymakers in rangeland and natural resource management from public institutions, government departments and universities, and private institutions from East and West Africa.

  • Jerome Gefu from the National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Nigeria
  • Solomon Desta, director Managing Risk for Improved Livelihoods (MARIL), Ethiopia
  • Hewson Kabugi, director State Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Forest Conservation, in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in Kenya
  • Hon Chachu Ganya, member of parliament for North Horr constituency in Kenya, moderated the session

Devolution for localized legislations

Hon Ganya opened the discussion by setting the scene using the Kenyan experience as an example. The country’s constitution provides for devolution of services to lower levels of governance. Ganya observed that lack of context specific evidence to inform policies for rangeland management in most of Africa had led to replication of ranch management models from Western countries in attempts to improve policy and extension efforts of rangeland management in the continent without considering local needs such as the transhumance of pastoralists.

He argued that devolution of governance could provide locally adapted development pathways in which design of governance policies takes into account local needs and priorities and ensures participation of communities (pastoralists) in policy making. He also noted that such devolved governance structures would be much cheaper to manage compared to relying on the more bureaucratic national structures.

Challenges in rangeland governance and pastoralism

Gefu highlighted the challenges faced by communities in rangelands, given the different nature of their activities. Giving an example of the conflicts that often arise between agro-pastoralists and pure pastoralists as well as the threat posed by transhumance pastoralism, he said that viable policy solutions can only be reached by contextualised and inclusive discussions.

Kabugi who is also a co-author of an ILRI policy brief produced recently on natural resource governance in the dryland landscapes in Kenya approached the discussion from an ecosystem based perspective. He stressed the need of a holistic governance approach that considers the needs of all stakeholders in the ecosystem so that policy solutions address the challenges at ecosystem, rather than at the sectoral, level.

Desta emphasised the importance of a devolved system that facilitates the formulation of policies around governance of common property resources such as rangelands.

Which way forward?

Why does it seem that pastoralism is failing in Kenya (and Africa) while it is thriving in other parts of the world for example the Mongolia case? What is it that our governments are not doing right? ~ Session participant

A common view among panelists and participants in the discussion was that pastoralism will remain a key, and often the dominant, source of livelihoods in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) in Africa and efforts are needed to make it sustainable in all ways. According to the panelists, this sustainability must include assurance of the importance of the pastoralist production system. Hon Ganya said the government is in the process of producing a pastoralism bill in Kenya, in which livestock insurance is a key component.

‘Pastoralism is about natural resource management,’ said a session participant. Hence, the issues of pastoralists’ livelihoods and conservation of natural resources cannot be approached separately. A holistic approach will go a long way in ensuring sustainability in both natural resource management and pastoralism in the rangelands.

The dynamic nature of pastoralism was also highlighted with panelists saying there is need for a re-think of decision- and policy- making structures and systems and how these are executed to ensure they fit communities’ needs. Such structures and systems should also respond to and accommodate pastoralists needs related to land tenure, access to resources and infrastructure.

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