In October, SNV participated in the 2017 ReSAKSS (Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System) conference in Maputo, an annual conference that reflects on the progress towards implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Fitting this year’s conference theme “A thriving agricultural sector in a changing climate”, SNV together with IFPRI organised a panel discussion on climate-smart practices and evidence-based advocacy strategies that can strengthen the resilience of pastoralists.

For the side-event, SNV and IFPRI, who are jointly implementing the Voice for Change Partnership programme, drew from their experiences in evidence-based policy processes and on-the-ground implementation of innovative practices that strengthen climate information and market systems for pastoralists. The panel discussion, which was moderated by ILRI’s Joseph Karugia, brought together a mix of experts from the private sector, research and NGO to discuss suitable climate-smart practices and policy considerations that can feed into evidence-based policy planning processes as well as investment plans.

Mahamadou Badiel, sector leader agriculture and program manager for the Voice for Change Partnership programme in Burkina, explains that political marginalisation remains one of the biggest challenge for pastoralists. Their mobility, which is so crucial in adapting to changing conditions of water and pasture resources, is thwarted due to adverse policies and practices that have limited their access to resources. Even with their weak position, the contribution of pastoralists to the economies of their countries is substantial. In Sahelian countries like Burkina, Mali and Niger, livestock contributes to over 10% of the GDP. Their significant contribution to the economy is however not reflected in the governments’ budget expenditure on pastoralism, which is disproportionately lower than investments in other agricultural sectors. Strengthening the capacity of pastoral CSOs and building alliances between them, are vital to strengthen their voice in policy making and decision making. Policies that facilitate pastoral mobility, also across borders, would help strengthening pastoral livelihoods in the face of climate change.

Also their contribution to ecosystem services and carbon sequestration is often underappreciated, according to Ephraim Nkonya, senior researcher for IFPRI. There is often the misconception that pastoralists contribute to land degradation, whereas their use of the grasslands actually leads to numerous benefits, including biodiversity conservation, sustainable management of grasslands and carbon sequestration. Grasslands are a very important carbon sink, and through indigenous management practices pastoralists can help to significantly improve the carbon sequestration potential of grasslands. 

The side-event panel members

Alexandre Kabre, CEO and founder of Ecodata West Africa, explains how modern technology can help to facilitate the management of these natural resources. In the NSO-funded MODHEM project in Burkina, Ecodata and SNV work together on implementing a mobile information system that works with a call center to provide pastoralists with tailored information on the location and quality of water and grass, on herd concentrations, weather information and conflicts. It also provides market information, enabling pastoralists to make well-informed decisions on where and when to sell their livestock. 

Good market information and strong livestock markets are vital to improve the resilience of pastoralists, as elaborated by Caroline te Pas, Advocacy Officer resilience for the Voice for Change Partnership Programme. She explains how supporting local communities to participate in the management of livestock markets in northern Kenya has led to multiple benefits. Increased engagement and ownership of communities resulted in well-functioning livestock markets with good infrastructure, transparent market information and strong market linkages. The markets attracted a higher number of buyers, meaning that the pastoralists could more easily sell their livestock and received better prices. They also attracted different goods and services, which offered the local population wider opportunities to engage in income generating activities. Especially women started to sell food, tea, milk, clothes and smallstock, enabling them to make an income that is less climate-sensitive than livestock and that can support their families even during droughts. 

It is clear that pastoralism plays an indispensable role in dryland environments and that the right policies and practices can boost sustainable development of these regions. Pastoralists’ biggest strength lies in their mobility, which enables them to adapt to changing climate conditions and make optimally use of the drylands’ scare resources. In the light of climate change, it is key that this mobility is assured through appropriate (cross-border) policies, and through giving pastoralists a strong role in the management of dryland resources. They can only take up these roles when they have access to the right information, ranging from climate-smart practices, to weather information and market prices. Private sector is playing a growing role in delivering such important services and in ensuring sound and resilient value chains that can support pastoral livelihoods.