In Burkina Faso, pastoralism is under threat and the importance of the pastoral livestock sector to the economy is severely underrated. This story follows CSOs working on pastoral resilience who came together in an alliance and successfully increased collaboration among government entities, the private sector and themselves to advocate for initiatives in support of family farming and pastoralism.
Pastoralism under threat: insecurity, inadequate legislation and fragmented civil society
In Burkina Faso, pastoralism is under threat. Farmers and pastoralists are marginalised across the Sahelian sub-region and are one of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society in the country. The expansion of agricultural land, accelerated population growth and commercialisation of resources compromises and fragments pastoral areas and limits the availability of grazing areas meant for use as “backup” during droughts. Land use is not adequately adapted to climate change, which has further inhibited the pastoralist sector’s resilience.
These are challenges faced by pastoralists across the Sahel. Add to this backdrop the intensifying insecurity situation in Burkina Faso, due to an expanding insurgency across wide swaths of the country, and the situation becomes truly urgent.
The Burkinabe government had established laws to create a favourable environment for pastoralist activities. But these laws are insufficiently known, particularly at sub-national levels, and do not adequately address the needs of pastoralists. Their feeble implementation at local and national levels, as well as the lack of collaboration and collective action among pastoralist civil society organisations, means that we were still far from harmonious and inclusive development for pastoralism and agro-pastoralism in the country.
Mr Modibo Oumarou, advocate for pastoral resilience
Mr Modibo Oumarou, the national coordinator for the Association for the Promotion of Animal Husbandry in the Sahelian and Savannah Regions (APESS) in Dori, is deeply concerned about these trends. His father was a farmer, so he knows about the lifestyle and the difficulties of farming in the Sahel. His face is marked by the harshness of the climate, the resilience of his people and their profound attachment to the lifestyle. Mr Modibo has fond memories of his childhood in the village, when bringing the livestock back from pastures at day’s end meant tasting fresh milk directly from the cow. “Why isn’t that possible today?” he wonders.
He had always felt a twinge in his stomach to think of the loss of pastoralists’ millennial traditions, which turn scarce resources into valuable products including meat, milk and skins. He feared the loss of this way of life that had ensured the sustainable survival of several generations in harmony with nature.
Mr Modibo recognised the growing challenges faced by the sector and decided something had to be done. For this reason, he traded his shepherd’s stick for a pilgrim’s baton, beginning his fight for agro-pastoralism by joining APESS, a CSO that advocates for pastoral resilience.
Bridging the advocacy gap and building capacity
For decades, several civil society organizations (CSOs) such as APESS and the Platform for Actions to Secure Pastoral Households (PASMEP), have been very active in defending rearers’ and pastoralists’ interests. However, to their own detriment, each pastoral CSO always developed its own strategies, projects and programmes without seeking synergies with sister organisations.
This changed with the advent of the Voice for Change Partnership Program (V4CP), when APESS and PASMEP became direct partners and began to advocate for pastoral resilience together. They initially met in 2016, and immediately recognised that they would need to join forces if they truly wanted to strengthen pastoral resilience and accelerate the transformation of the sector.
To do this, representatives of APESS and PASMEP agreed that they would first need to strengthen their collective legitimacy to have a better shot at influencing decision-makers at the local and national levels. Because the country was experiencing widespread insecurity due to insurgency, it would be even more difficult to get decision maker’s attention, let alone to allocate additional funds.
As a first step, with the support of V4CP, PASMEP and APESS started to network with other sister CSOs that fit specific criteria such as organisational sustainability, and invited them to several capacity strengthening workshops. They looked out for other groups who were keen to create a favourable environment for pastoral rearing in Burkina Faso, and who were passionate about using V4CP’s evidence-based scientific approach. Their advocacy would be underpinned by substantial valuable evidence, including IFPRI-led policy briefs on pastoral resilience and climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa, and local consultancy studies on pastoralism legislation in Burkina Faso. The momentum was building.
In just a few months, the initial group of CSOs set up an alliance, and its members quickly grew to 13 CSOs who, in August 2017, signed a charter outlining their common goals, thus sealing their existence. This marked the starting point for concerted actions between these pastoral CSOs in Burkina Faso. Together, their political and legislative weight increased significantly and they now spoke with one voice.
Reflecting on this milestone, Mr. René Millogo, the coordinator of PASMEP said, "we had heart and energy, but we lacked knowledge in the evidence-based advocacy approach. Without the financial and technical support of SNV's V4CP program, the results would have been quite different since we were faced with enormous challenges and not getting any valuable results." It is this evidence-based approach that brought buy-in and support from the country's authorities.
Together, the alliance had already identified the gaps. Their next challenge was figuring out how to bridge them. They set out to back up their intuitions with proof by conducting a comparative study between three Burkinabe laws. The contradictions and gaps were clear, and their hunch was confirmed: the laws needed to be harmonised, but first they would set the example themselves by harmonizing their own work.
Learning to co-create an alliance: challenges and successes
The process of building an alliance came with its own set of challenges. From the get-go, the group had to adapt to APESS and PASMEP’s new leadership dimensions while managing the changes that come with switching from an individual and conviction based-advocacy approach to a collaborative and evidence-based approach. As Mr Modibo put it:
Mr Modibo, Mr Millogo and the other members of the alliance never lost sight of their end goal. Thanks to this, the group quickly built up a dynamic rapport across all V4CP activities, and held its first official consultation and reflection meeting in 2018. This resulted in the writing of a note stating the common position of the fourteen member CSOs on the issue of securing and making pastoral areas viable in Burkina Faso. The note was presented during a press conference in Béré, a pastoral area. The press, farmers’ organisation leaders, local milk processing units’ promoters, customary and communal authorities, and representatives from the Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources, all gathered to hear first-hand what this new alliance had to say.
The creation of the alliance and these early successes provided a new dynamic of hope to pastoral CSOs. A collaborative spirit had formed: pastoral CSOs set up information sharing platforms in order to share information, invitations to meetings and more.
Through the alliance’s participation in various advocacy activities, V4CP is now also well-known by the general public. This increased legitimacy has led local and national decision-makers to be more attentive to pastoral CSOs. Signs of change and increased collaboration between pastoral CSOs and the Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources are also visible with the establishment of multiple focal points in the main departments in charge of the design, development, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of sustainable development livestock policy.
Bringing private sector to the table
The alliance’s influence goes beyond public policy since it also brings private sector actors to the table: regular meetings are now being held with the milk industry professional’s association (IPROLAIT) and the National Union of Small Dairy and Local Milk Producers of Burkina Faso. The alliance is proud to see itself at the heart of awareness and visibility initiatives of pastoralism in Burkina. For instance, the SABEL (Livestock Convention) and the "72h du lait" (Milk Convention) in October 2018 brought to the forefront the most important issues of pastoral resilience and agro-pastoralism.
Collaboration brings policy change
The coalition has already taken strides to improve the policies and laws affecting pastoralism. For example, it jointly influenced the prioritisation of the review of the Framework Law on Pastoralism (“loi d'orientation relative au pastoralisme”), by engaging with the Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources during an important livestock fair last November. The coalition highlighted the need for the incorporation of elements such as climate change, gender and decentralisation. In response to this, the Ministry has agreed to review the framework, and has started the formal process by appointing the review committee.
“One for all and all for one” has already proven to be the right approach for CSOs advocating for pastoral resilience in Burkina Faso. Together, the coalition will deepen its collaboration through a joint roadmap and scheduled workshops throughout 2019. Together, it will continue advocate for improved inclusive policies and implementation of these policies in the country.