How pastoralists can help us deal with the unexpected

Ann Waters-Bayer offers a short video commentary, reflecting on the PASTRES project. Since her work in West Africa, particularly on women’s roles in milk production, Ann has been a major supporter of pastoral development. Until her retirement, she worked for 25 years with the ETC Foundation, particularly around issues of farmer-led innovation, and was editor of the ILEIA magazine and a founder of Prolinnova (among many other things!). An important publication for PASTRES research was the manual ‘Planning with Pastoralists’, produced with Wolfgang Bayer, focusing on participatory methods.

In the video below, she highlights that a focus on uncertainty allows us all to learn from pastoralists, and appreciate their abilities to make use of uncertainty. Dealing with the unexpected is part-and-parcel of what pastoralists do, and learning how this is done can be enormously useful for other sectors.

In pastoral areas, policy and development interventions must, at the minimum, avoid making systems less flexible, less able to deal with the uncertainty. The rush to intensify and modernise may actually undermine the capacity to produce food and support livelihoods in incredibly challenging settings. No other system can make use of such environments, Ann argues.

Raising awareness of the complexities of pastoral systems is a major challenge for the PASTRES project. Ann is involved in CELEP, the Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern African Pastoralism, which has been an important coalition of advocacy groups. As our work unfolds, PASTRES hopes to work closely with CELEP in linking with European and African policymakers working in pastoral areas of East Africa and beyond.

The proposed United Nations International year for rangelands and pastoralists will be an important moment to raise international awareness. A flyer for raising support has been produced following the initiation of the process in 2016. PASTRES will certainly be committed to sharing our results as part of the year, which we hope will be agreed soon!

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