Herding through uncertainties – regional perspectives

Pastoral shepherds and herders are typically skilled in dealing with and living through the vagaries of climate and managing the scarcity of pasture. The ecological uncertainties that typically inform pastoral strategies have been deeply reconfigured in recent times by the integration of pastoral territories and societies into the wider societal framework. The market and changes in governance institutions hold growing roles in determining pastoralists’ livelihoods, contributing to new risks, challenges and opportunities.

Through a structured review and an extensive meta-analysis of existing literature, a new PASTRES paper explores how pastoral strategies can inform wider societal debates about uncertainty in several domains. It complements two other papers, introduced two weeks ago, which provide a review of pastoral principles and practices for dealing with uncertainty, and a wider, more conceptual review of literature, asking ‘what is uncertainty, and why does it matter?

Yak grazing in Qinghai (PASTRES).jpg

Yak grazing in Qinghai, Tibetan plateau (credit: PASTRES)

Three different regional settings have been reviewed: a) Central and south Asia, with specific reference to the Tibetan plateau in China and to Indian pastoral areas; b) the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, the Maghreb-Mashreq region and a wider perspective on pastoralism in Mediterranean Europe; c) the eastern and western flanks of sub-Saharan Africa drylands, with a specific focus on the Fulani and Borana pastoral groups inhabiting these regions.

Immigrant shepherd in Triveneto (PASTRES).jpg

Immigrant shepherd taking care of local flocks in Triveneto, Italy (credit: PASTRES)

Very diverse and contrasting pastoral settings show striking similarities and convergences when facing uncertainty. This helps us identify a common framework for dealing with uncertainty in pastoral regions, and beyond.

Mixed livestock in Isiolo (PASTRES).jpg

Mixed livestock watering in Isiolo district (credit: PASTRES)

As discussed across these papers, and on this blog before, the argument of the ERC-funded PASTRES project (www.pastres.org) is that the principles inspiring and underpinning these adaptive principles might inform a wider conversation about embracing uncertainties to meet the challenges of our turbulent world.

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