Pastoralism in the uncertainty of war and exile: insights from Jordan

By Mathilde Gingembre (Independent researcher, PASTRES affiliate)

An uncertain future

What can we learn from the way pastoralists deal with uncertainty?  This powerful question, at the heart of PASTRES’ work, immediately resonated with me. Observing pastoral dynamics here in Jordan, where I currently live, I began asking myself: What are the conditions for pastoralists’ continuous adaptiveness? Is there not a point where we can say that there is simply no more space for adaptability?

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What can our increasingly mobile world learn from pastoralists?

A recent PASTRES seminar at the Robert Schuman Centre at the European University in Florence discussed mobility, and how lessons from pastoralists might be important for thinking about policy themes such as international migration and cross-border trade. The recording of the seminar and slides are below.

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Challenging desertification myths

Tales of desertification across the world’s drylands are a recurrent theme in policy. This week’s blog reviews an excellent book that takes issue with many of the assumptions around desertification – The End of Desertification? Disputing Environmental Change in the Drylands. It was edited by Roy Behnke, an anthropologist with deep knowledge of pastoral areas in North and Southern Africa, West Asia and more, and Michael Mortimore, sadly now late, a development geographer, who knew a huge amount about the drylands of Africa, and particularly northern Nigeria.

The full review is available in the excellent open access journal, Pastoralism. You can download the full pdf here. In this blog, we reproduce a slightly abridged version.

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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.

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Variability is a resource that pastoralists use

Saverio Krätli is the convenor of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnographic Sciences and editor of the journal, Nomadic Peoples. He undertook his PhD research on animal breeding and husbandry strategies among the WoDaabe pastoralists in Niger. He has since worked on pastoralism with many agencies, including arguing how pastoralists make use of variability and live off uncertainty.

In this short video, filmed at the PASTRES launch in May last year, he makes the case that pastoral systems can be seen like a ‘machine’ for making use of variability as a resource. The ‘machine’ involves many interconnected components, with knowledge embedded in each – animals, rangelands, institutions and so on. Perfected over many years, the ‘machine’ is brilliant at converting variability into useful outputs.

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The commoditisation of pastoral milk

Pastoralists´ integration into market dynamics is mostly addressed through the lens of trade in meat products, involving male traders. Pastoral milk, mostly traded by women, is often ignored. Good production of healthy milk is definitely the best way to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of a pastoral system at whatever level. Milk is central in the livelihood of pastoral households. Its nutritional, social and economic roles have been comprehensively assessed.

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Youth moving to town: a major cause of uncertainty among the pastoralists of Isiolo, Kenya

Young people amongst the Waso Borana play an important role in their community through herding, digging wells, protecting cattle from raids and guarding their territories. Waves of change have invaded Isiolo, and this has caused the youth to be swept away from their traditional roles in their pastoral communities. Instead, they are joining many other young people who have migrated to urban areas without a plan for employment once there.

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Should we cry over spilled milk? The case of Sardinia

The rage of Sardinian shepherds explodes because of the low milk price, and thousands of litres of milk are thrown into the street or fed to pigs.  

From the 1970s, the Sardinian sheep dairy sector has often faced cyclical periods of crisis – the current one being one of the most dramatic.

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Pastoralism has a comparative advantage in variable environments

Based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Fiona Flintan is Rangelands Governance Scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute and is Technical Coordinator for the International Land Coalition’s Rangelands Initiative. She also offered a short video commentary on the PASTRES project at our launch last year.

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