More than 100 pastoralist leaders were assembled in Ethiopia by United Nations agencies for a meeting to share ideas on sustainable development and introduce governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to ways of enhancing their socio-economic contributions.
Pastoralists are nomadic or semi-nomadic people who draw on traditional knowledge of weather and vegetation to maintain social and economic systems based on raising and herding livestock, usually in harsh environments.
The 120 pastoralist leaders from 23 countries at the Global Pastoralist Gathering in the remote South Omo trading village of Turmi, 13 hours' drive from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, looked at their roles in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) drawn up at a UN summit in 2000 to halve extreme poverty worldwide by 2015.
Some 100 representatives of Governments, international organizations, NGOs and other bodies joined them under tents for sleeping and under trees for discussion, organizer Patta Scott-Villiers from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
"You are most knowledgeable about your problems," the UN Development Resident Coordinator for Ethiopia, Modibo Touré, told the gathering, adding that their concerns would be included in development planning.
At the end of the five-day conference on 2 February, the participants concluded that their biggest concern was the loss of traditional rights to grazing land. In addition, by 2015 their access to education, health care, safe water, markets, economic progress and legal protection would have declined unless substantial new investments were made.
Their mobility should be recognized, their routes and environmental guardianship respected and their land rights clarified and secured as part of an economic, social and cultural system, they said.
National and regional authorities differ in their treatment of pastoralists, OCHA said. West African governments recognize their need to cross borders freely with their herds. The Spanish and Indian Governments support their production and South America has developed strong pastoralist organizations.