Calls for better treatment of African pastoralists at workshop co-hosted by UN

Calls for better treatment of African pastoralists at workshop co-hosted by UN

Africa’s pastoralists deserve year-round attention from Governments and policymakers, and not just in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster, a United Nations official told a workshop convened in Kenya to help preserve the nomadic herders’ distinctive lifestyle on the continent.

The three-day workshop, which concluded today, was organized by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Pastoralist Communication Initiative (UN OCHA-PCI) and the African Union, and attracted more than 70 participants, including pastoralists, policymakers and AU and UN officials.

Millions of pastoralists in Africa live in remote areas away from political and economic centres, leaving them marginalized from policymaking processes that directly affect their lives. They seek greater influence over decisions on governance, access to land, education of their children, access to markets, reduction of conflict, poverty and general vulnerability, and animal diseases and livestock development.

Many participants told the workshop, held at the Shaba National Reserve, that pastoralists are regularly misunderstood or stereotyped in political processes and that they only emerge on the public agenda when they are affected by disasters and need emergency assistance.

“We must look beyond the immediate emergency response and into medium- and long-term solutions. The ad hoc response of the past is not enough,” said Ahunna Eziakonwa, Chief of OCHA’s Africa section, stressing the Office’s current emphasis on disaster risk reduction and early-warning mechanisms.

African pastoralists are particularly vulnerable to climatic shocks such as drought and floods and their livelihoods can be threatened by animal diseases. Pastoralist communities are also regularly either involved in or victims of violent conflicts that spill over national borders.

The workshop kicked off a process of future consultations between pastoralists and national Governments that will prepare the groundwork for an AU summit next year, when member States are expected to agree to a pastoral policy framework.

Pastoralist leaders from countries such as Mali, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Cameroon acknowledged at the workshop that pastoralists themselves need to build their capacities. They also called for increased coordination and collaboration between their own organizations, regional African institutions and the wider international community.