Online Know the pastoralists

Published: Friday 31 August 2007

Change in land-use patterns, increasing competition for land and other resources, shifting global markets, climate change--there are a bevy of perils acting against pastoralists today. Pastoralism, however, generates substantial income in areas where conventional farming is not possible. In fact many also surmise that increased urbanisation will mean a greater demand for livestock products and hence there will be a greater role for pastoralists.

Those who rear livestock are, however, neglected in most parts of the world. They rarely figure in the policymaker's plans or in the academic's research. This site under review is one attempt at generating knowledge about pastoralists. It has been developed by the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and its stated aim is "connecting pastoralists in the Horn [of Africa] with pastoralists all over the world."

The site also lists researching and disseminating studies on economic, social and political developments affecting pastoral communities as one of its aims. But this is no high-brow academic research. The initiative works on the premise that pastoralists and members of the pastoral community should choose the direction of their development. "We promote productive conversation between pastoralists, governments and others," the site notes.

News about pastoralists is among the highlights of the site. Justifiably so. We don't really get to know much about Nuers of Ethiopia or herders from Somala and Sudan in the mainstream media. Much of the focus of this site is on East Africa--perhaps because those behind it see the region as the locus of pastoralism. One just hopes that we get to know more about herders from the rest of the world.

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