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EAC meeting on pastoralism and dry lands ongoing in Arusha / Regional Steering Committee on Pastoralism and Dry lands to be constituted

By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, February 14, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A 3-day meeting expected to culminate in the establishment of a Regional Steering Committee on Pastoralism and Dry lands in the EAC is underway at the Naura Springs Hotel in Arusha, Tanzania. The meeting is also expected to consider and adopt the Terms of Reference for the Regional Steering Committee, make inputs to the Emergency preparedness and response plan of action for Pastoralism in EAC Dry lands; and discuss the EAC Pastoralism policy situation and make recommendations.

The meeting is a result of the 23rd EAC Council of Ministers meeting held on 5 to 9 of September 2011 that adopted the decisions of the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security on Pastoralism and dry lands and directed the EAC Secretariat to constitute a Regional Steering Committee on Pastoralism and Drylands under the Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security.

The meeting, which is being attended by experts from Partner States' Ministries of Livestock Industry and other stakeholders, is collaboration between EAC and African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).

According to the Senior Livestock Officer in the EAC Directorate of Productive and Social Sector Mr. Timothy Wesonga, in the previous meeting on pastoralism and dry lands in the EAC, the need for a Regional Steering Committee to guide on matters relating to pastoralism development was realized.

He said the idea was mooted after realizing that a number of organizations were undertaking initiatives to assist pastoralists develop and diversify their economic activities and improve their welfare in the region. Further, he said the need for sharing of experiences and improved coordination and collaboration by all stakeholders was noted.

“Harmonization and coordination of policies and regional activities is line with the Treaty establishing the EAC, EAC Development Strategy 2011-2016, and the EAC Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Strategy. In addition this is also in tandem with the continental Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Framework. The recent challenges of soaring food prices, climate change, violent conflicts, cattle rustling and disease outbreaks amongst others have introduced further pressure on the pastoralists system in the EAC dry lands hence the need for concerted efforts” affirmed Mr. Wesonga.

Additional Notes to Editors

Pastoralism relies on availability of water, pastures and labour to thrive –with water as the determining factor. While climate variability and change, particularly droughts, strongly affect both pastoralists and crop farmers, the impacts are, however, higher on the pastoralists. First, pastoralists constitute the majority in the dry lands where there is greater probability of drought occurrences. Second, they face many other non-climatic challenges such as low soil fertility, weak infrastructure, and the consequences of inappropriate natural resource management.

The current changes in climatic conditions that result in prolonged droughts in the East African region and/or sudden onset of rains resulting into heavy flooding has brought a new set of challenges to pastoralists. The prolonged droughts have resulted in strain on natural resources especially water and pasture. The search and demand for water and pasture has intensified. In some cases pastoralists have been forced to move out their territorial areas to other areas in search of pasture and water resulting in conflicts. Some of the conflicts have been violent, resulting into a lot of destruction and loss of lives.

The flooding has ended up with destruction of properties, loss of lives and disease outbreaks. These challenges are impacting negatively on the pastoralist welfare. The pastoralists require to get means and ways of adapting and mitigating the situation.

The question therefore ism how can pastoralists/pastoral systems adapt to future drought occurrences in the region? The local population over years has developed indigenous ways of adapting to the drought phenomenon. However, these strategies are no longer adequate with increased frequency and intensity of the drought events. Governments and donor agencies have also developed and implemented interventions to help reduce the vulnerability of pastoralists to the impact of droughts. Most of the interventions have tended to be reactive in nature showing limited understanding and appreciation of pastoral livelihoods.

It has also been noted that contingency planning in the pastoral systems is non-existent. The consequences therefore, in the face of a climatic anomaly such as drought, floods or a fast –spreading disease like Rift Valley Fever have heavy impacts on the Pastoralists. The factors in combination make the pastoralists very vulnerable.

Livestock and Drylands

It is known that in the dry lands of East Africa, livestock keeping under the pastoralism may be the most suitable production system and economic activity. The dry lands are hot and dry, with low and erratic rainfall. There are not many livelihoods suited to this unpredictable environment, but pastoralism is particularly appropriate, because it enables people to adapt by moving livestock according to the shifting availability of water and pasture. Pastoralism represents a complex form of natural resource management, involving a continuous ecological balance between pastures, livestock and people. It's recognized by ecologist that pastoralism represents a sustainable way of utilizing certain ecosystems like the dry lands of East Africa.


Most of the pastoralists are under threat of human insecurity in all regional dry lands. Pastoralist economy revolves around the livestock kept. In the EAC Partner States the livestock kept in the dry lands include cattle, goats, sheep and camels. These are adapted to the dry lands. Nevertheless, because of the current challenges there is need to diversify. Some have suggested that since some resources exist in these dry land areas, there is need for pastoralists to use these resources alongside livestock keeping in the dry lands of EAC. Diversification reduces risks and will improve human security in the dry lands of the region. Therefore there is need to invest in this dry lands to develop and utilize available resources like medicinal plants, minerals, snake venom, land with irrigation potential, ecotourism.