Concept note. Reinforcement of pastoral civil society in East Africa: a programme of capacity building and participatory action-research

Concept note. Reinforcement of pastoral civil society in East Africa: a programme of capacity building and participatory action-research

Pastoral groups in East Africa need to engage in policy debate

This concept note explores initiatives aiming at supporting pastoral civil society in East Africa.

The goals of the initiative include:

  • create conditions such that pastoral groups can play a more effective and visible role in the design and implementation of policies to improve their livelihoods
  • creation of a vibrant, accountable and effective pastoral civil society movement capable of articulating and implementing their member's vision of their own development
  • the active engagement of pastoral groups in regional and national policy making processes resulting in improved livelihood opportunities for pastoral people

The concept paper concludes that:

  • pastoral people are continuing to be marginalised
  • although information on pastoralism is available, many policy makers, government staff, NGO personnel, etc. do not fully understand its dynamics which partly explains their inability to design and implement supportive policies for the sector
  • there are also political reasons to explain why pastoralists are marginalised. For example, local people are infrequently excluded from decision making and policy influence. In addition to this, Northern cultural values and ideologies continue to shape environmental policy in dryland Africa. These ideologies are frequently shared by Southern policy makers. This ideological position tends to portray pastoralist livelihood practices as irrational and destructive
  • pastoralist people are often unable or lack the knowledge to fight their own cause
  • power relations and inequalities at both a national and local level are vital factors in determining determining how different interest groups negotiate access to and control over resources resources, particularly within the arena of pastoralism

The article recommends that:

  • if pastoralists are to improve their livelihoods, pastoral groups in East Africa need to learn how to master the policy process, putting themselves at the centre of local and national debates designed to address their priorities and needs
  • although capacity is a key objective of most pastoral projects in East Africa, relatively litlle attention has been paid to helping pastoral people analyse and ulimately contest the current development paradigm that tends to keep them in poverty and on the margins of society
  • pastoral groups in East Africa need to acquire the ability to speak in an informed and authoritative manner on policy issues of concern to them, and to express this in a language that is understandable not only to policy makers but also to their grass-roots membership
  • the challenge of empowering pastoralists requires a regional programme of education and training in support of pastoral civil society in East Africa, which RECONCILE and IIED are committed to undertaking

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