The future of pastoralism in Ethiopia

The future of pastoralism in Ethiopia

What is the future of pastoralism in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia has Africa’s largest livestock population, with over 60% of its land area is semi-arid lowland, dominated by the livestock economy. In December 2006, Ethiopians from the Federal and Regional governments and from traditional institutions met at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK to deliberate over the future for pastoralism in Ethiopia. This report is drawn from evidence given by academic scholars in the fields of economics, anthropology, environmental studies and political science, together with the deliberations of the Ethiopian team. It presents an analysis of potential futures for pastoralists and suggests a number of policy options.

Discussions during the meeting highlighted three key points which, it is argued, are central to understanding pastoralism and to arriving at appropriate responses. These are:

  • recognition of the ecological underpinning of the largely natural resource-based system is crucial as the key resource areas are vital to all who wish to make a living in the lowlands. To make the best and most sustained use of natural resources, it is asserted, requires mobility and effective administration, along with a thorough understanding of the science relating to these very particular environmental systems
  • across much of the world, the livestock sector is growing faster than the agricultural sector as a whole, and by 2020 it is predicted to be the most important sub-sector in terms of added value. As such, access to markets will profoundly affect the abilities of all members of lowland society to make a good living and contribute to national wealth and integration
  • management of access to key resources and facilitation and regulation of market behaviour will be crucial to a peaceful and productive society, as will efforts to ensure fair distribution of the benefits of growth, freedom of choice and development of social responsibility

Overall, the report highlights that the future for pastoralism in Ethiopia, although uncertain, need not be dismal. The potential for success is high, it argues, but people are held back by lack of knowledge, infrastructure and enabling policy.

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