Pastoralists address common issues

In southern Ethiopia, 300 pastoralist leaders representing 19 countries and 60 different groups met in July to share experiences and address their common problems: conflict, low productivity, limited market access and the development of structures to support their way of life.

"We pastoralists are increasingly becoming tenants in our lands," said Boru Guyo, representing the Borana-Saku pastoral community from Marsabit district in northern Kenya. "We have lost our livestock and therefore our livelihood and as a result have to seek alternative forms of trade such as seeking wage labour upon return to our original lands that may also have been occupied by other communities during our migration."

Guyo called for government assistance in providing land allocation certificates to ensure pastoralists do not lose their lands during times of migration. His was one of several suggestions, which, if implemented, could enhance pastoral livelihoods and stem inter-communal conflicts and cross-border clashes between communities in Kenya and Ethiopia.

It is estimated that there are 100 million pastoralists worldwide, with 8-10 million in Ethiopia alone. In Nigeria, the pastoralist population is estimated at 14 million out of a total 120 million people.

Participants in the 11-18 July conference said the meeting provided an occasion for them to share experiences. A pastoralist from Kenya's Borana community learned of market opportunities in Niger, where demand for animal skins and hides was high. They also shared ideas on drought preparedness.

The need to maintain peace among warring communities was another topic for discussion. Elders from the Borana, Gabra, and Guji, who inhabit the border region between Kenya and Ethiopia, talked about living together peacefully and on the final day slaughtered a "peace bull" to signify their resolve to co-exist in harmony.

"Let us sit together like children of one mother and agree to work together to support one another," one of them said.