Over the last four weeks, our blog has featured four papers on the policy landscape for pastoralism in different regions of the world. Amid huge diversity, there are common challenges for pastoralists and policy makers alike.
The papers, by PASTRES researcher Michele Nori, examine the policies that confront pastoralists in Europe, West Asia and North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Sahel, and Asia.
Within each of these regions, there are many varied trajectories and experiences, both historically and in the present; there are also many connections and interactions between countries, regions, markets and communities across borders. Almost everywhere, to greater or lesser extents, globalisation and global markets bring opportunities and risks.
Across regions, in many contexts, the policies put in place by national and regional governments have often tended towards dismantling or undermining the ability of pastoralists to follow traditional patterns of movement and govern common resources. The stereotype persists of pastoralism as backward, inefficient or unsustainable.
Some regions have recognised pastoralism as important, and numerous initiatives have been developed with the stated aim of supporting pastoral development. Many policies, however, have been developed without significant involvement of pastoralists themselves, and have failed to take account of their knowledge and practices.
Even so, pastoralism remains an important way of life for millions of people across all four of the regions surveyed. As the papers show, pastoralists have had to adapt to policy change, adjusting how they move and govern resources.
Policy change is only one source of uncertainty among many. Pastoralists must respond to shocks and stresses from extreme weather, longer term climate change, markets and conflicts, and so on. Well-designed policies can help food systems and producers as they navigate among these uncertainties.
A challenge for policy makers across the board is to recognise and include pastoralists in the decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods, providing enabling and coherent policy frameworks that can allow them to weather storms and take opportunities when they arise. The further challenge is to ensure that when any improvements to policies are made, they are properly implemented.