An op-ed from ILRI director general Jimmy Smith highlighting the need to invest in East Africa's pastoral communities was recently published in The East African. Reproduced here is an excerpt from the article.
The latest report from United Nations’ climate experts is gaining widespread attention as a dire warning of what the future may hold.
But here in East Africa, where we have endured a string of failed rainy seasons that are without precedent, climate change is already a here-and-now problem.
You can see it cruelly manifested on a landscape littered with the carcasses of more than 1.5 million cattle, sheep and goats—losses that have pushed some 13 million East Africans into poverty and hunger. And now global food shortages due to the war in Ukraine could deepen their misery.
In East Africa, the people most affected by this new normality of climate abnormality are known as pastoralists. For centuries, they have built a rich culture that revolves around herding livestock across vast, barren, yet bracingly beautiful, lands.
Today, many so-called experts dismiss pastoralism as a fragile, antiquated way of life no longer valuable for addressing 21st-century problems. And they probably view the current drought-induced suffering in pastoralist communities as confirming their assessment.
But I work with livestock specialists who have spent decades embedded in pastoralist communities. Our data and that of our partners tells a very different story. It reveals pastoralists as natural stewards of the world’s largest ecosystem—people with a long history of managing livestock as a productive, sustainable economic enterprise on lands that, even before the recent surge of droughts, were too dry to support crop production.
You can read the rest of the article here.