Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative
Share This

COP28 Side Event Highlights Urgent Need for Holistic Policies in African Drylands

By Jarso Mokku and Joan Letting

In a compelling side event at COP28 titled “Land, Livestock, and Livelihoods: Early Actions for Adaptation and Resilience-Building from Africa’s Rangelands and Drylands,” stakeholders shed light on critical issues facing pastoralist communities in the drylands of Africa. Mr. Jarso Mokku, CEO of the Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative (DLCI), facilitated the discussion, which delved into pressing challenges and overlooked solutions for marginalised populations.

The event provided a platform to articulate fundamental concerns:

  1. Drought’s Toll on Mental Health and Livelihoods

The devastating impact of recurring droughts on pastoralist families extends beyond tangible losses. The impact of drought, stress, back-to-back shocks, and losses of assets and human lives is affecting the mental health of many pastoralist families. Domestic violence is on the increase. Despite this, pastoralists do not want to leave the system; they only step out to survive, look for opportunities to rebuild their lost herds, and return to pastoralism. This is an indication that there is no viable and sustainable alternative to pastoralism in the drylands. Pastoralism is surviving without public investment support.

  1. 2. Marginalisation in Politics and Policy

Pastoralist people and pastoralism have a weak influence on power and politics. Mobility in the rangelands keeps them away from interacting with the centre of power that is domiciled in the cities. Pastoralists have relatively small populations with less voting power. Pastoralist contributions to GDP, natural heritage, and caring for large fragile territories and important resourceful ecosystems are rarely appreciated. Pastoralists are largely self-sustaining and pastoralist issues only come to attention when shocking images of stressed people along with their dying animals are reported in the media always too late.

  1. Aid Disparities and Development Support

There is more incentive for relief and emergency humanitarian aid support than willing donors to support pastoralism development initiatives to enable pastoralists to adapt effectively to climate change. Such inadequacies hinder effective resilience-building and mitigation against vulnerabilities created by drought, floods, and conflicts.

  1. 4. Land Rights and Climate Adaptation

The lack of secure community land rights perpetuates uncertainties and infringement of human rights in the drylands. Securing ancestral lands is crucial for the continued stewardship of fragile ecosystems by pastoralists. Urgent action is required to ensure legal land rights, empowering these communities in their role as custodians of these critical landscapes amidst a changing climate.

  1. Policy Discrepancies and Misalignments

Mismatches of policy action litter the pastoralist landscape and are adding to the current climate change crisis. Policies emphasizing sedentarization or restricting livestock movement contradict the adaptive nature of pastoralism. Costly initiatives aimed at settling pastoralists undermine their traditional resilience strategies. The current policy landscape is expensive and counter-productive and lacks synchrony with the realities of these ecosystems, adding complexity to the climate change crisis.

  1. 6. Urgent Need for Inclusive Policy Formulation

The policy formulation process often disregards the pastoralist perspective, isolating valuable insights from the larger context of their ecosystem. Policymakers’ approaches often neglect the intricate web of pastoralist livelihoods, failing to consider them integral components of a holistic ecosystem.

Call to Action

The call to action emphasised the imperative need for policymakers to adopt a comprehensive approach. Recognising the intertwined relationship between the people (pastoralists), land, and livestock is crucial.

Policymakers must consider developing a mindset of how to integrate policymaking that addresses anticipatory actions about the people (pastoralists), land, and livestock as one component of a larger system and not separate.”

Integrating pastoralist voices and expertise into policy frameworks is imperative for sustainable development and effective climate adaptation in these vital landscapes. Policymakers are urged to shift their mindset, embracing a holistic approach to policymaking that acknowledges the intricate balance within pastoralist ecosystems.

The side event, which brought pastoralist voices together to explore investment priorities and solutions for Africa’s drylands and rangelands, was co-organized by the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action with ALive4Climate partners the International Livestock Research Institute, the International Land Coalition, Mercy Corps, and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. Read the full report here