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Tropentag 2023, September 20 - 22, Berlin, Germany

"Competing pathways for equitable food systems transformation: trade-offs and synergies."

The importance of “collectivity” for transformative pastoral food systems

Fiona Flintan , Kelvin Shikuku

International Livestock Research Insitute, Italy


More than ever before pastoral food systems of East Africa face pressures to transform into more organised and productive food systems, contributing more directly to national economies and national development plans. This is whilst trying to deal with ongoing and new challenges including land tenure insecurity, lack of rural infrastructure, services and markets, multiplying invasive species and climate change. An important characteristic of well-functioning pastoral systems is “collectivity.” That is, being well-connected to the other members of the pastoral group, both socially and geographically allowing sharing of resources and reciprocal exchanges that provide for spreading risk across the group rather than that risk falling on the shoulders of individuals. Empirical evidence from a recent survey of 1,983 households in Ethiopia showed that households that received but also redistributed food aid through their social network had a greater ability to cope with drought than those that did not redistribute food aid. However, most development and humanitarian interventions have focused their efforts on pastoral individuals or households, and rarely targeted the group or the collective, for example through establishing individual water storage tanks (in Ethiopia), individual livestock-based insurance contracts (in Kenya and Ethiopia) or women’s individual land certificates (in Tanzania). Though these interventions may have assisted individuals in the short term, they are may have contributed to the individualism and privatisation of resources and the breakdown of the collective as well as reducing the long term “group” benefits for individual members. Development and humanitarian organisations need to rethink their interventions in pastoral areas and how they are implemented if pastoral food systems are to transform into more organised and productive food systems. This requires seeking out and developing those interventions that focus on and aim to build the strength of the collective group. At the same time the measures to redistribute wealth and support poorer and weaker members of the group need to be strengthened. Examples of such approaches can be found in joint land use planning and rangeland management approaches that seek to strengthen the group and sharing of resources, whilst ensuring all members of the group benefit.

Keywords: Climate change, collectivity, development, humanitarian, pastoralism

Contact Address: Fiona Flintan , International Livestock Research Insitute, Rome, Italy, e-mail: f.flintan@cgiar.org

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