News / Africa

    Pastoral Societies Seek Place Amid Change

    Roopa Gogineni
    Pastoralist communities around the world often live at the margins of modern day states, but pastoralist leaders maintain that their traditional livelihoods are economically viable and environmentally sustainable. A recent international conference of pastoralists in rural Kenya offered a unique opportunity for pastoralists to gather and learn.
     
    Pastoralism, a predominantly nomadic lifestyle centered on livestock herding, is under threat. To chart a way forward, more than 100 pastoralists from Sudan to Spain attended a Global Gathering of Pastoralists in Kiserian, Kenya.
     
    Jonathan Davies, coordinator of the Global Drylands Initiative, helped organize the event.
     
    "By bringing people from the most unlikely places together you discover that there is a lot of common ground and a lot of opportunity for sharing of experiences and expertise," said Davies.
     
    Pastoralist communities normally live in geographic peripheries, far from the reach of central governments.
     
    They often are painted as anti-government and conflict-prone, but Davies claims this reputation is undeserved.
     
    "Pastoralism is on a third of the land surface on this planet and the vast majority of it is self-policing and it is pretty peaceful. The conflicts are terrible but it is the exception, not the norm," said Davies.
     
    Davies also said that the pastoralist land use system contributes to biodiversity and is environmentally sustainable, a point that was reinforced when conference attendees visited a biofuel processing plant.
     
    Khalid Khawaldeh, who represents pastoral communities around Dana, Jordan, is among those who attended the conference and learned something new.
     
    "The engineer just told us that we benefit from the waste more than from the meat. This is surprising for me," said Khawaldeh.
     
    Like many at the conference, economic and political pressures forced Khawaldeh out of pastoralism.
     
    "They cannot move outside the boundaries of Jordan. Even within Jordan they are in isolated islands because of privatization, industrialization, and conservation.  So they cannot move as they used to," said Khawaldeh.
     
    The World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous People aims to set a global agenda to protect pastoralist rights.

    Lalji Desai, the group's secretary-general, points out that many pastoral groups face the same issues.
     
    "Most of the pastoralists in the regions, we have similar problems linked with the policy-making and decision-making process. Recognizing our rights, land rights issues, migratory routes, markets, preserving our animal genetic resources, or our knowledge - everything is linked with the policy-making decision," said Desai.
     
    Ol-Johán Sikku, from the Sami community of reindeer herders in northern Sweden, noted that some pastoral groups, including the Sami, find support lacking.
     
    "Still locally, regionally, or in the country you have to do something. But if you get support from the U.N., that's good. Because even the Sami people, we feel that the northern Scandinavian countries don't support the Sami so we have to have support from the U.N., EU and then we can do something," said Sikku.
     
    Sikku is trying to protect his ancient lifestyle by adapting to modern realities. He lobbies the Swedish government for Sami rights and works with a group called Slow Food Sápmi that promotes traditional Sami recipes to find new markets for his reindeer meat.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora