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

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs