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 Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

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 Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

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.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs