The impacts of different approaches to protecting and promoting/rebuilding pastoralist livelihoods during and after conflict is mixed, complicated by the evolving nature of the conflict (including its different forms), the range of pastoral groups operating across African contexts and the supranational nature of their activities. This rapid review synthesises findings from a rigorous academic, practitioner, and policy references published in the past 10 years that discuss approaches to supporting pastoral livelihoods.
Pastoralists constitute circa 5% of the total population of some African countries and contribute between 10-44% of the Gross Domestic Product of those countries in which they operate. It is
estimated that pastoralists contribute about 90% of the meat consumed in East Africa and close to 60% of the meat and milk products consumed in West Africa. Pastoralism thus plays a
significant role across vast swathes of Africa and disruption to the livelihoods of groups involved may have a significant impact on the societies in which they operate.
According to a range of studies, a number of ongoing African conflicts (e.g. Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, north-eastern Kenya, Somalia and Sudan) involve pastoralists. A variety of factors have been identified in the literature as driving conflict among pastoralists and between pastoralists and other land users (subsistence farmers and large-scale private farms etc.) as well as the state. Understanding the impact of conflict on pastoral communities is, however, fraught with challenges, involving shifting dynamics and a range of conflict types. A typology of these is provided by De Haan et al., (De Haan et al., 2014).
A number of efforts have been made to support pastoral communities, however, a recurrent criticism of existing policy interventions is that they are often poorly implemented, lack adequate
funding, and are implemented by ill-equipped non-pastoral administrators. It is also difficult to disentangle targeted livelihoods interventions from broader programmes to support pastoral
development including conflict, resilience, and development programmes. Indeed, the overarching insecurity of pastoral groups and their historic marginalisation entails that support must inherently tackle a number of cross-cutting issues.
An emerging trend in regional and multilateral pastoral development policies is a shift from conventional approaches such as livestock development to pastoral development. The shift from
livestock to pastoral development has also heralded a shift from national to regional pastoral resilience programmes, with the latter considered to be more sensitive to the regional nature of
pastoralists’ transboundary migratory patterns.
Whilst the economic potential of pastoralism and its contribution to national GDP has been identified in the literature, there exists a conflict between the promising economic opportunities
offered by pastoralism and the prominence of insecurity and conflicts among pastoralists, between pastoralists and agriculturalists and between pastoralists and the State. Together, these
characteristics point to the emergence of new pastoralists, who, on the one hand, retain certain elements of old pastoralism while at the same time take up new activities and have different livelihood patterns.
The lessons that emerge from this rapid literature review suggest that, in order to be successful in unstable environments, development initiatives (including livelihoods support) should be both
stabilisation-oriented (providing better access to physical and livelihood security for populations) and conflict-sensitive. State-supported projects that combine development and overcome
security measures for the population’s benefit, if designed and implemented in a participatory fashion, can improve pastoralists’ perception of the state as repressive. This is especially the
case if these projects improve the access to security and justice, among other services, by populations as well as improve living conditions and offer sustainable income opportunities that
are more secure.
Overarching the report is an emerging consensus amongst experts that poorly designed pastoral development interventions that do not fully take the drivers of conflict and violence into account
can create more instability and exacerbate conflicts. Further to this, not all forms of development of pastoralism will induce stability, and developing pastoralism does not guarantee regional
stability i.e. the action of some fringe pastoralists. However, if the objectives of stabilisation and conflict prevention are well integrated into the support of the pastoralist economy, evidence
shows that this can contribute to lower levels of insecurity and help foster peace.