Pastoralism as a way of life and a source of livelihood that has existed for centuries. Research report (UNDP 2003)2 has showed that an estimated 200 million peoples are practicing pastoralism and related livelihoods in the globe. In Ethiopia, pastoralism is a livelihood system and a way of life for more than 10 million citizens, residing in 149 Woredas in five National Regional States and a Dire Dawa City Governments (FDRE HPR-PASC 2009.
Ethiopia covers an estimated total area of 1.1 million km2, of which more than half (625,000 km2), belong to pastoral areas. The latter are found in the South-eastern Plateau, the East African Rift, the Western Lowlands and Eastern Lowlands of Ethiopia. The net rangelands – that produce grass and browse for itinerant stockbreeding - cover 545,000 km2, equal to 57% of Ethiopia’s land surface, spanning 300 to 1,500 m of altitude. About 20% of the vegetation cover is in good conditions, 30% fair, 40% poor and 10% depleted. Due to the prevailing range use, deterioration trends prevail, especially in the areas enjoying a fair vegetation cover((FDRE HPR-PASC 2009).
In Ethiopia pastoralists occupy 61% of the land mass of the country and accounts for 12-15% of the national population. The Ethiopian pastoralists are mainly located in arid and semi-arid rangelands of the country. These areas are characterized by high temperature, successive poor rains, and increased incidence of droughts, floods and climatic shocks. Furthermore, rangelands households with fewer and less diversified assets are less able to invest in adaptation measures and to meet their basic needs when faced with the adverse consequences of climate change.
Poverty remains particularly intense in the pastoral areas, both in terms of low income and food consumption, and high vulnerability, in terms of the risk of sudden drops in income. The coverage of social services and infrastructure are among the lowest in the country. Their traditional social, economic and political systems have been eroded.
Raising and herding livestock for a living, pastoralists move with rainy and dry seasons in search of water and pasture. In some instances, pastoralist families become agro-pastoralists by settling in one area, with some family members raising agricultural crops to meet a portion of household food needs while others go with their animals in search of pasture and water. Due to their reliance on natural resources, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists are vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters. Even under normal circumstances, pastoral communities often face extreme challenges in meeting basic needs.
Drought, as one of the major calamity in the Ethiopian pastoral regions, is still the main cause for the loss of livestock and others resources. As it frequently occurs and threats the livelihood of the pastoralists, it directly contributes to poverty in the areas. The loss of livestock could not be easily recovered in shorter period, and pastoralists are forced to wait for so many years in impoverished conditions of living. In some of the pastoral regions, river overflow and flood has caused significant loss of properties and displacements. Floods that are caused by the Rivers Baro and Akobo affects the pastoralists of Nuer in Gambella region , Awash in Afar and Kereyu, Wabi Shebele in somali, and the Omo river in the south Omo. Such calamities force the pastoralist to food aid and dependency. It is also evident that health and social problems that result due to draught and flood immensely affect the livelihoods of the pastoralist at large.
Although these communities have developed ways to survive isolated emergencies, coping mechanisms are frequently exhausted through consecutive shocks. In recent years, pastoralists in Ethiopia have increasingly come under threat due to the cumulative effects of crises such as drought, food shortages, disease outbreaks, and lack of access to grazing lands due to conflicts. Equally important is the invasion of alien trees an bush encroachments across the vast rangelands. Among these invasive and bushes are Prosopis Juliflora, Parthenium, Congress grass, ect. Some residents have started to produce and store animal feed, helping them to maintain productive animals during the dry seasons which in turn increase their food security and also improve the natural resource and water management systems.
Human-environment interactions are iterative processes. Many people in the world structure their lives in concert with their environmental contexts. For various reasons associated with climate, people can become vulnerable, that is, they are at a high risk of negative outcomes as a result of climatic events that overwhelm the adaptations they have in place. Vulnerability to environmental changes occurs due to variation in frequency or duration of those changes or because people are constrained economically, socially or politically from responding adequately to those changes. Economic and policy factors, in and of themselves, can also result in increased vulnerability.
Recognition of local adaptation is seen as an entry point to strengthen the resilience of local pastoralists and agro-pastoralits to climate change. Similarly, the concept of community-based adaptation (CBA) is based on recognition of the competence of grassroots communities to solve their own problems. But the capacity of the people to adapt their livelihood systems to these variations has been weakened.
In this exposure visit to Sahilian pastoralists in Mali and Sudan, DF Partners plan to share experience on the human adaptation and vulnerability to climate change for pastoral community and impacts of the climate change on resource based conflicts.