Kenyan pastoralists return to past for climate adaptation
AlertNet, 4 May 2011

ISIOLO, KENYA: Pastoralist communities in Kenya’s semi-arid northern and eastern regions are reviving tradition in a bid to protect their livestock and their livelihoods from the effects of climate change. Village elders have formed leadership groups and, by next year, plan to start defining areas where pastoralists can graze for a set period before moving on to the next area of community grazing land. Anyone who disobeys the regulations could be fined a number of cows or camels through cultural courts. Such “pasture governance” systems operated in the region until the 1970s. By controlling where pastoralists grazed their cattle, village elders were able to sustain pastures for longer during droughts. However, in the 1970s the government banned community-led pasture controls, giving pastoralists the freedom to take their livestock to any community land for grazing at any time. Village elders say abandoning cultural law has had a detrimental effect on pastures. Now they are slowly restoring traditional “pasture governance” starting with meetings at village level to discuss how best to implement old cultural norms. Researchers now see the value in working hand-in-hand with pastoralist communities as they search for ways to address global warming impacts and the challenges brought by the shifts in societal patterns. “Respecting traditional methods of adaptation is one way of achieving such a goal,” said David Hughes, communications and networking officer at the Future Agriculture Consortium, a partnership between UKand African institutions that works to influence policy on agriculture. Read the article …

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