23 Jun 2017 Story Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Putting sustainable pastoralism on the global agenda

Pastoralism, with its multi-sectoral benefits, is undervalued

Nairobi, 9 June 2016 - Pastoralists are stewards of rangelands covering a quarter of the planet’s land surface, providing high value food and protecting globally important biodiversity and ecosystems.

Moving from place to place, their herds - mimicking wild ungulate herds - disperse seeds, fertilize soils with their dung, and maintain landscapes and biodiversity through trampling and grazing.

Kicking off a side event on sustainable pastoralism at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2) held from 23 to 27 May 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw reminded participants that misconceptions about pastoralism being “primitive”, unproductive and environmentally destructive had been debunked.

The event highlighted the need for a transformation towards sustainable pastoralism, especially in drylands. Examples of positive action given were the greater participation of women in pastoralism planning in Chad, and pastoralist-friendly policy changes in Mongolia.

A major achievement was the passing of a resolution sponsored by Ethiopia, Namibia and Sudan titled Combating Desertification, Land Degradation and Sustainable Development of Pastoralism and Rangelands.

UNEP was on hand to facilitate and, thanks to the support of many countries, the resolution was passed at UNEA-2.

New initiatives
UNEP, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other international organizations which participated in UNEA-2 are involved in various initiatives such as improved market access for pastoralists and incentives for pastoral environmental stewardship.

The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, launched in April 2015, is one such initiative. It aims to increase cooperation among pastoralist networks.

To strengthen its commitment to sustainable use of rangelands and improve livestock-based livelihoods, ILRI and its Kenyan NGO partner RECONCILE (Resource Conflict Institute) coordinate and support the Global Rangelands Initiative of the International Land Coalition (ILC). Established in 2010, it supports governments and ILC members in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop and/or implement enabling policy and legislation for more tenure-secure rangelands.

Oyuna Sanjasuren, Minister of Environment and Green Development in Mongolia, called for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists to increase knowledge of the global health and other benefits of pastoralism and rangelands. An initiative for the Year to start in 2021 is supported by 10 international organizations. 

An estimated 200 million pastoralists globally are managing their herds in the face of increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions.

Other challenges faced by pastoralists include unsustainable grazing practices, cropland expansion; land grabbing, land fragmentation, land tenure issues, migration and urbanization, invasive plants and harmful policies.

Meanwhile, improved tools are needed to monitor livestock production’s footprint and more accurately represent the environmental and social efficiencies of pastoralism, taking into consideration wider impacts of intensive systems including water pollution, freshwater competition, and the dangers of antibiotic use.

More than 100 people from different countries and organizations attended the side event organized by UNEP.

For more information contact: Abdelkader Bensada: Abdelkader.Bensada[at]unep.org