Platform for pastoralists aims to give a voice to millions

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A Kenyan camel herder collecting water © FAO/Giulio Napolitano

New initiative aims to bring pastoral concerns into global policy dialogue

27 April 2015, Rome – Millions of pastoralists will benefit from a new online knowledge hub that will help them raise their voices in international policy debates and share valuable information to strengthen their agricultural livelihoods.

The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub – launched today by FAO, the European Union, Germany and other partners – will enable mobile livestock keepers to connect, to meet and discuss issues like agricultural innovations or land regulations and find shared solutions to common challenges.

“Pastoralists are able to produce food where no crops can be grown. Yet, their concerns are poorly heard by the international community,” Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, said on Monday. "This hub is an important platform to help them project their voices, share knowledge, and affect policy debates."

The hub also offers a growing database of research on pastoralism, contacts for a worldwide network of pastoral representatives, and discussion forums for pastoralist networks and partnering institutions.

It also includes a mechanism that lets pastoral communities nominate and select representatives to global forums such as the Committee on World Food Security.

Seven regional meetings with pastoralist networks to shape the initiative are being held until October 2015.

Rich legacy, diverse challenges

The several hundred million pastoralists who manage the world’s rangelands rely on a rich legacy of traditional knowledge and mobility to survive in the harshest environments on the planet.

They remain important producers of livestock, meat, milk, hair and hides and in many countries produce more than half of agricultural GDP.

Livestock grazing on pastoralist rangelands also provides valuable benefits to ecosystems, including helping to recycle plants back into fertile soil and controlling the growth of bush and weeds.

Examples of more well-known pastoral societies include the Bedouin of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the Maasai in East Africa, the Navajo of North America, the Sherpa in Nepal, and Scandinavia's Sami people.

Despite their importance to food production and ecosystems, pastoralists have traditionally been marginalized in decision-making on matters like the decrease of rangelands and the disruption of their mobility routes that negatively affect their lives and livelihoods.

They have frequently been subject to attempts to alter their nomadic lifestyles and often find it hard to access health services and schools

Pastoralists are also still poorly represented in decision-making processes in high-level institutions such as the United Nations and their own national governments.

Bringing voices to the global stage

The hub brings together partner institutions including the African Union, the European Union, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank and non-governmental organizations as well as pastoralist civil society groups.

These organizations can share their work and resources on pastoralism and actively consult with pastoral networks.

“The new Hub aims to bring all groups and organizations together to voice pastoral concerns to the international community,” said Lalji Desai, Secretary General of the World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples.

The German Ministry for Food and Agriculture is contributing $1.7 million to initiate the Hub.