Africa / Biodiversity / Central Africa / Drought / Drylands / DRYLANDSCRP / East Africa / Ethiopia / ILRI / Kenya / Livestock / Markets / Pastoralism / Vulnerability

Livestock essential for food security in the pastoral areas of Africa – Ericksen

 There is need to “harness” the livestock resources of pastoral production systems so that they contribute to food security in East and Central Africa (ECA).  This “harnessing” will rely on the combined efforts of research and development to ensure a long term and sustainable future for pastoralism.

Speaking today at the General Assembly of the Association for Strengthening Agriculture in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), Dr Polly Ericksen said pastoral areas constitute the major land use in the drylands of the ECA and are home to millions of people.  However, the drylands have very high precipitation variability and droughts occur in regularly in three to four year cycles. This means that the mobility that pastoralists have traditionally relied upon to manage in the face of such harsh climate is increasingly constrained by various forms of land expropriation and fragmentation, further increasing degradation in the accessible grazing areas.

Dr Ericksen is a scientist with the People, Livestock and Environment (PLE) theme at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). She was speaking on the sub theme “Agricultural Development Challenges and Opportunities”. She observed that pastoral livestock productions systems are the most suitable and adapted land use in the ECA drylands, and currently the meat and milk produced by those systems contribute significantly to local, national and regional food security as well as the gross domestic product (GDP).

She further observed that poverty and food insecurity are prevalent among ECA pastoral communities and are becoming chronic for some groups, especially those who have very low herd sizes or have “dropped out” of livestock production all together.

Pastoralists’ participation in markets could be higher and more equitable, Dr Ericksen said, if more interventions were introduced into the pastoral system.

“Little research has been done on improving pastoral livestock breeds or supporting species diversification. Rangeland management studies and interventions are also lagging and could contribute greatly to enhancing livestock productivity”, said Dr. Ericksen.   She further added that maintain some form of mobility will always be key for pastoral production, and hence ensuring access to grazing and water resources is critical.

ASARECA is holding its first General Assembly 14th – 16th December 2011. Its theme is “Feeding our region in the 21st Century”. ILRI’s Director General Jimmy Smith and Director for Communications, Bruce Scott are representing ILRI. Dr Smith is scheduled to make a presentation on The Role of ASARECA partner institutions.

ASARECA and ILRI_PLE have just completed a research project on Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity Conservation in the Drylands of Eastern and Central Africa.

Details of the General Assembly are found at: http://www.asareca.org/generalassembly/?page_id=38

words: Jane Gitau

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