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Rules of the range: natural resources management in Kenya–Ethiopia border areas

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Simon Levine, Sara Pavanello

Pastoral areas in the Horn of Africa are frequently seen as a region of poverty and constant crisis, where repeated rain failures leave millions of people dependent on food aid. The long-term erosion of pastoralists’ resilience is ascribed to various causes: a degraded range, the loss of key grazing lands, increasing population pressure and conflict.

But pastoralism is also a modern industry, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars each year from a thriving international trade, creating an increasingly commercialised livestock-owning class coexist-ing with an ever poorer majority. This presents a dual challenge. How can this vital economic sector be supported, at the same time as sup-porting the majority of pastoralists to remain independent, with resilient livelihoods?

The Policy Brief studies the institutional aspects of natural resource management in Kenya-Ethiopia border areas.

Key messages

  • The management of pastoral mobility is key to the management of livestock, of the rangeland and of community relations in the Horn of Africa. Agencies working with pastoralism cannot look at any one of these issues in isolation, or through purely technical or sectoral lenses. They need to understand the livelihood system institutionally: who makes decisions about access to the range, and how these decisions are enforced.
  • One of the causes of conflict and rangeland degradation is the erosion of these institutions, which have been undermined by the lack of recognition of pastoral land rights by states in the Horn. Addressing the symptoms without analysing their causes has led to disappointing progress.
  • Development actors have been involved in creating new institutions, such as peace committees, which are taking decision-making power away from customary institutions. Development actors have a responsibility to understand how these changes affect power relations between pastoralists and the state, between different pastoralist communities and internally within the communities involved.
Simon Levine and Sara Pavanello