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Pastoralism: drylands’ invisible asset? Developing a framework for assessing the value of pastoralism in East Africa

Ced Hesse, James MacGregor

Issue paper, 30 pages

Many policy makers in East Africa have preconceptions about the value of pastoralism as a land-use system believing it to be economically inefficient and environmentally destructive. Yet, this is not evidence-based. Not only is there no consensus on what is a dynamic economic model of pastoralism, no mechanisms exist to inform government decision-making of its comparative advantages over alternative land uses. This paper argues that pastoralism does make a significant contribution to society and that, with better understanding, planning and data collection, its value can be demonstrated. The paper presents a preliminary framework for assessing the benefits of pastoralism that goes beyond conventional criteria relating to livestock and their by-products. While the paper focuses on East Africa, much of the analysis is applicable to pastoral systems in other regions of Africa.

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Since 2006, we have done significant innovative work with partners to dispel the misconception that drylands are unproductive, generating evidence on returns from drylands to contribute to positive policy by fighting policymakers' misconceptions that drylands are economically inefficient and environmentally destructive.

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