Putting pastoralists on the policy agenda: Land alienation in southern Ethiopia
Pastoralists in Ethiopia make an immense contribution to the national economy despite living in some of the most inhospitable and drought-prone parts of the country. Their traditional migratory lifestyle and knowledge of dryland resource management has allowed them to generally withstand drought and to maintain a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem in their communally-managed rangelands.
However, fundamental misconceptions about the pastoral production system in Ethiopia (like in many other countries in Africa) have led to a general perception among policy makers that pastoral lands are underused and therefore should be ‘developed’. Such misperceptions have subjected pastoral communities to political and economic marginalisation. Policies have favoured externally-imposed development schemes which often alienate and expropriate pastoral lands in favour of large-scale commercial activities. Resource alienation and curtailment of mobility has made pastoral households vulnerable to frequent droughts, food insecurity and famine.
This paper illustrates this scenario with recent research done among the pastoralist and agropastoralist communities of Southern Ethiopia. The research found that livestock numbers are declining dramatically in the area, land degradation is increasing, people are becoming more vulnerable to drought and famine and resource-based conflicts are increasing in severity.