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Browsing on fences: pastoral land rights, livelihoods and adaptation to climate change

Publication date:
M. Nori
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This paper presents an overview of pastoral systems and addresses rights issues around access and control of resources in the context of climate change. The document brings together the inputs made by over 120 participants in a 2006 web-based forum and also includes material from a number of projects from around the world.While more needs to be understood about the likely impacts of climate change on different environments, this paper focuses on the main factors that will make herding communities most likely to gain or lose from these challenges.Some of the key points highlighted include:

pastoralists’ vulnerability to climatic variability is less a function of declining resources than a result of their increasing inability to respond to such changes
social, political and economic marginalisation is a keyword that explains pastoralists’ current inability to deal with and adapt to changes, including environmental ones
the merging of pastoralists and farmers has weakened relations between the groups, and heightened competition for access to natural resources
enhancing pastoralist entitlement to a wider range of resources, both agro-ecological and socio-economic, and enabling them to use such resources as needed, is vital to reducing their vulnerability and enhancing the sustainable development of marginal lands
climate change may offer a new framework with which to approach pastoralism, and to take stock of its capacities for production on marginal and unpredictable lands, in an environmentally sustainable manner.

The paper recommends key controversial issues that need to be addressed by national policies and international development assistance with respect to pastoral development in a context of climate change. These include:

pastoralism should gain recognition by policy makers as a viable system with the potential to sustain livelihoods
pastoralists need to be acknowledged as good custodians of variable environments
pastoralists need to benefit from the economic wealth generated by the exploitation of the rich underground resources
appropriate changes in government opinion and policy directives towards pastoralism needs to be initiated.