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Climate-proofing pastoralism in Eastern Africa

Impact story


An increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, coupled with unpredictable weather patterns, is threatening the survival of some 20 million livestock keepers in Eastern Africa.

Frequent droughts have eroded the pastoralists adaptive capacity to such an extent that almost every drought is now a humanitarian crisis. “Traditionally, when there are serious droughts, governments and aid agencies move in with lots of resources,” says Thomas Were, who manages CTA’s Climate, Livestock and Markets (CLI-MARK) project in northern Kenyan and southern Ethiopia. “This approach is unsustainable. What we are trying to do is enhance the resilience of pastoralists communities.

Launched in 2017, the two-year CLI-MARK project has three main components. All are designed to make pastoralists more resilient to climatic variability and drought. One of these, led by the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), is designed to link pastoralists to end buyers and encourage the establishment of new enterprises. “CLI-MARK’s marketing component aims to reduce the influence of brokers and middlemen so that pastoralists get a better price,” says Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, CTA’s Senior Technical Adviser for Value Chains and Agribusiness. The other components involve scaling up livestock insurance and providing pastoralists with real-time weather information.

If pastoralist communities are to flourish, and become more resilient, they need to establish businesses which continue to trade during the hard times. To this end, training programmes led by IIRR have been improving the skills, knowledge and organisational abilities of 80 livestock-related enterprises, eight associated with five markets in Kenya and eight associated with five in Ethiopia. Most of these enterprises are managed by women and young people.

Take, for example, Ismagal Women’s Group, set up in 2009 by Somali women in Kenya’s Isiolo County. “Before the training we didn’t really know how to save the money we made from buying and selling goats,” says treasurer Abdia Mohammed. The women subsequently set up a ‘home bank’ – a metal box with three padlocks – and each member now contributes KES50 a day. “We’ll open it after year, when we’ve saved KES720,000 shillings - €7,200. We plan to buy land and build houses to rent,” explains Abdia. Entrepreneurial activities such as this will help these pastoralists and their extended families cope much better with future droughts.

In Ethiopia, CLI-MARK has forged close working relationships with the local government departments and the latter helped the project identify 40 livestock-related enterprises, most of which were poorly organised and operating on a very small scale. Two training sessions were attended by local government staff and five individuals from each enterprise.

“We’ve noticed that there is now much better cooperation between different local government departments than there was before,” says Zerihun Lemma, IIRR country director in Ethiopia. There is now a Livestock Market Steering Committee for the five districts where the project operates, and the project also established a Livestock Marketing Forum, whose quarterly meetings are attended by government officials, CLI-MARK project staff, local enterprises and major livestock buyers. For the first time, major livestock buyers have agreed to sign MoUs with some of the enterprises established and trained by the project.

You can see the influence of CLI-MARK in the local markets. Soon after we arrive at Elwaye market we find Garbole Jaldesa, secretary of a small livestock buying enterprise, in discussions with Chala Kasa, a trader who has just spent 14 days trekking a fine herd of bullocks from northern Kenya. “CLI-MARK really helped us,” he says. “In the past, I didn’t really know how to assess the price of an animal, but I do now. CLI-MARK also linked me to some lead companies. I know what their specifications are now and we are negotiating an MoU.

Another major component of the CLI-MARK project involves the promotion of index-based livestock insurance. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) analyses satellite imagery to establish when fodder levels have fallen so low that livestock are likely to die. Instead of insurance agents having to go out to verify whether animals have died, or are about to perish, the index triggers payments when the amount of forage falls below a certain level. The pastoralists can then use these to buy fodder – and hopefully keep their animals alive. The number of pastoralists taking advantage the scheme has risen significantly with CLI-MARK support, in the case of Ethiopia from 707 in 2016 to 2942 in 2017.

The third component of the project, and the last to be implemented, is an ICT-based weather information system. A local technology company, Amfratech, packages weather information provided by aWhere for the use of both pastoralists and organisations involved in pasture management. The service, known as MyAnga – my weather in Swahili – was first piloted in Kenya with 200 pastoralists. Following its launch in November 2018, IIRR and the Kenyan Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC) began a programme of sensitisation and it is hoped that tens of thousands of pastoralists will eventually subscribe to the service. Real-time weather information will enable pastoralists to make crucial decisions about where and when to sell their livestock and how to plan their annual migrations.


Insurance – saving lives and livelihoods

Erratic and unpredictable weather and changes in the climate threaten the livelihoods and survival of tens of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa. When crops fail, or livestock die of hunger, the repercussions can be devastating. To give just one example, severe drought in 2017 led to cattle herders in northern Kenya losing over 70% of their livestock. In Ethiopia, over 5 million people required emergency food aid and almost 2 million people were displaced from their homes.

Climate-proofing pastoralism in Eastern Africa

An increase in the frequency and severity of droughts, coupled with unpredictable weather patterns, is threatening the survival of some 20 million livestock keepers in Eastern Africa. Recent droughts have eroded pastoralists’ adaptive capacity to such an extent that almost every one results in a humanitarian crisis.

Making climate-smart agriculture work for women farmers and entrepreneurs

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Agricultural production will need to increase by at least 50% over the next 30 years to meet the needs of rising populations and changing dietary preferences. This increase is caused by population growth, rising incomes and urbanisation. The latter two factors will lead to greater demand for protein rich foods, fruits and vegetables. This is already an enormous challenge, but is further complicated by anticipated climatic uncertainties, as farmers face increasing risks of drought, flood, and other stresses.

myAnga app, a game changer for pastoralist climate resilience


The extreme weather events that result from climate change can be devastating and often exacerbate the already severe climate in arid and semi-arid parts of the world. Climate change is stretching the livelihoods of households in such areas to the limit, particularly those who wholly depend on livestock and livestock products.

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