Herd it on the grapevine: how pastoralists get a raw deal in policy and the media

Mike Shanahan of IIED has written two great blog posts in two weeks on how pastoralism is viewed by politicians and by stories in the media.

The first covers how pastoralists have come to be viewed as ‘backward’ by some dominant policy narratives in Kenya, China and India.

“The dominant policy narrative casts pastoralism as a backward, irrational livelihood that takes place in fragile unproductive ecosystems and creates a catalogue of problems for non-pastoralists… the pastoralists themselves would of course disagree, and research suggests that they will have a critical role to play – if allowed to – as our climate changes.”

As Mike explains, simple narratives can help policy-makers make sense of a complex situation, but they can go badly wrong when applied to people ‘at the margins’.

The second blog post focuses on the media in Kenya, where pastoralism is overwhelmingly portrayed in a bad light. In a survey of 100 stories about pastoralists over a 12 year period, 93% of the reports referred to conflict and drought. But away from the headlines, many journalists are aware of more positive stories.

For more on this subject, the recent STEPS book Pastoralism and Development in Africa sheds more light on the booming trade and innovation happening among pastoralists in the Horn of Africa. The book is being launched on 29 November in London – email [email protected] for more information.