Herding through uncertainties – regional perspectives : exploring the interfaces of pastoralists and uncertainty : results from a literature review

Working Paper
  • Published 09/09/19

This paper has been written as a background review for the European Research Council-funded PASTRES project (Pastoralism, Uncertainty, Resilience: Global Lessons from the Margins). Lessons from pastoralists, we argue, may help others working in other domains to develop more effective responses to uncertain contexts. Following Prof. Scoones’ papers ‘What is uncertainty and why does it matter?’, this is one of two papers developed with a view to analyse and reflect on the interfaces and interrelationships between pastoral societies, the uncertainties that embed their livelihoods, and the related coping/adaptive principles, strategies, and practices.

Through a structured review and a meta-analysis of existing literature, the environmental, market, and governance dimensions characterizing uncertainty for pastoralists are explored in six different settings:

a) Central and southern Asia, with specific references to the Tibetan plateau in China and to Indian pastoralists

b) the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, with a focus on Morocco in the Maghreb-Mashreq region and a wider perspective on pastoralism in Mediterranean Europe

c) the eastern and western flanks of Sub-Saharan Africa drylands, with a specific focus on the Fulani and Borana pastoral groups inhabiting these regions.

This paper provides an understanding of the constantly changing uncertainty frameworks characterising the livelihoods of pastoralists inhabiting different geographical areas of the globe. Very diverse and contrasting pastoral settings present relevant similarities and convergences when facing evolving uncertainty scenarios. The ecological uncertainties that inform pastoral strategies get reconfigured as connections and networks extend and the market and governance dimensions hold growing roles in determining the livelihoods of pastoral communities. The paper concludes by indicating potential ways we could learn from pastoralists, as part of a wider conversation about embracing uncertainties to meet the challenges of our turbulent world. This endeavour is complemented by another paper that explores the principles, strategies, and practices pastoral communities adopt with a view to cope and adapt to surrounding and embedding insecurities.