Key issues

facing pastoralists in east africa

fragile ecosystems

Worldwide, billions of people live in drylands that are characterised by their scarcity of water.  Many of these dry areas sustain rangelands – natural ecosystems where livestock raising provides food as well as livelihoods for millions of people.

Nature and human factors often combine to offer harsh realities. The potential of pastoral communities to enjoy healthy, productive and resilient lives is ‘stunted’ by exclusion, lack of opportunities and lack of access to services. Moreover, drought or floods can wipe out lives and livelihoods and force people away from homes and grazing areas, often to cities. Land degradation and competition for land can cause conflict, and narrow opportunities for pastoralists to live healthy lives.

Adaptation and coping options for the roughly 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa that rely on pastoralism and agro-pastoralism for their livelihoods are limited because, aside from livestock raising, these rangelands are often remote and are not well suited to other productive agriculture.

Globally, many dryland dwellers have the lowest levels of human

well-being, lowest per capita income and highest infant mortality rates recorded anywhere.


of Earth’s land surface is drylands


of the world’s population live on drylands


of dryland inhabitants are found in developing countries

Source: Climate Change and Agrarian Societies in Drylands report.

Impacts of climate change

Living in harsh and often remote environments, the lives and livelihoods of men, women and children in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities in the drylands of East Africa are threatened by climate change. Increased incidence of climate extremes leads to floods and droughts, both of which contribute to food shocks and unstable livelihoods. Year to year rainfall variability makes farming unreliable and difficult to sustain in the longer term. Climate changes and variability are also expected to increase land degradation, increase the spread of invasive species and other disease threats, and influence which plants can grow.

Tough decisions

In the absence of reliable data and evidence, pastoral groups as well as other organizations that serve them struggle to determine where and how best to intervene so pastoral communities are fully prepared for and able to respond to climate-driven food security and nutrition shocks. Effectively predicting and addressing food security and malnutrition challenges requires:


Well-targeted, timely, and reliable information and data to better monitor and assess food and nutrition security and climate change threats to pastoral communities.

Appropriate data

Appropriate data and information products and decision-support tools to decide when, where and how best to invest or intervene to achieve desired outcomes for pastoralists.

Effective data

Effective data, information sharing and collaboration mechanisms to better coordinate the actions of many organizations. Until now, it has been very difficult to bring together research from various sectors such as livestock, soil, weather predictions, human geography and climate change to develop policies and protocols which have a positive impact for populations on the ground.