AFRICA: Education tops pastoralists’ concerns

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pastoralists across Africa want their children to have access to education that suits their nomadic lifestyles, representatives of pastoral communities said on 9 July in Isiolo.

“The issue of the education curriculum is important to understanding pastoralism; imagine taking a lot of time to teach a child in Mandera [northern Kenya] how to plant beans when that child could be taught how to tan leather, given that it is the available resource,” Ali Wario, Kenya’s assistant minister for special programmes in the office of the president, said.

Wario, who opened the three-day workshop attended by at least 70 participants, said children in Kenya’s pastoralist areas not only lacked access to education but, when available, the curriculum often did not suit pastoral lifestyles. “We must have mobile schools in pastoralist areas if children are to gain from the education system.”

Besides education, he said, pastoralists also lacked access to livestock markets and proper land ownership and tenure systems to sustain their lifestyle. They also faced difficulties in accessing credit from financial institutions as cattle were often not considered assets against which institutions could lend money, Wario said.

The workshop is being organised by the African Union’s Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, the AU’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (IBAR), and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Pastoralist Communication Initiative (OCHA-PCI).

It is the first in a process aimed at laying the groundwork for a pastoralist policy for Africa and includes participants from 15 countries across the continent, as well as policy-makers and representatives of the UN and other international organisations.

Among the topics under discussion are the recognition of pastoralists in national policies and governance; the relationship between pastoralists and agriculturalists; access to basic services; vulnerability to disasters, gender-balanced development, as well as the promotion of livestock development.

“The idea of this workshop is to make sure the policy framework that will eventually emerge will be comprehensive,” Modibo Traore, the director of the AU Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, said. “This is the very first step of this process; at the end of it, we hope it will be possible to have some success stories that we can learn from in formulating the pastoralist policy.”

An AU heads of state summit, scheduled for 2008, will discuss the policy framework emerging from this process, Traore said. He added that other workshops would be held incorporating more stakeholders, especially those representing agriculturalists. Most conflicts in Africa’s pastoralist areas involve disputes with agricultural communities over resources such as water and land for grazing.

Give peace a chance

A pastoralist from Sudan, Haroun El-Tayeb Haroun, said peace was the most important issue for Sudanese pastoralists.

“We want peace to be a reality in Sudan,” he said. “Often, conflict in most parts of the country boils down to conflict between pastoralists and agriculturalists; if peace were achieved, pastoralists would not be as marginalised as they are now.”

Haroun, a member of the Sudan Pastoralist Union, said he hoped the workshop would help give pastoralists greater recognition and voice across the continent.

“This workshop reflects many of the problems that Africa faces; we hope that the process we have started today will help us find the solutions to these problems, especially those facing pastoralists.”

Source: IRIN