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National statements

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - Africa: resilience, traditional knowledge and capacity building for pastoralist communities

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Climate
  • Ethiopia
  • Humanitarian
  • Kenya
  • Mali
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Women


Statement by Ms Alison Chartres, Counsellor (Development), Australian Mission to the United Nations

Thank you Mr Chairman

Through centuries of experience, pastoralists have developed a strong indigenous knowledge of the landscape and climate variability, which forms the basis of a vibrant and resilient culture and livelihood.

Mobile pastoralism can be both economically and ecologically efficient, allowing pastoralists to sustainably exploit fragile, dryland environments to produce meat and milk in areas where few crops can grow.

However, despite the advantages, pastoral systems today are struggling to provide and sustain livelihoods. Chronic marginalisation, insecurity, land tenure, poor infrastructure and limited commercialisation combine to undermine pastoralism.

Traditional pastoralist communities are some of the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised.

Many communities face high risks of malnutrition, low rates of education and literacy and limited access to services. Many live below the poverty line. And as we have heard so articulately this afternoon, pastoralist women face particular challenges, and have an urgent need for better support and economic opportunities.

We also know that traditional pastoralist communities in Africa have enormous resilience and coping capacities. We need to build on this knowledge to help create and strengthen alternative livelihood opportunities in a way that is connected to 'place' and traditional practices.

We also need to help build the capacity and accountability of governments to protect the well-being of their traditional nomadic populations.

Mr Chairman

The Horn of Africa crisis of 2011 highlighted the importance of building the resilience, livelihoods and long term food security of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities.

Australia's humanitarian response to the crisis, valued at over $100 million since 2011, is complemented by aid programs that are helping to build community resilience and long-term food security across sub-Saharan Africa. These programs also reflect our own experiences with dryland agriculture. We are therefore helping African agricultural organisations to trial innovative approaches to increase crop outcomes and resistance to pests, and enhance livestock health.

In northern Kenya, Australia is supporting a United Kingdom-led social protection program to help reduce extreme poverty, vulnerability and hunger in traditional pastoralist communities by delivering regular, guaranteed cash transfers. The program is also working with the Kenyan Government on its policies which address marginalisation of the people in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and provide endorsement of pastoralism as a viable livelihood.

Australia is also partnering with the UK and EU to scale-up an innovative livestock insurance pilot program in northern Kenya. Based on a private-public partnership, this program represents the first provision of financial services to many of the selected communities, and has the potential to limit the loss of key livestock assets in the face of drought.

We have supported traditional pastoralist households in southern Somalia affected by the 2011 drought with cash-for-work activities, along with the treatment and vaccination of herds. This recognises that enhancing livestock health builds and retains assets and the livelihoods of Somali communities – reducing forced migration and minimizing the separation of pastoral families.

NGO projects with communities in Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya are also supporting those nomadic communities that are gradually becoming more settled, as well as helping agro-pastoralists to adopt appropriate farming technologies and practices.

Mr Chairman

These are just a few of the ways in which Australia is helping pastoralist communities in Africa to overcome poverty. By empowering these communities to apply and share their knowledge of the environment, and to create and diversify their livelihoods to withstand external shocks, we will help to build a sustainable future for all.

In closing, Australia would also like to take this opportunity to recognise the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Africa Day on the 25th of May.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 10 June 2015
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