The first edition of the regional pastoral economy conference kicked off yesterday in Lodwar. The three-day conference, with the theme – ‘Future of Pastoralism in Changing Dynamics of Turkana County’, seeks to understand pastoralism as it applies in today’s world as well as exploits the changes as opportunities.

The event will cover several topics on community in terms of culture, education, community vs private land, natural resources management e.g rangelands and extractive like oil and minerals and gaps in development in terms of uplifting the pastoralists’ livelihood.

Speaking at the opening of the conference and exhibition, County Executive Committee member Chris Aletia said: “The future of pastoralism that is the component we are focusing on today. We have to define pastoralism or how do we change the definition? This because of climate change, development changes, issues of extraction of minerals, environmental issues and abundant underground water. These might change the narrative.”

This regional conference has brought together academia, researchers, stakeholders, practitioners, Non-governmental organisations and communities in the agricultural sector – in particular those interacting with pastoralists – to share experiences and lessons learnt as well as create/strengthen networks and linkages with other participants in region.

According UNDP Human Development Report 2007/08, Kenya’s Pastoral Economy in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) accounts for 90 percent of all employment opportunities. In Turkana, it accounts for over 70 percent. However, due to “changing dynamics” or changing environment especially the privatisation of the once communal-owned land and effects of climate change which has limited livestock mobility and availability of pasture.

“An integrated approach needs to be employed to reclaim more of the degraded rangelands and also ensure pasture diversity in the county. After going through the paper titles of this conference I am sure that sustainable utilization of rangelands and the resources thereon will be adequately addressed,” in the Deputy Governor’s speech, read by the Finance CEC Robert Loteleng’o.

Pastoralists are more than ever facing challenges and they are not limited to constrain herd mobility, loss of pasture lands, increased insecurity, lack of pastoral labour and renewed conflicts with neighbours both within the borders and regionally. However, the conference gives the opportunity for the participants to provide a way forward.

“We need to come up with outcomes that are realistic, practical and tangible to able to exploit the changes to turn them into opportunities for pastoralism,” said Dr. Michael Eregae, Chief Officer of Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services.
The conference has been organised by County Government of Turkana in collaboration with GIZ, Kenya Forestry Research Institute, Turkana University College, USAid,Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH) and Mercy Corps.