Pastoralism in Development: a learning journey – free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

This MOOC on pastoralism in development provides an entry point for understanding pastoralism. The 15-hour course includes a rich range of teaching and learning activities. This page sets out everything you need to know.

Illustration of the outline of a herder herding their flock in front of buildings, with the words "Pastoralism in development" underneath

Quick links: Overview | Duration | Structure | What will you achieve? | Is this MOOC for you? | Learning modes/start dates | Certification | Team | Software 

Overview: build your skills to navigate the complex knowledge about pastoralism 

It’s widely recognised that pastoral development is limited by a poor understanding of pastoralism. Even the knowledge about pastoralism is entangled in misunderstanding and debate.

IIED’s MOOC provides an entry point for understanding pastoralism and a valuable tool for navigating the available knowledge. You will learn why this knowledge is so tricky to navigate and become equipped with the right tools to negotiate it. Crucially, you will be able to apply the practical learning from the course directly to your own work.

Course duration

The MOOC consists of three modules with each module divided into five units. Each unit should take you about an hour to complete.

Design and structure

The course includes a rich range of teaching and learning activities including animation, video, interviews, discussion and interactive exercises as well as practical assessments to track your progress. The course is learner-centred, based on the principle of self-discovery.

Module 1 gives a general overview of the knowledge about pastoralism in the context of economic/international development and alerts you, the ‘traveller’, to the treacherous nature of its landscape. This covers: 

  • What do you already know about pastoralism?
  • Pastoralism in the world
  • Pastoralism and development, and
  • Pastoralists' voices.

Module 2 will provide you with minimalist orientation equipment to enable you to move safely through the landscape. This covers:

  • Understanding nature and variability
  • Making variability work
  • Stable outputs from unpredictable inputs
  • Mobility, and
  • Climate change.

Module 3 will take you on a tour of ‘tricky spots’ and hard-to-negotiate passages. It will provide you with a space to test your new equipment and you’ll get familiar with using it. You'll also find out more about some of the most common challenges ‘out there’. This module covers: 

  • Representing pastoralism
  • All the fault of climate change?
  • Markets, gender and settlements, and
  • Modernisation and youth.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you will: 

  • Be aware of the complexity of the knowledge about pastoralism, including gaps and pitfalls
  • Have identified your own assumptions about pastoralism and their potential impact on your work 
  • Appreciate the underlying logic of pastoralism – based on engaging positively with the high levels of unpredictable variability in the natural environment
  • Be able to find, critique and navigate information available and use this skill as a compass for your own practice, and
  • Become more conversant with the political dimensions of pastoralism, and more aware of the relevance of pastoralism to current and future challenges in the face of climate change.

Is this MOOC for you? 

The MOOC is aimed at people coming to work on pastoralism for the first time, be it from the world of development or research. It will also be of interest to those with previous experience of moving across the landscape of ‘pastoralism in development’, who are looking for points of reference and clearer directions.

The MOOC is designed primarily for practitioners and students but will also appeal to people wanting to articulate the logic of pastoralism to policymakers, administrators and the wider public: pastoralist civil society organisations, lobbying groups and journalists. 

Two learning modes: tutor-assisted or self-learning

A guided version of the MOOC ran from 30 January 2023 for a three-week period. In this version, a global team of volunteer tutors with expertise in pastoralism provided guidance and advice and facilitated interactive group discussions.

A self-learning version was launched in early October 2023.


During the course you will need to complete end-of-module tests, complete all the exercises and participate actively in the course discussions. On successful completion of these requirements, you will receive a digital certificate.  

Meet the team

The team behind this course have decades of expertise in drylands and pastoral development, including specialism in pastoral production strategies, policy-oriented research, and design and implementation of policy-oriented training programmes on the dynamics of pastoralism.

To help set the strategic direction, the team has drawn on the expertise of an advisory group comprising scholars and experts in pastoralism from around the world. 

What software or tools do you need?

The course is hosted on the 'Moodle' learning management system platform. It is accessible in all web browsers and on all desktop and mobile devices.