Pastoralism and policy training: addressing misconceptions and informing dialogue

With partners in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Sahel and Sudan, IIED has co-developed training programmes on pastoralism and policy to amplify pastoralists’ voice in policy formulation and help policymakers draft policies that support pastoralism.

1998 to December 2022
Ced Hesse

Senior fellow, Climate Change; team leader, climate resilience, productivity and equity in the drylands

Drylands: building climate resilience, productivity and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to act on the implications of climate change for equitable and climate resilient development in the drylands
Pastoralists pull water from a well near Denan in the Somali Region of Ethiopia for their camels. (Photo: Andrew Heavens, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Pastoralists pull water for their camels from a well near Denan in Ethiopia’s Somali Region (Photo: Andrew Heavens, Creative Commons via Flickr)

Paradoxically, pastoralists are one of the world’s most researched, yet least understood, groups. Policymakers consistently ignore scientific evidence on the sustainability of pastoralism and well-adapted local institutions and management strategies that take advantage of high resource variability and diversity.      

The training aims to help decision makers and planners understand the scientific rationale that underpins sustainable pastoralism. It also strengthens pastoralists and their advocates’ skills for articulating the economic, ecological and social benefits of their livelihood systems and arguing for their inclusion in national policy.

The training

The training neither prescribes solutions nor promotes specific policy options. Rather, it uses scientific evidence, case studies and participants’ experience to facilitate informed debate on policy provision and development interventions that will strengthen pastoralist strategies for exploiting the drylands’ highly variable and diverse conditions to lead sustainable livelihoods under increasingly unpredictable conditions due to climate change.               

It shows that, far from being outmoded and uneconomic, pastoralism is highly dynamic and intricately linked to the modern world, contributing significantly to national, regional and international markets in Africa, the Middle East and beyond. It also shows how supporting pastoralism in Africa requires fresh thinking and clear understanding, not huge resources.

With regional modifications, the training broadly comprises:      

Module 1

Dynamics of pastoral systems: Exploring the internal logic of pastoral systems, this module demonstrates how variability and diversity in resources – particularly water and nutritious pastures – is the norm in the drylands. It also shows that, as well as managing climate and other risks, pastoral production strategies can proactively harness variability to their advantage.

Challenging the assumption that it is inherently vulnerable to climate change, this module explores what pastoralism can teach us about managing the increasing variability and unpredictability caused by climate change.

Module 2

Policy challenges and options: Since colonial times, successive policies have sought to change pastoral systems through a lens of ‘modernity’ largely imported from Europe and the United States, mostly with disastrous effects. This module examines past and current policy and ongoing drivers of change – including decentralisation, privatisation and foreign investment in land and natural resources – and the constraints and opportunities they present for pastoral communities.

By learning to identify and analyse the key premises underpinning dryland policies, and to generate arguments and alternative policy options based on what they learnt in module 1, participants will be able to make informed, positive contributions to policy dialogue and formulation.

Module 3

Advocating for change: Covering key actors, their roles, the policymaking cycle and crucial issues when advocating for change, this module shows that policy advocacy does not follow clear, linear processes and procedures. Rather, it is highly dynamic and often responds to changing politics and power relations. 

A timeline: how the training developed

The Sahel (1998-2002): IIED worked with partner Associates in Research and Education for Development (Ared) to develop a pastoralism and policy training course for the Sahel, producing French language and Pulaar versions. Several organisations delivered this training until 2002 and Ared still delivers it today on demand

Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda (2001-03): Inspired by the Sahel experience, we supported partners to adapt the training for East Africa, producing a two-week course ‘Pastoralism and Policy in East Africa’. The Tanzania-based MS Training Centre for Development Cooperation, which ran the course on a cost-recovery basis until 2010, also developed a Kiswahili version in 2009 to support local government climate-resilient development planning in the drylands. 

From 2006, we worked closely with the Feinstein International Centre of Tufts University to adapt and institutionalise the training in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda.
Ethiopia (2006-15): After adapting the course to Ethiopia, we developed a pool of national trainers who still offer the training on demand. Jigjiga, Bule Hora and Samara universities subsequently integrated it into their graduate and postgraduate courses and we co-developed 'Pastoralism and pastoral policy in Ethiopia: a textbook for common course 2015', the first of its kind.      
Sudan (2011-13): With the Feinstein International Centre of Tufts University, the Nomadic Development Council, SOS Sahel Sudan and the United Nations Environment Programme, we adapted the training for the Sudan, producing English and Arabic versions of the modules and training manuals. A small team of accredited trainers still offers the training on a demand-led, cost-recovery basis.

This video tells the story of the first workshops of the process of adapting the training course to the Sudan context

Uganda (2017-19): With the Feinstein International Centre of Tufts University, Gulu and Makerere Universities and the Karamoja Development Forum, we adapted the training for Uganda, also producing a text book for us by the universities. Gulu University has integrated it into a masters’ course and the Karamoja Development Forum adapted it for delivery to local government actors and community members. Drawing on Sudan’s experience, we are establishing a team of trainers to deliver training on a demand-led, cost-recovery basis. Watch a video below on the experiences in Uganda.

For more information

A pool of trainers can offer the training on a demand basis. To find out what is available, please contact the relevant person from the list below:

Additional resources

Video: Pastoralism and policy training in Kenya (2022)

Certification test training for adaptation and roll-out of pastoralism and policy course: May 27-31 2019, Moroto, Uganda (PDF) (2019), Karamoja Resilience Support Unit report

Fifth training of trainers workshop for roll-out of pastoralism and policy course: April 15-19 2019, Entebbe, Uganda (PDF) (2019), Karamoja Resilience Support Unit report

Video: Pastoralism and Policy Course, Uganda (2019)

Fourth training of trainers workshop for roll-out of pastoralism and policy course: February 4-8, 2019, Jinja, Uganda (PDF) (2019), Karamoja Resilience Support Unit report

Video: Developing the Pastoralism and Policy Course for Karamoja (2018)

Third training of trainers workshop for roll-out of pastoralism and policy course: 29 October - 2 November 2018, Jinja, Uganda (PDF) (2018), Karamoja Resilience Support Unit report

Second training of trainers workshop for roll-out of pastoralism and policy course: 18-22 June 2018, Moroto, Uganda (PDF) (2018), Karamoja Resilience Support Unit report

Training of trainers pastoralism and policy course: 19-23 March 2018, Kampala, Uganda (PDF) (2018), Karamoja Resilience Support Unit report

Valuing variability: new perspectives on climate resilient drylands development, Saverio Krätli (2015), IIED book

Video: Pastoralism: reassessing the science, evidence and policy in Sudan (2013)

Strengthening voices: how pastoralist communities and local government are shaping strategies for adaptive environmental management and poverty reduction in Tanzania’s drylands, Helen de Jode, Ced Hesse (2011), IIED Pocketbook

Le pastoralisme au Sahel: module d'animation et de formation de l'IIED-ARED, IIED, ARED (2007), Briefing




Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (FDFA)

Danida (Danish language site)

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (previously Department for International Development)