Resilient Pastoralism:Towards Sustainable Futures in Rangelands

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Geography


This project focuses on the challenges of building resilience in pastoralist communities, with reference to case study countries of Kenya & Mongolia, & to other countries in the Global South, through global pastoralist networks. Through integrating newly available remote sensing (RS) datasets, with innovative approaches & methodologies for understanding cultural dimensions, meanings & practices of resilience & evaluating barriers to research uptake & data needs of both pastoralist & policy communities, we will lay the foundations for real transformations in pastoral resilience. This is vital not only for pastoralist communities' livelihoods, but for realisation of current national economic development plans & aspirations. In order to realise our project's goals we bring together an interdisciplinary team which combines expertise in remote sensing techniques; rangeland management; socio-economics & governance of pastoralism; assessment of risk & hazard; human-environment relations in rangelands; & cultural geographies & anthropologies of pastoralism.
The wider context for this work is the importance of pastoralism as a central livelihood strategy for some 500 million people worldwide, typically in marginal dryland environments highly susceptible to climate change & who often number amongst the most vulnerable communities. Enhanced understandings of pastoral livelihoods & resilience are also central to contemporary global development priorities, as emphasised by UNEA (2016) resolution on sustainable pastoralism & by donors' positioning of contemporary pastoralism as essential to achievement of Africa 2063 as well as UN 2030 Development Agendas (FAO, 2016).
Specific challenges & issues include the lack of attention to culturally specific meanings, practices & priorities around pastoral resilience, & the linked challenge of a lack of engagement & uptake of previous research & datasets by pastoralist communities & policy-makers. There are thus marked challenges in knowledge exchange, communication & translation, which hinder local development of culturally meaningful & effective resilience & policy support for this. There is also a lack of understanding of why this is the case, in other words of what stakeholders want that is not being delivered, & how can this be addressed. Our objectives are thus i) to provide new understandings of pastoral resilience from genuinely interdisciplinary & local/indigenous perspectives; ii) to derive comparative insights into pastoral resilience across diverse countries & pastoral systems; iii) to examine & test ways to enhance relevance & uptake of datasets & outputs, including through examination of newly available remote sensing datasets & iv) through attention to cultural meanings & contexts of resilience, histories & understandings of human-nature relationships, & innovative methods, integrated with new RS datasets, to enhance understanding of barriers to & thus to enhance uptake of research data in the future, supporting positive/locally desirable dimensions of resilience.
Through realisation of these objectives, our work will benefit local pastoralist communities, through enhanced understanding & provision of data & knowledge exchange to support resilience. For policymakers, donors & NGOs our work will provide clear guidance on the information needs & requirements of pastoral communities, barriers to uptake of research outputs & how these can be overcome; policymakers will also benefit from working with the project team on application of results to specific development policies & agendas pertinent to enhanced pastoral livelihoods in the future. For all beneficiaries, but especially academics, donors & NGOs implementing work on pastoral resilience, they will benefit from the new methods & interdisciplinary approaches trialled & developed during this project. The project will also make important contributions to ongoing debates across the natural & social sciences, arts & humanities.

Planned Impact

The activities of this project impact on a range of both non-academic and academic users and over a range of timescales. Non-academic users will primarily be: members of pastoralist communities, who are seeking to enhance their own resilience in the context of natural and manmade risks: pastoralist/ rural development NGOs who are seeking to support their constituents in these efforts; and policymakers who need to find more effective ways to support the pastoral sector in order to achieve national economic development and welfare goals.
Beneficiaries and end users are already enrolled in the project as partners and will facilitate links to further beneficiaries and end users, namely specific pastoralist communities, as part of the initial and final workshops, and in the fieldwork. These will also be facilitated by the extensive networks with pastoral communities of the project PI and CO-Is, both in the UK and in-country and of the Project Partner organisations. Further engagement with pastoralist NGOs and pastoralist communities worldwide will be achieved through the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP) network. Policymakers as end users and beneficiaries will be engaged through initial consultations in the data gathering phase, invited attendance at project workshops, participation as key informants in fieldwork and through project outputs.
The project is designed to realise significant impact on the above user groups through the following activities, 1) development and testing of a new framework for understanding pastoral resilience, 2) development of innovative methods for investigating the cultural meanings of resilience, 3) testing ways in which to exploit newly available remote sensing datasets to enhance uptake and improve relevance of environmental hazard information supplied to pastoral communities, 4) enhanced understanding of barriers to uptake and methods for effective communicate of the results to end users.
The pathways to impact will be through workshops, project reports, policy briefings and outputs in the form of sample datasets for local communities and policy makers.
As a result of this work, academics in this and related fields, NGO users and policy makers will benefit from 1) a new 'pastoral resilience' framework for understanding the integrated drivers of risk and human, cultural and environmental aspects of resilience; 2) for pastoralist communities and NGOs, an understanding of the type of information that can now be made available to them from satellites on rangeland condition and how this can be linked to and interpreted through cultural meanings of and priorities for resilience; 3) for both pastoralists and policymakers, an understanding of the potential for the above to inform decision-making and response to climatic, ecosystem and human induced land-use changes; 4) clear guidance for policymakers and donors/ NGOs on the information needs and requirements of pastoral communities, barriers to uptake of research outputs and how these can be overcome; 5) for government policymakers, they will derive benefit through working with the project team on application of project results to specific policies and development agendas. For all beneficiaries, but especially academics, donors and NGOs implementing work on pastoral resilience, they will benefit from the new methods and interdisciplinary approaches trialled and developed during this project.


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