Connecting agropastoral food culture research to livestock commercialisation policy

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Development Studies
Department Name: Research Department


The context of the research.
In both East and West Africa, pastoralism is an important livelihood activity. For groups such as the Fulani (West Africa) and Ilchamus (East Africa), it is an ethnoprofessional activity, sometimes combined with agriculture in agropastoralism. For many groups, pastoralism or agropastoralism entails a unique culture, many aspects of which are connected to food production, processing, exchange and consumption activities. Anthropological research has focused on agropastoralist food cultures, for example describing how cultures and practices of food production, processing, trade and consumption have adapted as pastoralist people have engaged over centuries with local and international markets, in global contexts of technological change.
In recent decades, agropastoralist livelihoods have continued to change, in the context of continent-wide agricultural policy favouring commercialisation, modernisation and formalisation of the agricultural and livestock sectors. There is a noticeable disconnect between many policies dealing with livestock sector commercialisation and modernisation, and research on agropastoralist food culture, despite the practices of production and consumption which connect them. For example, proposed commercialisation of the dairy sector is sometimes difficult to connect to gendered associations of milk trade in the cultures of people such as the Fulani. The results is that pastoralist people, and specific groups such as women or those of given ethnicities, may not fully benefit from livestock sector development, or may even be disadvantaged. So, there is a need to draw connections between research on food cultures of pastoralism and development oriented policy on the livestock sector in Africa.

The aims and objectives of the work.
This exploratory research aims to define a new research agenda for connecting policy on livestock sector development to research on agropastoralist food cultures. The project convenes a group of relevant stakeholders - policy makers and implementers, researchers, development actors, and local community representatives - from East and West Africa. Together, they co-construct understandings of agropastoral food cultures, through participatory photography and desk research on a case study of milk and the dairy sector. The results are shared in a seminar modelled on the local meeting forum, the Baraza. A Baraza entails community members and representatives, opinion leaders, policy actors and other relevant parties convening to debate issues such as policy moves, usually in a public place such as a market. Through a Baraza style seminar, the project aims to encourage these groups to work more closely together to incorporate community perspectives, and research on them, into policy making and implementation. Key messages are then shared to the wider community and policy sector. This aims to define a clearer agenda and raise support for follow-up research.

The potential applications and benefits or the research.
The short term benefit of this work is that awareness will be raised, among all groups, of the gaps that exist between research on agropastoralist food cultures, and policy approaches to livestock sector commercialisation. Community members will enhance their abilities to advocate to policy makers, and within their communities. In the medium term, policy makers will be more cognisant of how to work with research and consider culture, and researchers will have a better understanding of how to engage with policy actors on this theme. In the longer term, there may be more relevant and culturally informed policy on livestock sector commercialisation, leading to better outcomes for pastoralists.

Planned Impact

This research will immediately benefit pastoralists involved in the partnership and the participatory activities, and local and national policy actors who attend events, including the Baraza seminar. The Baraza seminar is modelled on the local forum of the Baraza, where key stakeholders meet in a public place to debate issues of public importance, such as policy implementation. The project will also directly benefit the researchers and development professionals involved, and members of the public who see the exhibition in the Kimalel cultural center or the outputs distributed in communities.

Pastoralists involved in the activities will gain an awareness of how to advocate to policy makers on the issues that concern them, including but also extending beyond consideration of their culture and livelihoods. Specific groups within pastoralist communities, for example youth or women, will enhance their abilities to advocate for themselves within their communities.

Policy actors will gain a clearer understanding of how a focus on culture could enhance policy making and implementation. This includes making development policy and its enactment more relevant to diverse groups of local people. The concerns with diversity and equity mean that the project is relevant to SDGs 5 (gender equality) and 10 (redued inequalities).

Researchers will gain an indication of which areas of work within this emerging topic deserve further attention, and will therefore be fruitful to develop. This will be based on the themes that pastoralists and policy makers prioritise in the participatory activities.

All partners will develop connections with each other, as they work together in a partnership. This means they will be equipped to work together in the future to advance the work started. This is likely to be in a more targeted form, as indicated by the concerns of practice and policy actors. It may be in a research project, but equally a policy, development or another transdisciplinary effort.

In the medium and longer term, this and its follow up projects will benefit pastoralists elsewhere (for example in Ghana), policy makers and researchers who read the project outputs, and their contacts.

When a better understanding emerges of how pastoralist cultures can be considered in livestock sector policy, pastoralists will benefit from policy approaches which consider their culture more centrally and appropriately. This could involve, for example, marketing routes which mesh with existing modes of women organising themselves, or valorisation of prevailing practice not currently encouraged in existing modern markets, such as consumption of raw milk. This could happen if Baringo county takes a lead, providing an example of how this could be done in policy. Or, the project outputs could be taken up more widely to influence policy in other locations.

This longer term, more wide ranging impact could relate to the domain of milk and dairy commercialization, if informed directly by the work carried out in this project. If future projects focus on other sectors, such as honey, impacts relevant to those specific sectors could also emerge. The focus on productive food systems means that the project is relevant to SDGs 1 (no poverty) and 2 (zero hunger), as well as the 'decent work' component of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).


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Title Photograph display 
Description The selected photographs produced in the participatory photography were printed and laminated in large format for display at engagement events 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact in use in the initial disseminhtaion workshop combined with kimalel goat auction, interest was raised for policy/ public participation in the activity 4 'baraza seminar'. impacts in the baraza workshop are yet to be noted. 
Description This was an exploratory project which aimed to encourage policy makers and implementers, researchers, development actors, and local community representatives, policy groups to work more closely together to incorporate community perspectives on agropastoralism, and research on them, into policy making and implementation on livestock husbandry. Part of the aim was to define a clearer agenda and raise support for follow-up research.
One set of findings is about participants' attitudes to culture and commercialisation. Participatory photography showed that agropastoralist producers valued aspects of their culture and were proud of links between their identity and traditional food products. Simultaneously, they ascribe strongly to ideas about the desirability of modernisation, commercialisation and intensification and want to be included in these processes. They perceive that they are excluded from participating in markets by ineffective implementation of stated policy objectives. Policy actors did not express appreciation of cultural aspects of food value chains in an official capacity, but did in a personal capacity. There were differences between policy and producer perspectives of how far commercialisation policies were working - producers felt that the policies were not being well implemented, policy actors claimed they were helpful. In workshops, perceptions were expressed that there could be a degree of convergence between ideas of the cultural value of dairy and honey products, if they could be marketed on the basis of their cultural value. This was an aspiration. Theoretically, this shows that the theories and ideas of alternative food networks can be applicable to African contexts, and that it is worth investigating how far the practice may be so. Yet, it remains clear that the development of commercial aspects of alternative food systems remains dependent on appropriate infrastructural provision.
The basis was laid for more communication between policy actors at the local level, and community members, on the agenda of culturally relevant local markets. It was clear that communication on this issue would continue to be characterised by distrust, but the project achieved an unusual meeting between these stakeholders, and so succeeded in developing relationships to some degree, as well as raising the idea of culturally relevant markets, which had not been formerly considered.
Political churn meant that the relationships between development partners, researchers and community members, and between different communities, were more likely to be sustainable than relationships between policy actors and community members.
Exploitation Route The findings provide empirical evidence that the theory of Alternative food networks may be applied to food systems in the global south. This is useful for scholar seeking to open this avenue of enquiry, but also for activists who may be seeking to establish some of the practical aspects of alternative food networks on the continent. The latter learn that there may be opportunities to promote product to which value has been added on account of their non-tangible properties.
Practitioners - and development actors who may be seeking to support them - gain knowledge about the circumstances under which it may be worth investing in higher production, or value added traditional products - namely, where appropriate infrastructure exists to make markets viable and translate demand into sales.
Policy actors gain confirmation of the interventions that deserve most focus if higher production is to be encouraged and market access proposed: these are infrastructural improvements like roads and electrification for refrigeration. These are more important than implementing initiatives to raise production or promoting a certain type of market.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

Description Project participants have understood that they can use visual methods to advocate for themselves. We ourselves used our findings to win new funding. Because of political turnover, it is hard to follow up on use of the results at the county policy level, but at least 2 policy actors we engaged with discussed valorisation and commmercialisation of heritage products as viable policy focuses. Partner The Source Plus has used the FGDs to understand more about crafts in the communities and commit funding to small businesses based on these. The Ilchamus producer group established their own cooperative called Eldume farmers' cooperative.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

Description Pan-African network for the arts in environmentally sustainable development
Amount £130,504 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/W006642/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2021 
End 01/2023
Title Collection of FGD transcripts and photographs from participatory photography; minutes from the Baraza workshop; interviews with key informants, and literature reviews on the study contexts. ReShare 
Description Collection of FGD transcripts and photographs from participatory photography; minutes fromthe Baraza workshop; interviews with key informants, and literature reviews on the study contexts. To be published on ReShare 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact tbd - to be done after making public on reshare 
Title Participatory photography photographs and explanatory transcripts from analysis FGD in marigat and marigut, dec 2021 
Description A set of digital photos, a sub-set of which were chosen for deep explanation by photographers. For the subset, a facilitated fgd was held where photographers and their neighbours explained the photos according to an adpated participatory photography analysis procedure. This resulted in a transcript associated with each photograph, and a caption written by the photogapher. Full transcripts of the focus groups are also available with 2 additional sections of discussion which is more loosely related to the photographs. n.b. this will be made availabl in reshare and this record updated 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact posisble enhanced awareness by participants of their culture and its value 
Description Activity 1 Baringo county reconnaisance and workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The purpose of this activity was to introduce the project to key participants and begin to develop relationships between the project participants, and between the participants and research team.
The first part was to inform members of Theland farmers' cooperative and the Ilchamus community in Marigat and Marigut about the project, scope their interest, gain their input into the direction the project should take, and use this to inform amendments to the project. Project input was that a focus on technology, intensification and honey would be appreciated. The project was amended in response.
The second part of the activity was a meeting at the offices of the Baringo county government with the governor, which led to renewed commitment of involvement. He expressed interest in focus on technology, conventional commercialisation and intensification.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Activity 2 participatory photography 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A group of 4-6 men and women photographers in Marigat and Maregut communities were trained in participatory photography, given cameras, and asked to take a set of photos that showed their opinions and experiences of how their culture was reflected in milk production and value chains. The photographers and additional community members who they invited then participated in focus groups where they chose one photo, captioned it, and explained what it meant and why they had chosen it. The photographs then acted as entry points into more general conversation and explanations about milk value chains in Marigat and Maregut, and aspects of culture and tradition linked to milk and livestock, and more generally.
During the data analysis focus group, decisions were made by partner The Source Plus about how to support business development activities in one community, especially with women who were making traditional gourds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Agropastoralists Baraza Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The research team collated the photographs produced in activity 2 and the analysis performed in activity 3, and presented back to policy actors and commuinty members. Dialogue in the meeting was robust, with the photos acting as an oportunity for community members to give opinions that their efforts at commercialisation and production were not supported by government. County government officials responded by citing policies that had been instigated , and describing what they should have done for citizens. The meeting also served as the first occasion Arror and Ilchamus community members had met, and they compared similarities in their cultures and modes of production.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Agropastoralists conuty government feedback/ dissemination meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact TBC - meeting with county level officials to disseminate project findings and develop relationships with new administration, in anticipation of follow-up activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023