In a rapidly changing world, the resilience of pastoral livestock systems in Africa is increasingly crucial. These systems have a history dating back 7,000 years, evolving to adapt to climate change. Covering 43% of the continent, pastoralists not only contribute significantly to the environment but also play a vital role in the economies of many African nations. Despite their immense contributions, pastoralists remain marginalized and their efforts often unrecognized.
In view of the critical role that pastoralism plays in climate change initiatives, the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources collaboration with Strathmore University and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) are implementing an initiative known as the African Pastoral Markets Development (APMD) Platform. This represents a significant stride towards addressing the pressing challenges faced by pastoralist communities. The primary goal of APMD is to support pastoral systems in Africa by enabling market access and facilitating policy and data actions.
One key aspect of this initiative is the commitment to moving pastoral communities from the periphery to the forefront. This involves leveraging their potential and addressing their unique needs. It further seeks to enhance market linkages and encourage private sector engagement while promoting an enabling policy environment. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of data management and sharing and strives to create a conducive environment for pastoralism. Importantly, the project is dedicated to preserving the rich involvement of women and youth in pastoral communities.
At the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit, the partners held a panel discussion on the need recognize and the gravity of the challenges facing pastoral systems. to support them to enhance resilience. Often, pastoralists lack social support and face challenges in achieving sustainability. Promoting market access and improving the entire value chain is essential. Despite informal livestock production and trade contributing to a substantial market, pastoral regions remain neglected for investments.
While opening the event, AU-IBAR’s Director noted that it is important to empower pastoral communities to be stewards of the environment, acknowledging their often overlooked yet substantial contributions: “The APMD initiative is dedicated to pastoralism and is committed to elevate these communities from the sidelines. This initiative focuses on harnessing their potential and addressing their unique needs, fostering robust market linkages and private sector engagement, promoting an enabling policy environment while creating a conducive atmosphere for pastoralism. Additionally, the project aims to safeguard the active participation of women and youth."
Professor Ahmed Elibagy, AU-IBARs expert Animal Production and Natural Resource Management and the lead for the project noted that Pastoral frameworks and national adaptation plans have often not adequately addressed the specific challenges faced by pastoralists or identified effective pathways for their development: “Demand for meat and milk in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase significantly by 2050. There’s need to for sustainable pastoral livestock production in the continent.”
Among the challenges discussed during the panel were the impacts of climate change, the need for better social support systems, and the undervaluation of pastoral trade. The importance of preserving indigenous climate-adaptive practices on marginal lands was emphasized, as they contribute to carbon sequestration and the management of arid and semi-arid regions.
To address these challenges, APMD seeks to coordinate policy, engage the private sector, and support data ecosystem development to improve market integration, livelihoods, and resilience for pastoralists. This initiative aims to enhance the quality, productivity, and consistency of pastoral livestock supply to meet growing demand for climate-adaptive, affordable animal-sourced foods, thereby improving pastoralist livelihoods, well-being, and resilience while contributing to sector GDP.
Ultimately, APMD and initiatives like it recognize the crucial role pastoralists play in Africa's sustainable development. By sharing experiences and lessons learned from various parts of the continent paves the way for thriving, innovative pastoralist communities that contribute significantly to Africa's development narrative.
The APMD Platform is not a standalone initiative, it draws valuable lessons from other successful platforms in the global health and development space. These insights will guide the structure, roles, and activities of the platform, ensuring that it operates efficiently and effectively. The platform is poised to make a lasting impact on the livelihoods and resilience of pastoralist communities across the African continent through sustainable solutions.