According to studies, more than 15 percent of Ethiopians live in the lowland part of the country and earn their living from the pastoral way of life.
The main livestock resources are cattle, camels, sheep and goats. But due to the sector's vulnerability to drought and diseases, its capacity to generate revenue to the nation is hampered. On the other hand, the expansion of vast sugar cultivation in pastoral areas is shrinking the size of grazing lands and restricting the movement of cattle.
Tezera Getahun is a Director of Pastoralist Forum Ethiopia. He had worked in pastoral fields for the last 30 years. As to him, it is impossible to separate pastoralists from the land because they are integrated in one way or another.
The pastoral way of life combines three things which are part of natural resources- the land which comprises forage, the environment and animals.
In these interactions, the animals depend on the natural resources which means animals are the product of the natural interaction. Among the other things vital for the existence of pastoral way of life are pastoralists and their institutions.
There is division of labor in the community based on gender which is determined by the institution. Therefore, to lead the community towards progress in a viable manner, considering such traditional structure is vital.
In the past, when development scheme was planned, attention was only paid to the natural resources irrespective of the human aspect of the community. Projects also focused on animals irrespective of the natural resources.
Therefore, bringing attitudinal change in this regard is vital and whenever development plan with regard to the pastoral community is prepared, considering these realities is essential.
Studies indicate that, 40 percent of the nation live stock is found in the pastoral areas. It contributes 10 percent to the Growth Domestic Production hence, to make the sector competent in the international market, more effort is needed.
According to the WUSB international none governmental study report published in 20 17, the wealth generated directly from hide and skin, meat and milk is valued to total 11 billion Birr.
On the other hand, the IGAD 2011EC report based on the assessment of the wealth in 2008 and 2009 EC, the value of the livestock is estimated to be 113 billion Birr. This indicates that immense wealth which underpin poverty alleviation can be generated from the sector.
Pastoralism not only utilize natural resources such as forage and water but play crucial role in protecting biodiversity and balancing the ecosystem. The recent findings indicated that, in poverty reduction scheme in the pastoral areas 48 percent of the plan is achieved. Hence, for more achievement more work has to be done.
But with regard to improving the way of life of the pastoralists' community In Afar region, the achievement is 18 percent while in the Somali region it is 26.These also indicate how the level of development is low.
Based on the 2018 GC study which considers the number of population both the Afar and the Somali regions, the sector is critically hit by drought and poverty. Even though investments are growing in other sectors, these part of the country is still neglected.
With regard to access to land and use rights, there is no tangible documents which indicate about how the resource is managed but according to Tezera in 2009 EC almost 90 thousand hectare of land was given to the sugar plantation project in Afar region. But it is unknown whether it is properly cultivated or not. Some studies indicate that, the situation forced pastorals to change their way of living in to the none pastoral which is odd to them.
In the recent development, in the Southern Nation Nationalities and Peoples region more than 245 thousand hectares of land formerly used by pastorals is given to the sugar projects.
It is also difficult to know whether pastorals are benefit from the projects or not. It is obvious sugar development projects help to generate revenue to the nation but at the same time paying attention to the fate of the community affected by the projects is essential.
Among the 9 National Parks in Ethiopia, 5 of them are located in the nearby to the pastoral communities areas and the relation between the parks managers and the community characterized by uneasiness.
The situation in the Mago National Park can be the case in point. Pastorals used the forest in the park for honey production but mostly confrontation occurs with the security guards when they harvest honey. Even some times, the guards confiscate the product and forced them to leave the place and whether their action is supported by law or not is clear.
It is proved that, Producing honey is part of the means of living of the pastoral community for many centuries in that area. The expansion of ranches and military camps also put pressure on the pastorals lands.
According to the pastorals rights proclamation article 45, it is impossible to evict the pastorals from their lands without the consent and the necessary compensation but remains on paper.
The recent policy ratified by the Council Ministers indicates the pastorals rights in using the land but the gap is witnessed in enforcing the law.
As to Tezera, the pastoral policy stipulates that every development scheme implemented in the community must consider their needs. In the last 50 years, new thinking with regard to pastoralism is surfaced which has two pillars and relies on accepting the pastoral way of life as a norm.
Previously, accepting this reality was abnormal and the practices of moving live stalks from place to place was controversial. Because it was believed movements of cattle from place to place was exhaustive and rearing cattle with reduced number in one place was recommended as a way out.
But currently it is proved that, moving from place to place is natural and helps to facilitate soil elements interaction which boosts its productivity for forage production. The new Ethiopian pastoral policy document recognizes this reality.
The other idea which is gaining momentum is that, the land utilized by the pastorals should be clearly defined and the idea is taken by the Federal land utilization and administration as input for policymaking.
Currently, providing basic infrastructures to the pastoral communities in all parts of the country such as education and health is undergoing but with regard to land-owning seems a long way to go.