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Conferences / Groningen 2

Pastoralism, sustainability and the complexity of humanitarian crises in Africa: comparative analyses and case studies

Panel in the framework of the First World Conference of Humanitarian Studies

University of Groningen , February 4th-7th 2009


David Knaute of ACTED and Sacha Kagan of the Leuphana University Lüneburg, chaired a panel on pastoralism in Africa, at the first World Conference of Humanitarian Studies. This panel highlighted the importance of pastoralism in humanitarian studies, at an event that gathered 500 humanitarian experts from around the world.


Abstracts of the papers

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Compendium of the 'Powerpoints'

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The papers as downloadable audio files

The panel hosted 7 papers, taking place over two sessions: You can download these file here-under: Please click on the links and get past the advertisements to start listening to the audio files - which you can then also download. (The files are hosted on "Zshare")...

Panel Opening - David Knaute (ACTED)

Audio file

Humanitarian crisis in pastoralist areas of East Africa: Introducing issues of global interconnectedness- David Knaute (ACTED)

Audio file

The Karamoja Syndrome: Transdisciplinary systems research informing policy and advocacy - Sacha Kagan (IKKK, Leuphana University Lüneburg)

Audio file

Development approaches, reactive aid responses and indigenous social arrangements among East African pastoralists - Wario Adano (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle-Saale)

Audio file

Karamoja: Humanitarian Outlook and Challenges towards Sustainable Improvement - Jessica Bowers (Head of Office of UNOCHA Kotido, Uganda)

Audio file

Burying the Gun: Policy Alternatives for Armed Violence Reduction in Karamoja, Uganda - Christina Yeung (Gordon Foundation fellow, Canada)

Audio file

A Struggle for Rites: Masculinity, Power and Livelihoods in Karamoja, Uganda - Elizabeth Stites (TUFTS University, Feinstein International Center)

Audio file

Pastoralism, power and choice: the vulnerability of the camel herding Rizaygat of Darfur region, Sudan - Helen Young (TUFTS University, Feinstein International Center)

Audio file



About the panel

Pastoralism is widely considered as the most appropriate mean of livelihood in arid and semi-arid lands of Africa. The lack of water and the scarcity of resources require populations to be mobile, in search of the best pastures for their herds. For the past decades, however, this way of life has been threatened by numerous factors of global change. Restricted mobility, demographic pressures, climate change and environmental destruction have all contributed to the rapid deterioration of conditions of life and the impoverishment of communities. Moreover, the recurrence of droughts in the region has caused severe humanitarian crises. In some areas, competition over land has caused the intensification of conflict between pastoralist tribes, triggered by rampant arms trafficking. Conflicts have further isolated and marginalized pastoralists, opposing them to the government and creating a vicious cycle of unsustainable development.

The panel explored the various responses to humanitarian crises affecting pastoralist regions in arid and semi-arid regions of Africa; it analyzed long-term issues of sustainability and featured the different possible scenarios for the future of pastoralism. The approach is transdisciplinary, as a way to identify the interconnections between factors of vulnerability and determine appropriate solutions for a sustainable pastoralism. Cross-cutting issues included: culture and development; the ecology of dry lands; conflict and conflict resolution; and the role of humanitarian organizations in pastoralist areas.

The panel combined the presentation of methodological tools to comprehend the complexity of the humanitarian situation in pastoralist regions; and practical examples of best practices from the field. It also incorporated the outcomes of a European student-led campaign organized throughout 2008 and early 2009.

The objectives of the panel include: raising attention about the process of marginalization of vulnerable populations; deconstructing models from a post-colonial perspective; and highlighting interdependences between pastoralist communities and the exterior world. Panel presenters, including experts, academicians and field practitioners, opened the floor to a debate and invited the audience to share their views.