There is increasingly robust scientific evidence to show that pastoralism — extensive livestock production in the rangelands — is one of the most sustainable food systems on the planet. Pastoralism is practiced by between 200 and 500 million people worldwide, encompassing nomadic communities, transhumant herders, agropastoralists and ranchers, many of whom are facing similar challenges in both developed and developing countries.
Pastoral livelihoods, especially in Africa, are portrayed as unproductive and environmentally destructive, leading policy makers and local authorities to inadvertently or sometimes deliberately undermine elements of pastoralism that are known to be vital for sustainability and resilience: for example herd mobility, communal resource management, and adapted local breeds. . Progress in pastoral areas generally falls behind that of other communities, creating poverty and vulnerability that undermine the sustainability of the system. More than two decades of research has provided evidence that pastoralism is economically rational and viable, and is a vital tool for poverty alleviation, and large-scale conservation and ecosystem management. This paper summarizes recent research and scientific analysis to highlight three overlooked facts, three widespread myths, four emerging issues, and a suite of options for a new development paradigm for sustainable pastoralism.
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