Transhumance Protocol

The IGAD region is characterized by arid and semiarid landscapes and environments particularly in the border areas. The border communities in the region have evolved livelihood systems such as pastoralism and agro-pastoralism that are suited to the ASAL conditions. However, this pattern of livelihood is increasingly coming under threat despite the fact that migration in search of water and pastures is central to their survival. The combined effects of among others, insecurity and conflicts, restriction of their mobility, inadequate land security, pastoralism land alienation for other economic activities and adverse climate variability have directly affected the pastoralists’ livelihoods.

Livestock constitutes a major economic, social and cultural facet of life for over 250 million people of the IGAD region. The region has about 520 million livestock of which 242 million (35%) are small ruminants. Majority of these animals are reared under a transhumant system that requires regular seasonal migration between feeding and watering grounds. Transhumance is a net contributor to the economies of the IGAD Region and not just a taker. Evidence shows that transhumance contributes 6-10% of the GDP of these economies. The Region has a significant number of pastoralists, which calls for enhanced governance of Transhumance. The region normally exports about 12.8 million heads of sheep and goats as well as 60,000 tons of meat every year.

The pastoralist way of life is defined by mobility as transhumant communities move with their livestock mainly to access water and pasture. Mobility has been a core-adaptation mechanism in pastoral livelihood system and a crucial aspect of risk management in the harsh and unpredictable environments. However, restriction on mobility of pastoral communities and their livestock, conflicts and stricter cross-border control and defective tenure policies pose threats to sustainability of pastoral livelihoods. There is an intricate balance that must be met to sustain the fragile but yet adaptive pastoral ecosystem on water, pasture, peace and disease control. In the 21st century, transhumant communities are not only living in a ‘shrinking’ world characterized by the re-emergence of walls and other barriers; but also, a world where cross-border mobility is increasingly being perceived as a security threat. Pastoral communities in this region are increasingly finding themselves in the cross-hairs of negative perceptions as both an environmental and a national security threat.  Pastoralists in the IGAD region and indeed the African continent are assailed from all sides by population pressure as a result exponential growth, rapid expansion of transport infrastructure, improvements in crop production technology, the growth of manufacturing industries, discovery of mineral and fossil fuel deposits in rangelands, in addition to climate change and destructive environmental management practices. Never has the need to safeguard access to natural resources by pastoralists been more acute.

In order to address these challenges and protect pastoral ecosystem within its Member States, the IGAD Member States have adopted a Transhumance Protocol that will facilitate formal livestock cross-border mobility in the region. The Protocol on Transhumance is a calculated response to allow free, safe and orderly cross-border movement of herders and their livestock to access water and pasture, to commit IGAD Member States to invest and channel adequate resources to pastoral areas, improve surveillance & monitoring of transhumant herds – thus promoting cohesion and preventing pastoral conflicts, enhance access to socials services including education, health and other basic services, and to harmonize national laws and policies related to transhumance.

The need for the transhumance protocol in the IGAD region is premised on the understanding that migration in search of pastures and water is paramount to the very survival of pastoralist communities. Transhumance is a net contributor to the economies of the IGAD Region and not just a taker, and evidence shows that transhumance contributes 6-10% of the GDP of these economies. The Region has a significant number of pastoralists which calls for enhanced governance. Pastoral livestock supports 70% of pastoral livelihoods in the IGAD region, which is actually the only region that is self-sufficient in its needs for meat in Africa. The region exports about 12.8 heads of sheep and goats as well as 60,000 tons of meat every year. Climate change effects, especially drought put pastoralists in persistent problems and conflicts as they compete for water and pasture. As a result, pastoralists have been and will be moving with their animals and transhumance cannot be wished away in this region.

The IGAD Member States and the Secretariat have come up with various strategies to deal with the challenges posed by transhumance, including establishing ICPALD in 2012 to foster development of the livestock sector, signing of MoUs between countries on cross border animal health, mapping of transhumance routes, and integrated early warning system on climate change. The Protocol on Transhumance is a great stride towards a comprehensive response to enhance sustainable pastoral development in the IGAD region.

Through funding by European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) to promote orderly cross-border mobility and migration, regional economic integration and development, ICPALD has conducted all-stakeholders’ consultation meetings at national levels to come up with an all-inclusive Protocol on Transhumance to support development and orderly cross-border mobility of transhumance pastoralists in the region. Development of the IGAD Transhumance Protocol and a Transhumance Certificate was a very participatory process that involved robust consultations with MS between 2017 – 2020. Though faced with challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, substantive milestones were achieved with the Protocol being finally endorsed by the IGAD Committee of Ambassadors in February 2020 in Khartoum, Republic of Sudan. The endorsement was followed by development of an Implementation Roadmap and Adoption of the same by the IGAD Ministers responsible for Livestock and Pastoral Development in Entebbe, Uganda in November 2020. On 24th June 2021, the 72nd Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs adopted the regional Protocol on Transhumance and its Implementation Roadmap.

Contact Details:

Japheth Kasimbu

Transhumance Expert

IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development

Tel: +254 737 777742

Mobile: +254 721 728 771

Email: [email protected]

Kabete Vetlabs, Kapenguria Road, Off Waiyaki Way, 

P.O. Box 47824-00100, Nairobi, Kenya