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png5          Eastern and Southern African Pastoralists Network

ESAPN is an initiative to advocate for the rights of small livestock keepers and pastoralists in Eastern and Southern Africa.


An Eastern and Southern Africa where pastoralists, their livelihoods, communities and cultures are recognised and respected for their contribution to sustainable food systems, natural resource management, and socio-economic development



To empower pastoralists in Eastern and Southern Africa to sustainably improve productivity and livelihoods, while making their voices heard through effective communication, advocacy and legitimate demand for services and resources from policy makers


The use of the term "pastoralist" is widespread in Eastern Africa but its use is much more reduced in Southern Africa. However, in both regions we encounter siimilar systems, i.e. small livestock keepers that depend on mobility and/or communal land tenure for their livelihoods. Pastoralist livelihoods are defined as a variety of family farming where land is used communally and through mobility in order to take advantage of scattered production peaks of natural resources. Such livelihoods rely on a strong cultural basis that encompasses fundamental ecological, social and economic knowledge. It is mostly practiced on "marginal" lands that have a poor crop potential and where often animal husbandry has the main production yield. In Eastern Africa pastoralism is mostly found in arid and semiarid lands, although there are also important groups around floodplains (particularly in South Sudan). In Southern Africa drylands also dominate but there are examples of floodplains (Kafue plains in Zambia) and mountains, the latter driven by summer-winter dynamics (as in Lesotho). In all cases, the vegetation that is most palatable and nutritious for livestock appears only in restricted times of the year, and very often also scattered around the landscape. Livestock is hence searching and concentrating the resources, and also converting the non-edible celullose into very nutritious foods such as meat or milk, and other valuable products such as leather or animal fibres. Pastoralism sustains critical ecosystem functions and yields products at a low impact while sustaining biodiversity on grazing ecosystems.

Many of the so-called "marginal" lands are nowadays seen just as a store of water, minerals, salt, timber or charcoal sources, or future croplands that are awaiting capital investment or technological changes. Pastoralists are seen as people from a past time, depending on charity, instead of a more real vision of masters that arre able to produce the best out of the harshest. ESAPN gathers pastoralists and is a reference for supporting technical experts in order to identify common problems: agrobiodiversity loss, loss of access to land, lack of fundamental services - education, healthcare, market  access -, or lack of political participation and influence. The hurdles to herd management also increase their vulnerability to climate change. The network aims to achieve positive change through local, regional and global alliances.

ESAPN is supported by the support given to the Global Network of Pastoralists by the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and by the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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