Even if mobility as a managemente strategy is widesrpread in the Eastern African region, ranching systems are much more common in the Southern African. Ranching management implies private property of the land, physical delimitation of paddocks (fencing) but still a major reliance of the naturally-produced fodder for feeding the animals. Why is ranching so common in Southern Africa, and why are those systems still relevant for an Eastern and Southern African Pastoralist Network?
Southern Africa has some indigenous peoples with a long tradition of pastoralism, including some Khoi people of which the Nama are the most relevant group, and Bantu people such as e.g. the Herero, Himba or Tswana. European colonialism in Southern Africa started before colonialism in Eastern Africa, and the mentality of Central European colonialists, not understanding the specificities of a semi-arid or arid climate, caused the forced settlement of many peoples and the structuration of the landscape in paddocks.
Such practices have revealed to be ineffective, not only from the natural resource management point of view - pastoralist systems are known to be much more productive than ranches, and Southern Africa has been victim of widespread land degradation. On the social aspect, the creation of big ranches to control the spread of diseases that undermine exports has further marginalized small livestock keepers and lowered their profit margins.
However, this has triggered innovation in the region. The first experiences of re-communalizing the management of rangelands originate from the region, whereby private owners pool their land resources together to achieve a more sound natural resource management and even venture into making profit out of wildlife, be it in form of hunting or ecotourism. The Holistic Management school also originates in Zimbabwe, and achieves positive effects into the ecosystem that are similar to migrating herbivores, but in a fenced setting. Other initiatives promote the transformation of livestock products in the countries of origin, making it unnecessary to prevent the spread of diseases through habitat fragmentation and increasing the added value achieved in origin.
While livestock movement doesn't take place at the scale as it does further north, communal management and often also tenure, pro-poor livestock initiatives and innovations in pastoralist income make Southern African ranches an area of interest for ESAPN. Challenges and constraints faced by extensive livestock keepers here are similar to the rest of the region or worldwide, and an awareness of pastoralist identity has to be increased in order to improve advocacy, in an area where pastoralists are not conscious about their own livelihood and about the shared agenda with pastoralists worldwide. ESAPN is working firmly towards these goals.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Att 3.0 (Willem van Aken, CSIRO)