Photo: A PowerPoint slide from Dr. Hussein T. Wario’s presentation on ‘What is Pastoralism?’

            On 23 May 2024, the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission of Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and JPIC – Roma collaborated with the Maasai International Solidarity Alliance (MISA) to organize the Webinar on Linking Laudato Siwith Pastoralism. This event aimed to challenge the misconceptions of pastoralism’s ‘backwardness’ and show how it contributes to the national economy, food security, environmental protection, and cultural heritage. In celebration of the Laudato Si’ week (19-26 May), the webinar links pastoralism to Pope Francis’s social encyclical on the environment to discern how the indigenous knowledge of pastoralist communities can help us achieve a sustainable cultural ecology. The webinar also involved a scientific presentation of pastoralists’ practices to show the advantages and sustainability of pastoralism as a way of living with and conserving nature. From this theological, pastoral and scientific framework, the webinar also discussed how negotiating land use is done as an example to support pastoralists and small-scale crop farmers as part of our efforts toward people-friendly nature conservation. Given that the pastoralist lifestyle is mobile, the webinar was an opportunity to rethink development beyond its ‘territorial’ or ‘stationary’ associations by promoting multipurpose land use and mobile delivery of social services.

            Dr. Camillus Kassala, director of JPIC – TEC, gave the introductory discussion on ‘Linking Pastoralism with Laudato Si’: Discerning Cultural Ecology with Indigenous Culture’. Following the pastoral cycle see-judge-act, his presentation focused on the problem of the prevailing economic system based on consumerism that diminishes the cultural variety of ways to produce and prepare food through commercialization. Pastoral communities such as the Maasai in Tanzania are seen as an example where the government has been pressuring them to abandon their grazing lands for extractive investors whose commercial activities lead to the harmful alteration of ecosystems. The degradation of land, nature, and culture through the imposition of the dominant modern lifestyle resulted in treating land as a mere commodity instead of a gift from God and the ancestors. In response to this problem, Dr. Kassala proposed that dialogue with the indigenous communities as principal partners should be done whenever proposed projects impact their land. He also suggested that indigenous knowledge systems of pastoralist communities should be mainstreamed as a way to conserve nature as part of integral human development. Advocating for pastoralism to government authorities is thus necessary, which can be supported through the Church’s social pastoral ministry and eco-pastoral liberation theological reflections.

              After Dr. Kassala’s discussion, Dr. Hussein T. Wario, the executive director of the Centre for Research and Development in Drylands (CRDD) in Kenya, gave a presentation about ‘What is Pastoralism? Pastoralism as Nature Conservation’. As a distinct cultural identity of some indigenous communities, pastoralism flourishes in uncertain environments where crop farming is not sustainable. Nonetheless, it can produce high-quality food and other products (e.g. milk, meat, fur, hide, etc.) whenever their livestock consume plants that cannot be eaten by humans. As a sustainable livelihood in the drylands, Dr. Wario stated that pastoralism contributes to local and national economies through meat and milk production like in the case of Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, which are major exporters of pastoral livestock products. He also elaborated that pastoralism also exists in Europe like the Sámi reindeer herders in Norway, Finland and Sweden. In these cases, pastoralists experience challenges brought by the lack of policies that support them, popular misconceptions about their ‘backwardness’, dispossession of land, and assimilation into mainstream culture. With these issues, Dr. Wario called for the need to support pastoralism since it can co-exist with other multiple uses of land and contribute to the larger economy. He further stated that pastoralists should be given Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) whenever there are policies that would affect their way of life.

            The third speaker, Glory Mdindile, an advocacy officer at the Mbozi, Ileje and Isangati Consortium (MIICO) shared her experience in ‘Supporting Pastoralists and Crop Farmers in Negotiating Land Use: Tanzania’s Nature Conservation Program’. Her presentation discussed MIICO’s different approaches that helped pastoralists and farmers achieve legal land ownership as a way to fight land grabbing and bring about systemic change in governance. She mentioned eight approaches to facilitate dialogue between pastoralists and farmers: 1) Community Land Forum Approach, 2) Social Accountability Monitoring on Land (SAMLAND) Approach 3) Stakeholders Dialogue Meetings Approach 4) Alliances and Coalition Approach 5) Sanitization on Land Use Approach, 6) Authorization of Agreed Land Use Areas Approach, 7) Land Use Shift Approach, and 8) Conflict Reconciliation Meetings Approach. Through these negotiation approaches, MIICO was able to resolve a total of 5,484 hectares of land conflicts by reconciling the farmers and pastoralists in 68 pasture areas (72,124 ha) in Tanzania by acquiring Certificate of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO) for 60 villages. As concrete action, Ms. Mdindile recommended the need to sensitize pastoralists to buy land for pastures, adhere to village laws, conduct planning and awareness on where to find future grazing areas, and advocate for the government to allocate ranches for pastoralists in every village.

Dr. Lawrence S. Pedregosa

AEFJN Advocacy and Communication Officer