The case for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists

Mercredi, 20th mars 2019

Although livestock supports the livelihoods and food security of almost 1.3 billion people, its keepers, including pastoralists still feel marginalised. The Government of Mongolia and other countries are calling for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP) to increase their recognition and the importance of rangelands.


Dr Enkh-Amgalan Tseelei, Advisory Board Member of the National Federation of Pasture User Groups (NFPUG) was growing up in a countryside in Mongolia with her grandparents when she learned how to care for and protect rangelands.

“For many Mongolian herders, protecting rangelands means preserving homelands,” she recalls. Values she learned to appreciate, which inspired her to study natural resource management and rural development. Today, she is working to promote community centred rangelands management.

Support for community led rangelands management is gaining ground, particularly in important global events. It for, example centred a ministerial breakfast meeting on March 12 2019 at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA4). The International Support Group for the call for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists(IYRP), including ILC Rangelands Initiative Global partners; the UN Environment, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) organised the meeting.

Mongolia’s case for IYRP

At the gathering, Mr Tserenbat Namsrai, Minister of Environment and Tourism, Mongolia made the case for IYRP. He highlighted the importance of pastoralists and rangelands to the national economy of Mongolia. He also raised his hope that a policy and legislation being examined would be passed supporting pastoralists and rangelands.

“The rangelands protection law, which is currently being discussed in Mongolia, would create a specific and clear regulatory environment for traditional groups of herders who share the same seasonal rangelands,” says Minister Namsrai.

For over 25 years, pastoral communities have been engaging the government to pass a bill that protects their rights. “We hope that the IYRP will be a leverage for pastoral communities to influence the parliament of Mongolia to pass this rangelands law,” says Dr Enkh-Amgalan.

Shirley Tarawali, Assistant Director General at ILRI chaired the discussions, which drew approximately 60 people. Participants included ministers, ambassadors, academics, the private sector and civil society representatives.

Gap analysis on sustainability in pastoralism and rangelands

Dr Musonda Mumba, Chief of Terrestrial Ecosystem Unit, UN Environment presented a gap analysis report on rangelands it commissioned, following the passing of the resolution on combatting desertification, land degradation and drought and promoting sustainable pastoralism in 2016. The Governments of Ethiopia, Namibia and Sudan led the resolution to which the ILC Rangelands Initiative Global provided technical support.

The report highlights significant gaps in knowledge and data on rangelands. It shows that many studies tend to separate rangelands from other natural habitats and pastoralists from rural dwellers, creating information gaps.

The gap analysis features the growing pressure on land and the competition between pastoralists and mining companies. It equally finds that pastoralists have no recognition.  To reduce this, “a key recommendation of the report is to engage pastoralists in all assessments and information gathering,” says Dr Musonda.

Resolution on sustainable pastoralism and rangelands

Dr Ernest Mbogo, Deputy Director, Livestock Production-State Department of Livestock at the Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya also presented a resolution on sustainable pastoralism, which had been endorsed by members of UNEA and passed at UNEA4 on Friday, 15 March 2019. It emphasises the importance of rangelands and pastoralists, calls for support to the IYRP and action to implement the recommendations of the gap analysis. The Kenyan government with support from the Africa group and other countries led the resolution. 

Indigenous knowledge for climate change

Increasingly, new laws are outmoding local traditional methods of governing rangelands. But Aboud Gabir Saeed Fadlalah, State Minister at the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Physical Development of Sudan wants to change that. He is committed to tapping knowledge from traditional and customary frameworks to inform modern rangelands governance.

“Sudan is committed to the sustainable use of natural resources of the pastoralists and rangelands, using our laws and traditional knowledge deeply rooted in our national policies,” he tells delegates.

During the questions and answers session, delegates supported this motion. A delegate suggested pastoralists could use their traditional knowledge to plant medicinal trees to fight climate change.

Advantages of IYRP

Although pastoralism has been with us for decades, pastoralists still feel marginalised.  Another question that emerged from the questions and answers session was on the benefits of the IYRP. On this, delegates advanced several advantages, including the fact that it is going to engage pastoralists, raise their profiles and offer a platform for increased debates on how to better protect rangelands.

Ken Otieno, Technical Coordinator of ILC’s Rangelands Initiative from the Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE), emphasised the need to give life to the debate on the role of pastoralists and rangelands. To him, encouraging debates on the IYRP enables its recognition at country and continental levels. 

The meeting concluded with members agreeing to lobby the UN and national governments to give increased recognition to pastoralists and rangelands and to include them in decision making processes.


Additional Information


Fiona Flintan| Senior Scientist-Rangelands Governance including coordinator of ILC Rangelands Initiative-Global Component, the International Livestock Research Institute | |Box 5689, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|Mobile: +251 921777402

About ILC Rangelands

The Rangelands Initiative of the International Land Coalition (ILC) is a global programme facilitating learning between and providing technical support to different actors who are working to make rangelands more tenure secure. The programme works through ILC members and partners, and ILC commitment-based initiatives in Africa coordinated by the Resource Conflict Institute (RECONCILE) Kenya, in Latin America coordinated by the Foundation for Development in Justice and Peace ( FUNDAPAZ) Argentina and in Asia coordinated by JASIL Environment and Development Association Mongolia and Maldahari Rural Action Group (MARAG ) India. The global component is led by a group of core partners - ILRI, the UN Environment, IFAD, FAO, ICARDA - Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, World Resources Institute (WRI) IUCN, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the US-based Rangelands Partnership and coordinated by ILRI. The Rangelands Initiative supports ILC members and partners to develop or influence enabling policy and legislation, and to improve the implementation of policy and legislation in a manner that protects rangelands resources and supports productive and sustainable rangeland use. A key input to this is the joint identification of solutions based on innovation and good practice, through research, knowledge generation and experience sharing.

About ILC

ILC is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations working together to put people at the centre of land governance. The shared goal of ILC's over 250 members is to realise land governance for and with people at the country level, responding to the needs and protecting the rights of women, men and communities who live on and from the land.

About the IYPR

Beginning in early 2016, many organisations began working together to gain support for a United Nations designated International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP). This led to the formalisation of an IYRP Steering Committee that has spearheaded this effort by actively engaging with colleagues and interested parties around the world. The Steering Committee has coordinated numerous meetings and events and has worked with members to gain the support of their respective governments for the IYRP. One important event brought attention to this effort. The United Nations Environment Assembly conference held in Nairobi in May of 2016 (UNEA-2) included a Side Event on “Sustainable Pastoralism and the Responsible Consumption of Livestock”. The outcome of UNEA-2 was a successful resolution “Combating desertification, land degradation, and drought and promoting sustainable pastoralism and rangelands”. While this resolution did not include a provision for an International Year, it did include language calling upon organizations around the world to “contribute to raising the awareness of sustainable pastoralism and rangelands.” It also called for a worldwide gap analysis related to rangelands issues which was recently completed. Most recently, the Mongolian Government presented a request for an IYRP designation at an open session of the October 2018 Committee on Agriculture (COAG) meeting in Rome. It was formally supported by Ethiopia.