VIRTUAL CONFERENCE ON “COVID-19 IMPLICATIONS ON PASTORALISM IN AFRICA” SUCCESSFULLY ORGANIZED BY AU SAFGRAD ON MAY 20, 2020
On May 20, 2020, AU-SAFGRAD organized a Video Conference that aimed at tabling reflections on the implications of Covid-19 on pastoralism development in Africa. The video conference brought together more than hundred participants including RECs, international organizations, pastoralism practitioners/associations and livestock experts.
The meeting was structured around the following specific thematic areas such as “the crisis of pastoral development”, “a crisis in the crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic in pastoral areas/ communities”, “policy responses in support of pastoral development: lessons from the covid-19 pandemic”.
Each thematic area was developed by key speakers and was followed by a general discussion involving all participants.
In his welcome address, Dr. Elmekass, AU SAFGRAD Coordinator, highlighted the main challenges facing the pastoralists in Africa as well as the relation between herders and farmers communities and its impact on salience of gun in Africa.
Mr. Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS commission, discussed the impact of COVID 19 on pastoralism highlighting the disruption in the livestock value chain, the restriction of movements of animal herds across national borders, restriction of livestock trade. He also discussed the disruption of lives and livelihood of pastoral communities. Mr. Abakar Mohamed from ECCAS recognized the critical challenges facing pastoral communities in the Central Africa region. Mr. Japheth Kasimbuof ICPALD/IGAD focused on the implications of the pandemic on the seasonal cross-border mobility of pastoralists in IGAD Region. The main challenges and also opportunities were highlighted. The main covid19 negative effects on pastoralism in IGAD region include: increased conflicts over natural resource, disrupted input supply chains and service provision through, restricted movements and border crossing, market closure and declining slaughter in major urban areas. Nevertheless, some positive impact of covid19 could be seen as livestock demand to Middle East countries increased approximately 4 times compared to 2019.
Boureima Dodo, RBM Network, brought the perspective of pastoral organizations on the effects of the pandemic on pastoral communities. He mentioned that pastoral communities were already deeply affected by the context of terrorism in the Sahel region. The sudden surge of the pandemic made things worse for pastoral activities. The policy responses by governments focused on lockdown measures and affected mainly the internal and transboundary mobility of pastoralists, while conflicts between local communities over access to natural resources continued being an issue of major concern.
Mr. Velasco Gil Gregorio, Coordinator of the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub at FAO considered that it is too early to have clear evidence on impact of this crisis in pastoral areas as the data collection is still in process by different initiatives. From the information collected and seen in different documents and communication made by stakeholders, the impacts are very context specific depending on the measures taken by different governments and administrations.
Dr Ibrahima Aliou of APESS discussed possible responses to the pandemic from the perspective of pastoral organizations. From his point of view, if the COVID-19 crisis goes beyond end of May with borders being closed, the crisis will have a major impact on the lives of pastoralists and their families. The effects will intensify even more and will impact the lives of pastoralists for a long time.
The general discussion went around different points of interest including the persistence of conflicts in the pastoral areas despite the pandemic, the issue of the livestock market closing, the call for RECs to advocate for a reopening of the borders, the opportunity for African countries to exchange among them over the Covid-19 pandemic context…
After a couple of hours of intense exchanges, the participants to the virtual conference agreed that actions and recommendations should be taken in term of policies and responses contextualized to fit into national frameworks, while assuring compatibility with public health measures to suppress COVID-19 transmission. Implementing these actions will require international coordination and resources.
The recommended measures include, among other, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists beingclassified as vulnerable and be targeted with public funded social safety nets including cash transfers, cash for public works and later livestock insurance, the need to put in place an infrastructure for monitoring, researching and preventing reverse zoonosis of COVID-19 pandemic, the need to ensure that the Governments set up at their level an Emergency Fund for the revival of livestock farming in order to provide material support to breeders to rebuild their herd and resume breeding. Another important recommendation concerns the current projects and programs that need to be reoriented and adapted to the context of COVID 19 and new projects / programs designed to support and strengthen the adaptation of breeders and actors in the agro-pastoral sector to the harmful effects of COVID-19.
In a view of above three specific sets of immediate measures are currently need to mitigate the impact of COVID19 on pastoralism. These includes measures to protect pastoralism and its market, measures to maintain processing and retail operations and financial measures.