Enabling pastoral communities to adapt to climate change and restoring rangeland environments

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Pastoral communities have a close relationship with the natural environment and move their livestock in relation to the availability of water and food. While pastoralists have historically had to adapt to hostile climates in Africa, due to their marginalization adaptation capacities today have been eroded. As a result, pastoralists have become even more susceptible to the impacts of climate change where drought can lead to famine and extreme poverty.

Pastoralists constitute almost 14% of the total Ethiopian population (close to 10 million people). They occupy a total area of 625,000 square kilometers in Ethiopia, which is over 60% of the country’s land mass. The pastoral areas of Ethiopia have among the highest rates of poverty and the lowest human development indices. A considerable number of pastoralists rely on food aid for survival as they suffer from chronic food insecurity.

Climate change, resulting in drought and extreme weather patterns, has reduced the basic resources of the pastoralists, including communal rangelands, and has constrained mobility and significantly reduced the number and productivity of livestock. Changes in the traditional land use systems and limited alternative livelihoods have exacerbated this situation.

The Ethiopian Government is committed to address these challenges through policy reform and targeted programmes, such as improving pastoral livelihoods and assets, improving the management of rangelands and encouraging livelihood diversification. The Joint Programme of the MDG-F contributes to strengthening capacities to implement these strategies and Programmes both at national and community levels.


Climate Change Adaptation is a critical issue in an effort to build the Green Economy. To this end, the Regional and Wereda Climate Change Adaptation Programme has been formulated as a pilot project and involves vulnerability assessments of major sectors and the technologies and measures needed for adaptation.

The process involves interventions from various stakeholders from the grassroots community level to the national policy level. The adaptation measures are also intended to influence policy level reviews at national and regional levels which address climate change impacts.


  • Mainstreaming climate change adaptation and mitigation options for pastoralists in national and sub-national development frameworks has been substantiated by the progress made in developing a climate change adaptation and mitigation strategy and action plan, which includes risk assessments and public awareness toolkits.
  • Institutional capacity building has been an achievement with the most commendable indicator being mainstreaming the programme into the governance structure with capacity building included.
  • Intervention for livelihood enhancement as an income generating activity at the community level has been started in six districts with seed money provisions, and by bringing in business development skills.
  • The impact of climate change is bringing increased vulnerability to the pastoral system in Ethiopia and in some cases women are taking up the traditional role of men, who leave the villages to seek better food sources for the animals or work outside the community. The UN Joint Programme has focused on empowering women in the whole decision-making process of the community.


  • Initially, there were inadequate consultations with the Weredas (districts) and Kebeles (villages) areas about the project and its expected outcomes.
  • There was a slow response from the regions and districts on reporting physical and financial activities.
  • Limitations in capacity and data availability were encountered during the preparation for instituting the adaptation measures. To overcome such challenges consecutive trainings were provided by the Federal Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for the task team members.
  • The Programme design and execution faced challenges and delays in the institutional set up, budgeting and financial transactions as well as accessibility to project areas.

Way Forward

There is a need to conduct a final Programme Evaluation and implement the phasing-out guidelines to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Programme and a proper handover to the Government especially at regional and district levels. In addition, because of the wide range of needs at the regional and local levels, there is a need for the national partners to engage in resource mobilization.

Lessons Learnt

Other lessons

  • The participatory approach of the adaptation program development has contributed to a strong ownership of the process by national partners. In the same token, the involvement of the pastoralist communities will ensure their sustainability
  • The synergies developed with the UNDP dry land program was a great approach towards resource efficiency and allowed to scale up the number of Weredas from two (initially planned in this region) to seven during preparation of the adaptation plans
  • The program has required long period to start up implementation due to delayed fund transfer and setting up the coordination and governance structure.
  • UN agencies and government partner accountability lines need to be clearly defined in terms of lead agency, coordination arrangement, joint implementation modalities, etc.
  • Three years program duration, given the shortcomings faced during the 1st year of the program, is very short to ascertain program outcomes and measure impacts.
  • Speedy program launching prior to finalizing the required vital coordination and governance structure arrangements have delayed program implementation.
  • Multiplicity of UN agencies procedure signifies the need for harmonized procedure to speed up program implementation.
  • The need for clearly defined M&E framework with measurable indicators is indispensable both in implementation and reporting, to ensure program deliverables, effecting appropriate mitigation measures to overcome challenges.
  • Joint programs with well-crafted C&A strategy in place have succeeded in communicating their achievements. So I have felt that the Environment JP in Ethiopia is far behind in C&A and the need for strong C&A work is significant
  • Even if it is early to substantiate the contribution for MDG goal with quantifiable outcomes at this point of Environment JP Implementation, there are promising performance at outputs level to ascertain the anticipated contributions.
  • Government ownership of the Environment JP is enhanced by establishing mainstreamed program implementation governance structure from Federal up to community (PA) level. These include NSC, PMC, Federal lead agency, PCO/U, regional PMT, WPIT and PA PIT.
  • It is hardly possible to tale exactly the contribution to UN reform at this stage of the Environment JP.
  • The need for developing the exit strategy ahead of the joint program termination to ensure sustainability of achievements is made crystal clear.

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