Pastoralists exploit land which is often too marginal for other agricultural uses.
Photo: VSF Spain


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Formal land titles are rare in pastoral communities around the world. In the past, this presented hardly any problems, since pastoral land was seen as of little use by most outsiders. But with growing competition for areas legal uncertainty is becoming an increasing threat to the livelihoods of pastoralists.

Pastoralism is a livelihood system based on free-grazing animals that is used by communities in marginal areas. The land may be marginal for various reasons, including poor water supply or soil quality, extreme temperatures, steep slopes and remoteness. Pastoralism enables communities to manage their resources in a sustainable, independent and flexible way. It is marked by rights to common resources, customary values and ecosystem services.

It is estimated that today nearly 200 million mobile pastoralists around the world generate food and incomes for their communities, and contribute to biodiversity conservation and to climate change mitigation. If the extensive agro-pastoralists are added to these nomadic and transhumant pastoralists, the number rises to up to 600 million people. Pastoral systems are sustainable low-input systems that are extremely adaptable to the respective environment and to the specific socioeconomic conditions. Yet, pastoral communities are often marginalised, lacking political recognition and proper political and institutional support.

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