We also had an interesting meeting with Carol Kerven and Roy Behnke from the Odessa Centre, a research institute focusing on pastoralism, rangeland ecology and livestock development in semi-arid areas. After the meeting they were kind enough to invite us to a book launch for the book Pastoralism and Development in Africa: Dynamic Change at the Margins, edited by Andy Catley, Jeremy Lind and Ian Scoones. I have never been to a book launch before so it was a really interesting experience with presentations of the book by some of the contributors as well as questions from the audience.
While I haven’t as of yet read the book, the premise seems to be interesting: to try to move away from a point of view that pastoralism is in crisis under the sway of external forces (e.g. climate change, governmental policies etc.) towards a point of view that sees pastoralists as “resourceful, entrepreneurial and innovative peoples”. Nevertheless, I was kind of surprised when one of the leading scholars in the field, Katherine Homewood at UCL Department of Anthropology, responded to a question pertaining to climate change that it wasn’t really a concern because her informants said that the climate had always changed. While to some degree it may be other factors that are more threatening to pastoralists than climate change per se, it seemed that the point Homewood wanted to make was somewhat stronger: that climate change is not currently happening in Africa (at least in the area where she does her research).
This is strange to say the least, considering the relatively well documented changes occurring on a global scale: According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), several regions of the world are currently coping with severe weather-related events: flash floods and widespread flooding in large parts of Asia and parts of Central Europe, heat waves and droughts in Russia, mudslides in China and severe droughts in sub-Saharan Africa (WMO). Dai et al. (2004: 1323) argues that “[…] the decreasing rainfall and devastating droughts in the Sahel region during the last three decades of the 20th century are among the most undisputed and largest recent climate changes recognized by the climate research community”. From a global point of view, 2010 was ranked as the warmest year on record (along with 1998 and 2005: WMO) and in 2011 rainfall records were set in Australia, Japan and Korea, whereas the Yangtze Basin in China experienced a record drought. The WMO have issued a statement pertaining to the “unprecedented sequence of extreme weather events”, stating that “[w]hile a longer time range is required to establish whether an individual event is attributable to climate change, the sequence of current events matches IPCC projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming” (WMO).
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