Radar | Mar 26,2022
May 28 , 2022
By Hussein Tadicha Wario ( Hussein Tadicha Wario is the executive director of the Center for Research & Development in Drylands in Marsabit, Kenya. )
Pastoral communities live off the land. In northern Kenya, where I grew up, we raised local breeds of cattle, which grazed in the dry rangelands. But our land is more than the basis of our livelihoods; it also underpins our culture and identity.
As the local maxim goes, “This is where our umbilical cords are buried.” If that cord is cut – if our communities are severed from the land – tradition tells us that we cannot survive.
Kenyan institutions, from school to government, take a different view. Schools teach that pastoralists live on barren and unproductive wasteland, and that our approach to livestock-rearing is archaic and environmentally destructive. Official policies aim to force pastoral communities to abandon their mobile livestock production system, in favor of more “advanced” or “modern” agricultural systems, such as cropping, which, according to conventional wisdom, is more productive and sustainable.
It was not until I was engaged in postgraduate studies that I encountered credible evidence to the contrary. It turned out that my community in northern Kenya had been right all along: pastoralists’ livestock-husbandry practices are well adapted to dryland conditions, and pastoralism is a viable land-use option that can make sustainable use of dispersed resources.
Unfortunately, I also learned that the prejudice against pastoral systems is pervasive. And the deeply flawed logic underlying this prejudice continues to influence land-use decisions, including the decision to allow rangelands to be appropriated for green-energy projects.
It is easy to see why green-energy producers have set their sights on rangelands, which they misleadingly label “wastelands.” Because rangelands are fairly flat and tend to experience high solar irradiation and strong winds, they are ideal sites for cheap – and lucrative – solar and wind power projects.
It helps that rangelands are sparsely populated. Although local residents often resist the development of solar and wind farms, pastoral communities have less capacity to challenge the authorities than wealthier and more numerous urban dwellers do.
Pastoralists’ power to defend their interests is diminished further by their frequent exclusion from relevant decision-making processes. In Kenya, India, Morocco, and Norway, large-scale green-energy projects have been implemented on lands used by pastoralists, without adequate consultation with these groups and with limited regard for the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) established in global human-rights agreements.
According to the FPIC principles, indigenous and pastoral communities have the right to give or withhold permission for a project that may affect them or their territories. But traditional pastoralists usually lack legally recognised titles to their common grazing land, which is supposedly held by the state “in trust” for its citizens.
But states often choose not to honour traditional land rights, even if it means violating international agreements. So, where solar farms are built, pastoralists lose access to pasture. Wind farms interfere less with grazing but are often viewed by pastoral communities as violations of their land and cultural rights. In fact, as my colleague Ann Waters-Bayer and I show in a recent study, green-energy projects have led to land and energy dispossession, interference in livestock migration routes, disruption of pastoral cultures, and decreased resilience of the pastoral land-use system.
Pastoral communities have tried to resist – sometimes violently, sometimes through the courts. In two cases – one in Kenya, and the other in Norway – courts ruled that the land-acquisition process had been illegal. But, in both cases, the wind turbines are still spinning, highlighting the uphill battle pastoralists must fight to protect their lands, cultures, and livelihoods.
There are better models for managing the lands on which pastoralists rely. In Mongolia, effective consultations with local communities mean that local concerns about the siting of solar farms have been taken into account during project design, with herders retaining full access to the pasture under wind turbines and power lines. Pastoral systems were thus not disrupted at all. In Canada, Kenya, and Mexico, there are green-energy projects that benefit local communities through revenue-sharing.
Such models cannot be adopted too soon, because the world is facing a likely boom in “green-grabbing” for energy expansion. The war in Ukraine has contributed to a spike in global energy prices and sent several European countries scrambling for alternatives to Russian oil and gas. Together with pressure to make progress toward achieving net-zero emissions, the incentive to expand green-energy production is stronger than ever. The “wastelands” of the sunny, windswept dry tropics and subtropics have never been so commercially enticing.
Obviously, the expansion of green energy is vital. Green-energy projects can even improve animal welfare, such as by providing shade. The issue comes down to design: developers should embrace multifunctional land-use approaches that integrate crop farming, livestock, biodiversity protection, rural social and economic activities, and energy production.
The only way to achieve this is through a transparent, inclusive, and participatory process in which pastoral communities play a central role. Stronger enforcement of human-rights principles like FPIC and more robust legal systems for recognising rights to common land must also be essential components of green-energy projects.
Failing that, a growing number of pastoralists will lose their land to Big Renewables, resulting in increased poverty, migration, hopelessness, and conflict. This would be the height of climate injustice.
PUBLISHED ON May 28,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1152]
Radar | Mar 26,2022
Commentaries | May 21,2022
Commentaries | May 23,2021
Viewpoints | Sep 21,2019
Commentaries | Nov 12,2022
Radar | Sep 05,2022
Commentaries | Dec 10,2018
Radar | Sep 26,2021
Fortune News | Aug 22,2020
Commentaries | Apr 09,2022
Photo Gallery | 64498 Views | May 06,2019
Photo Gallery | 56349 Views | Apr 26,2019
Fortune News | 51097 Views | Jul 18,2020
Fortune News | 50705 Views | Sep 01,2021
Commentaries | Feb 04,2023
Life Matters | Feb 04,2023
My Opinion | Feb 04,2023
Sunday with Eden | Feb 04,2023
Agenda | Feb 04,2023
Editorial | Feb 04,2023
Dec 24 , 2022
Biniam Mikru heads the department of cabinet affairs under Mayor Adanech Abiebie. But...
Jul 2 , 2022 . By RUTH TAYE
On a rainy afternoon last week, a coffee processing facility in the capital's Akaki-Qality District was abuzz with activ...
Nov 27 , 2021
Against my will, I have witnessed the most terrible defeat of reason and the most sa...
Nov 13 , 2021
Plans and reality do not always gel. They rarely do in a fast-moving world. Every act...
Leaders of the National Election Board are in a charm offensive mood, of a sort. Last week, they organised a rare tour for members of the me...
When the country's most senior diplomats and envoys return back to their posts after two-week debriefings, they leave behind a point or two...
Feb 4 , 2023
Rene Lefort is a French journalist with a keen interest in Ethiopia, spanning over ha...
Jan 28 , 2023
It is not common to see an appointment for a senior federal government office stir de...
Jan 21 , 2023
Eyob Tekalign, state minister for Finance, took to social media platforms last week t...
Jan 14 , 2023
The longing for normalcy and a semblance of individual and collective security in Eth...
Folks awed by the devastating national exam results have ignored the massive crisis that engulf the academic sector for nearly half a centur...
Inspired by the stories of business people who started small, I have been on the quest to decode the custom-made recipe of wealth for th...
Feb 4 , 2023
Officials are toiling to radically overhaul the education system after experiencing a...
Feb 4 , 2023 . By MUNIR SHEMSU
The auto market foresees changes as a draft proclamation of excise tax on imported ve...
A ship carrying half a million quintals of urea arrived at the Djibouti ports last w...
Feb 4 , 2023 . By BERSABEH GEBRE
For thousands of Hibret Bank's shareholders who congregated at the Inter-luxury Hotel...
Or see contact page