AoR 57: Fiona Flintan, Pastoralism and People of African Rangelands

Americans are vaguely aware of pastoralism as a term connoting a lifestyle that revolves around animal raising, but most of us don't have much more understanding than a loose attempt at a definition. Fiona Flintan has spent much of her career with the International Livestock Research Institute working with pastoralist cultures in Africa, helping secure rights to land and address conflicts, and communicating this way of life to the outside world. Listen in on her conversation with Tip about livestock as a way of life rather than a means of obtaining money, about unique features of pastoralist peoples, of the nature of conflicts over abundance rather than shortage. 


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>> Tip Hudson: Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on rangelands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, Range and Livestock Specialist with Washington State University Extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at My guest today on the Art of Ranges Fiona Flinton. Fiona is a senior research scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute. I was introduced to her through Barbara Hutchinson at the University of Arizona and Barb's efforts to support the proposal to the United Nations for International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. Fiona is now in Rome but has spent much of her career, I think, in Africa. Fiona, welcome, and thanks for talking with me today.

>> Fiona Flinton: Great. See ya, hi. Hi, everyone. Good to speak to you.

>> Tip Hudson: I suspect that many listeners, and I'm including myself here, likely don't know much about the International Livestock Research Institute. What is it? And what do you do with ILRI?

>> Finona Flinton: So, the ILRI, the International Livestock Research Institute, is one of the CGIAR global research organizations. We specifically focus on livestock as our sister organization within the CGIAR focus on other aspects of agriculture or food systems. So, in ILRI, the livestock aspects that we focus on range from breeding and genetics through to social systems related to livestock. So, for me, the program that I work on as the sustainable livestock systems, is very much focuses on livelihood systems that depend on livestock but are highly connected to the land, and the environment, and obviously to people. So, it's looking at that interconnection of that system of people, land, livestock, and promoting it and supporting research related to it to make it more sustainable going forward. So, I specifically focus more on the on the dry land areas, on rangelands, and on pastoral systems.

>> Tip Hudson: You mentioned the CGIAR, I believe that's the right acronym. What is CGIAR?

>> Fiona Flinton: It's used to be an acronym, but now it's a name.

>> Tip Hudson: It's its own word, I see.

>> Finoa Flinton: It's its own words, yeah, absolutely. So, yes, it's basically the group of the International Research Institutes.

>> Tip Hudson: I see. You know, I consider this to be a pretty broad field but when I visit with people outside the world of range, land, ecology, and livestock production, I realize it is a bit of a niche. What was your pathway to becoming a range scientist?

>> Fiona Flinton: It was quite an interesting pathway. I actually came out of school and trained as a chef. So, yeah, I've gone from cooking to research, to being a scientist. So, it was an interesting journey. I think, really, the initial interest came from my connection to agriculture from the age of 10. I grew up on a farm in Sussex in England. So, through that, I think I developed a relationship with livestock, probably, and an appreciation of livestock and farming systems. Then, as I said, when I came out of school, I trained as a chef. I worked in a hotel and then one day basically woke up and thought, nope. There's more to life than this. I'm not stupid and I can go to university. And I actually got the extra qualifications to enable me to go to university. So, when I was about 28, 29 I actually started my first degree at an agricultural college doing rural environmental studies. And as part of that began looking at issues in developing countries. Following that I did a master's at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African studies. Really it was there where I really started getting more interested in dry lands and pastoralism. So, I did Savannah Ecology as one of my units. I did sustainable agricultural systems. And it was really then, also with the interest of traveling, that basically took me to Africa. So, I got an opportunity to work with the World Wildlife Fund in Ethiopia. And that really, going to Ethiopia and spending some time there learning about the environment, the country itself, the challenges, the opportunities there, and slowly getting to understand more about pastoralism and rangelands in particular. Yes, it took me to a situation where I was I was able to work in this and, yeah, I've been on and off working in Ethiopia for about 18 years. From my base in Ethiopia at the ILRE campus, I also have worked in other countries, particularly in East Africa. But more recently I've been doing more global advocacy work conventions. So, yeah, it was an interesting journey but I'm very happy where I am. And I wouldn't change anything. And, for sure, Africa is under my skin, even though I am sitting here in Rome. Ethiopia is certainly a very important part of my life still and I will continue to work in that region and in other parts of the world where pastoralism and rangelands are predominant.

>> Tip Hudson: So, does ILRE have an office in Rome? Is that what brought you there?

>> Fiona Flinton: No, it wasn't, actually. Its headquarters are in Nairobi and a similar sized campus in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. And then, there are a few smaller offices in other parts of the world. But no, not in Europe. The reason I actually came to Rome was we developed a collaboration with IFAD, the UN Agency International Fund for Agricultural Development. And we came to an agreement that I would contribute some of my time to building collaboration between IFAD and two of the flagship projects of the CGIAR. One is the livestock project, the Livestock CRP. And the other one is the policy institutions and market CRP, which is led by another sister organization. Another sister CGIAR center called IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research Institute actually based in Washington. So yeah, we came to an agreement with IFAD that some of my time would be given to building collaboration and working with them on supporting pastoral issues and like governance, natural resource management governance issues. So, I've been here for almost two years, working with IFAD on this.

>> Tip Hudson: I have to say that I have the highest regard for good chefs and enjoy cooking myself. But I do feel like doing range work is meaningful. You've done a lot of work towards helping avoid conflict in pastoralists cultures and I've read some that, you know, some of what the United States has done to promote certain ideas in other parts of the world has maybe contributed to some of those conflicts. And related to that, you've been promoting participatory range line management as a means of avoiding conflict and conserving natural resources that pastoralist peoples depend on. We could probably talk all day about this and we might need to cover some of the topics in more than one interview but, you know, for me, as a child of Western civilization, it seems to me that the social structures that govern land use or land access are a central feature in social conflict. You know, for example, I see benefits to exclusive rights to a piece of land as a means of avoiding conflict. And that's certainly obvious and things like, you know, cropland. But I'm aware of in other parts of the world, especially those with extensive, semi-arid rangelands, exclusive individual land ownership really wouldn't even be feasible or might not even make any sense and is definitely not as common as it is in the United States. And there are likely social structures, you know, customs and rules that deal with this. Is that right?

>> Fiona Flinton: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean particularly in areas where you have a more variable environment, more variable and unpredictable rainfall, but also temperature. This results in the variable distribution of vegetation and other resources. And are really quite significant variability across a large area across a large landscape. So, to use these areas, and particularly areas that receive low rainfall. So, it's not just the variability, but it's also the low rainfall and high temperature as well. So, predominantly dry land areas or semi-dry land, semi-arid areas to use these areas to make something productive out of these very variable, variably spatially distributed and temporally distributed resources which can often be of, you know, a low productivity. What is needed is access to a very large area. So, you need access to the vegetation that's there during, and the water that's there during the wet season as well as the vegetation and water that is more permanent and could be accessed in the dry season when the wet season grazing or water isn't available. So, this means that the livestock production system, which is normally partialism, needs access to a large area to a large landscape. And it doesn't make sense. It doesn't work if that area is divided up between individuals because one individual might have the only permanent water in that whole landscape. Another individual might have the only dry season grazing area in that landscape. So, the rest of the landscape is left useless because without access to those permanent points, the use of the rest of the landscape is impossible. So, ultimately the only way of using these variable landscapes, these dry land landscapes in particular, is through collective use. And that means a large group of people can be supported, a large amount of livestock can be supported, but it needs to be managed and governed in a in a collective way. And so, individual doesn't work. We've seen some of these collective systems being divided up into individual plots for various reasons and it doesn't work. It doesn't support the livestock production system in the same way that it would do collectively. And what we have seen is where, like, for example, individual ranches have been established in what was a collective communal or common property system. What we've seen is now trying to join up those individual ranches and trying to reintroduce the movement and the sharing of resources across them. So, yes, it's -- going back to your question -- absolutely. Particularly in these dry land areas with this variable temporally and spatially distributed resources, individual land ownership doesn't work. And it needs to be a collective land ownership or a collective land access property system.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, that's interesting. I feel like we see a little bit of movement that way, even in the states, with interest in things like grazing associations or other arrangements where people can, you know, collectively manage a large number of animals on a really large landscape in a way that makes more sense than parceling it out into smaller units. I think one of the -- to me -- one of the obvious questions for those of us that are not familiar with these kinds of collective use systems is, you know, what may not even be an accurate description of a real problem but I think most people are going to think, well, how does this not cause a tragedy of the commons? There was a British economist in the late 1800s named William Forster Lloyd, who wrote about overgrazing that occurred in Ireland in Great Britain on grazing areas that experienced unregulated use by multiple herders. And more people would be familiar with the article written by Garrett Hardin in the 1960s on the topic, and I think it's from him that we got the figure of speech tragedy of the Commons, which, interestingly comes to refer to all kinds of things besides grazing at this point, you know. But the tragedy of the Commons describes a social situation where individuals act according to their self interest instead of the good of the whole. And this can cause natural resource collapse, which then, of course, harms the individual who is acting selfishly, even if that natural resource crashes delayed in time. I think some of the systems of land tenure in the Western US came from somewhat of a tragedy of the Commons situation with unregulated land use in the West, where you had lots of people. You know, whoever got there first got the grass, and whoever came after that had nothing left over. And so, question number one is, has that ever been a problem in cultures that have collective use systems? And if not, what kinds of social structures are in place among pastoralist cultures that prevent the tragedy of the Commons?

>> Fiona Flinton: Sure, yeah. Interesting question. I mean, it's a risk for sure. But the fact that these collective systems still exist is an outcome. I mean, the fact that these collective systems exist is kind of answers that question in that they haven't reached a point of collapse. If they had reached the point of collapse and those collective systems wouldn't exist still. I mean--

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Fiona Flinton: In pastoral areas, in some areas, there are controls. Land is held as common property but it's not open access and there are rules and regulations governing access. Even if, I mean, most of these pastoral areas are not owned as such. A lot of these areas are kind of under state jurisdiction. So, the majority of them, there is no, like, certification or even registration of these areas to a particular group, which obviously becomes a problem when there's increasing pressure on the land use of those areas. But even despite these, despite this fact that there might not actually be from ownership or land holding of these areas, they're often tends to be these rules and regulations governing the access, governing who's included as a group, and even governing who's not included, excluding. And so, these areas, I mean, we can we can call them common property under common property regimes. But there are some places that, in particular, larger geographical areas where there is a lack of centrally controlled rules and regulations and the pastoralists, rather than being influenced by rules and regulations, they basically decide where when they want to graze. And the influence is on this. I mean, it's not only about the physical availability of grazing or water but this could be influenced by more informal institutions, by social networks, by reciprocal arrangements between individuals or groups. And this makes a very complicated but also flexible and adaptive system. But it is very complicated and it is very difficult sometimes to pin it down. And some people would call these particular more complex adaptive systems as open property regimes. But basically, there's something. There might be clear rules and regulations or there might be more fuzzy, open, porous, informal norms that are known to influence and to control, to a degree, access. So, this basically prevents the point of reaching a tragedy of the Commons. People will follow the rules and regulations and believe in the strength of the need for the collective. As I said, these areas have to be managed and accessed collectively. So, it needs to be that collective and reciprocal arrangements are just so important. So, people make them work, pastoralists make them work.

>> Tip Hudson: And I do realize that there are some natural checks on that kind of excessive use. I mean, if people are running animals together in common during a period of year when grass is green, when the grass is gone you have to move on. Or you reach a point where there's little enough forage that livestock are declining in body condition and there's reasons to move. Maybe the back up just a minute. How would you define pastoralism? How is that something more than collective land use?

>> Fiona Flinton: Well, I mean, it's the aim of pastoralism is to have a functioning extensive livestock production system. So, pastoralists don't want their livestock to die. They want to have a system that keeps their livestock healthy. The sale of livestock might not be the ultimate goal but so, yeah, the sale of lifestock might not be the ultimate goal, but having a healthy heard of livestock and large numbers of livestock which often seen as reflecting wealth. That is the goal. So, pastoralism involves managing the land in a way to optimize that. Pastoralists know they have a system of use. They have the dry and wet season grazing areas. The reasons that they move between wet and dry season is not only about the availability of water, it's not only about the availability of grazing, but it's also about ensuring that checks and balances are in place to ensure that the areas that have the permanent water and have the permanent grazing are not used at times when other grazing and water is available, so that they are rested and available in times of need. Pastoralists also move their livestock in a way to prevent or to break parasite cycles. They will move their livestock to make the best use of nutrients at a certain time of the year, different growth patterns in vegetation, or herbs, or accessing salt licks, yeah, to keep the livestock healthy. So, there's a system there. Pastoralism is a system of people, land, and the livestock and pastoralists kind of make kind of make that system work to optimize livestock production from those very difficult, harsh, dry variable, environments. I mean, pastoralism is also an identity. Pastoralists have an identity. As pastoralists, it's often connected to culture, two different ethnic groups. And so this, you know, all pastoralists are not the same. Pastoralists across the world have different cultures but there are certainly some key characteristics of those and key characteristics of the pastoral system that are the same. Things like the need for mobility, that integrated system of land, people in livestock. So, there's some commonalities across it as well. So, did I describe that okay?

>> Tip Hudson: Yes. That was the best definition of pastoralism I've heard yet.

>> Fiona Flinton: Okay, thanks [inaudible].

>> Tip Hudson: What are what are some specific people groups in places that you've worked with that represent pastoralism?

>> Fiona Flinton: Okay. So, they were having been spent most of my time in Ethiopia, they actually, most of the on the ground work that I've done with pastoralists themselves is has actually been in Tanzania. And that's been mainly with the Masai. And in, yeah, mainly in central Tanzania. And that's been working pretty much of the last 10 years, on and off, on a project that was supporting land use planning, land use planning of land in villages. But in a way that would be more beneficial for the sharing of resources that pastoralists use. So, this was supporting a joint village land use planning across village boundaries. So, that shared resources could be accessed between different pastoral groups. So, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: You mentioned what in one of the reports that there are different types of conflicts that that are still common and that sometimes those are related to plenty rather than scarcity. That was something that I had not thought about before, although it seems obvious once you think about it. Can you say more about that and what kind of conflicts are common related to resource availability or lack of availability?

>> Fiona Flinton: Sure, yeah. I mean way did tend to kind of frame conflict from a few points of scarcity. So, the idea that people start fighting when when water runs out. But to turn that on its head, putting in a water point in a place without proper properly planning or understanding the implications of that water point and of the increased access to that water point can actually cause conflict. So, if water is put into a place where there were kind of underlying conflicts or latent conflicts, it could actually cause conflict itself. So, it's not in that situation, it's not the scarcity of water, but it's actually the stuff that the actual water coming in. In another example is something like extractive industries, or things like oil, or gems. You know, the conflicts around these. That it's not conflict here is not so much about the scarcity of those, but it's about the surfeit of those. It's about the fact that these resources are here and people are fighting for them.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, that's interesting. Nathan Sayre mentioned in his book "The Politics of Scale: The History of Rangeland Science" that people that rely on, live in, you know, are defined by these many parts of the world, pastoralist peoples are often marginalized inside of the country that they live in. To what extent is that the case, say in Tanzania or Ethiopia? How are how are pastoralist peoples seen or treated by the other people that live in the country?

>> Fiona Flinton: In the majority of places, there's still a lack of understanding of pastoralists. And, I think generally, of people who move, who want to move, or who need to move for their livelihoods. I mean, whether we're talking about Gypsies in the UK, where I come from or whether we're talking about pastoralists in Africa, there's still this lack of understanding and appreciation of the need to leave. The idea of progress is having your individual plot, your individual house, your mortgage, your bank loans, your access to TV, et cetera. And anyone that's outside that vision, outside the norm, is considered as unprogressive, or dirty, or not contributing to the economy in the way that is expected. So, there is for sure still this perception of pastoralists in some places. I think in the last 10 years or 20 years since I've been working on these issues, I think thinking has shifted. It's shifted partly from a ecological standpoint in the ecology of dry lands and the appreciation of a land use systems such a pastoralism that can make something productive out of these very harsh, difficult environments. I think there has been a growing appreciation of the contribution of pastoralists to local and national economies in terms of livestock production. And, yeah, I mean, for sure. For sure in Ethiopia, that appreciation has changed very much over the last one or two decades. And now where, I mean, in the past, I mean twenty years ago, it was very difficult to talk to government about pastoralism. Or to see it being appreciated to, perhaps, 10 years ago where there was still a push for sedentarisation and the settling of pastoralists with movement kind of on the periphery of that at certain times of the year when there's a drought to a situation, now, where pastoralism really is embraced much more centrally within policy, within strategies, within development strategies, and pastoralism is being much more strongly appreciated as contributing to the to the national as well as the local environments. So, yes, in some places there is still an appreciation or a lack of appreciation of pastoralism. But I think it definitely has improved over the last two decades. And we're seeing that now with greater investment in these areas and investment that supports the pastoral system rather than challenges it or blocks it.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, that's fascinating. You know, one of my -- I had a friend who worked for a while in India with International Justice Mission and she said that one of one of the problems with poverty that we and Western countries like the United States or England don't typically see is that, you know, somebody in a place like that, that is wronged has almost no access to the justice system. That they're, you know, not well treated and nearly completely separated from some of these institutions that are designed to protect people. So, I was curious, too, whether in countries where most of the population are not pastoralists but you have a government that is setting rules and laws that effect that govern how land is held and used, you know, to what extent does that jeopardize the ability of pastoralists to continue doing what they're doing?

>> Fiona Flinton: Sure. Yeah, yeah. I mean, we see this, we see this in Tanzania. So, with the sustainable ratio management project that I mentioned, so that the strong focus on this was, as I said was trying to secure these shed grazing lands for livestock keepers for pastoralists. And this, I mean, this came as a result of the recognition by the major donor IFAD and bond a network called the International Land Coalition. A recognition that when this village land use planning process happens, that pastoralists, in particular, often not included in these processes. So, pastoralists may be using part of that village land for grazing but when a village land is planning process is undertaken, they either don't know about that process or are not present. They might be somewhere else grazing their cattle when the meetings are taking place or they're purposefully excluded. So, this project, the sustainable ratio management project, really tries to, first of all, improve the appreciation of pastoralists as land users in the villages in Tanzania where we worked, both locally but also nationally, supporting the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries to get involved in these processes that are often much more implemented by land officers, a district level who might not have a good understanding of or appreciation of livestock pastoralism. So, working at that national level but also at the local level to try and support a process and build the capacity of local government to support this process of a much more inclusive land use planning process. So, in these areas there had been a lot of conflicts between the livestock keepers and the agriculturalists. There was a lot of conflict over access to land and through this village land use planning process it brings, or it should bring, all the different land users together. And then, through understanding the land use, understanding the potential of the land use, understanding the needs of those different land users going through a negotiation process of what is it that people really need to to ensure that their livelihood systems will exist or can function today, but also in the future. And basically, negotiate to a point where agreement is reached about the land use in that village. The problem is, when you only work with one village, and you have partially [inaudible] that share, would normally share resource is across village boundaries, that process of just working with one village and keeping things within an administrative boundary might actually then block the sharing of resources, the sharing of grazing lands or water across the state boundaries. So, what this project did, it looked at how resources are shared across three or four villages and then it worked with those three or four villages together to ensure that that grazing sharing and the sharing of water was maintained through a joint agreement between that cluster village across that cluster of villages. So, that not only defined the land uses through coming to agreement and resolved those conflicts, but it actually strengthened the sharing of resources across the boundaries and strengthened the collective group that shares those resources. So yeah, I mean, you can go from a point of conflict to a point of working through negotiation to a point of agreement over land use. But it needs to, it can be a very protracted long process. It could be highly politicized at times. It could demand a lot of resources but today those classes of villages where we worked, they feel very secure. They have a landholding certificate now for those shared grazing lands and it's now much better environment from which they can now invest in the land and improve the productivity of the land.

>> Tip Hudson: It sounds like you're describing what you have termed participatory rangeland management over the last several minutes. Can you define that? And maybe to frame that, I would say that, as I'm sure you're aware, in the United States, we often refer to cooperative resource management or collaborative natural resource planning, which usually means, you know, multiple stakeholders discussing how best to proceed for the good of the whole with range management. How is that different from or the same as what you're calling participatory rangeland management in an entirely different culture?

>> Fiona Flinton: Right. What I've described so far is actually a village land, it's a land use planning process. So, within that process, yes, we were particularly interested in showing the grazing lands were protected within that process. But the village land use plans also included forests, urban areas, agricultural areas. So, for me, that land use planning process is the multi-stakeholder negotiation agreement process. And that land use planning process has to happen first and get those grazing lands protected before coming in with the rangeland management. So, this is absolutely what's now happening in Tanzania. Those shared grazing lands have been protected, been certified. They're part of the village land use plan or joint village land use plans. And now, we kind of shift from the [inaudible] authority of the National Land Use Planning Commission, who are responsible for the land use planning process. It kind of shifts now to saying, okay, the grazing lands are protected. This is where the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries comes in and really tries to improve the management of those grazing lands of the rangelands. And for me, this is where participatory range management comes in. So, participatory range management is basically a step-by-step process of, building of understanding the rangeland, the grazing lands, understanding the current status, their potential, looking at options to improve the grazing lands. It's about strengthening the management institution, the governance institution, the group of people who are going to be responsible for that management. It's about producing a rangeland management plan and then implementing that plan. So, that process, I'm sure, doesn't sound so different from what is done in other places. But I think the idea with participatory arrangement management and calling it this, has just formalized those steps. It's not particularly anything groundbreakingly new but it's kind of formalized a process that was partly there or steps of it were there. But it's just helped to structure it and to provide a structure to the process of understanding planning and implementing to improve the rangeland management of a specific area. It's very, I mean, it's strong completely from participatory forest management. You know, the principles are the same but adapted to a rangeland context.

>> Rip Hudson: You mentioned in the report as one of the, in the list of practices that are important for creating resilience, both social resilience and ecological resilience of flexibility and optionality. What do you mean by that?

>> Fiona Flinton: Most of the environments where pastoralism exists and also has a comparative advantage over other land uses are these dry land environments? So, dry land environments that have a low rainfall and have high temperatures, but also as I mentioned before, this variability off rainfall. To a degree, that variability of rainfall can be predicted. I mean, there's a rough understanding of or predictability about when wet and dry seasons happen. But very often and increasingly with climate change that's happening, there can be times when there's a shock to that system when there is, when the rain doesn't come when it's supposed to rain, or the rain doesn't come at all, or it's a much more reduced amount. So, unless the system, unless pastoralism has the ability to adapt to that shock or to react to that shock, it will collapse. So, there needs to be a degree of flexibility written into the pastoral system to be able to react and adapt to, let's say, a drought. So, that flexibility, it needs to be there to allow the pastoralists to move away from the drought area to another area where there might be, or there will be grazing and drought -- I'm sorry -- grazing and water. There needs to be flexibility in the administrative systems to allow this. You know, things like, if pastoralists have to register in a village or a district, you know, once a month or something. If they're having to move, they're not going to be there to register that month. So, or things like education. If pastoralists want to be able to send their children to school but if a drought happens and they've had to move, then the schooling system needs to be flexible enough to allow that to happen. So, whether we're talking about boarding schools or whether we're talking about a mobile education system that will go with the pastoralists when they move. So yes, flexibility needs to be there to allow the movement, but also to allow services, and administration, and other requirements to go with them. Optionality. Without those options, being there, without pastoralists having the option of moving to a place where there isn't drought, will mean that they will have to stay there in the drought area and suffer. And their livestock will suffer. So yeah, flexibility and optionality are important.

>> Tip Hudson: And I had meant to ask you earlier, where are -- I have some ideas of where in the world there are still, you know, relatively large, distinct groups of pastoralist people's, places like Mongolia, parts of Africa. Are there other places that I'm not thinking of where this kind of a large scale pastoralism still exists or is common?

>> Fiona Flinton: Absolutely. I mean, on every continent, apart from Antarctica, yeah. Whether we're talking about the [inaudible] with the reindeer in Greenland through to the movements of the big transhumans across the West Africa countries like Niger from north to south and then, right the way across to the southern ports in West Africa. Or we're talking about in Europe. I mean, here in Italy, there is still recognized transhumans roots, that people move their livestock along from, like, the lowland areas up to the upper pastures in the mountains during the summer. So yeah, pastoralists are found all over the world. The degree to which they move depends on the environment. And also, on potential blockages to that movement. So, for example, in East Africa, a lot of the pastoralists don't move as much as they did in the past. And rather, moving with their whole households with the whole families, they might have more of a satellite approach where they have a base and a permanent settlement. And then, part of the family will move from that base to grazing areas further away at certain times of the year. But the base and, like, young livestock with certain members of the family, will stay at the base. So, yes. No pastoralists are all over the world and for sure that's not appreciated, I think particularly here in Europe. And I think over the last few years, that really has been appreciated more. Pastoralists organizations have got more mobilized. There's been a real swell of individuals, very committed individuals and organizations coming together to raise the profile of pastoralism, pastoralists and rangelands. We've seen, as you mentioned earlier, there's a call put forward by the Mongolian government for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists, which, hopefully, will get approved this year at the UN General Assembly and should mean that 2026 will be an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. And then, we've got other big global events happening this year, like the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration being launched in June. And one of the ecosystems that is being targeted that is being given specific attention of grassland, shrub lands and savannahs as one ecosystem. So, that will also demand attention from governments and from other stakeholders to really start investing in the restoration of these areas, which have been neglected in the past.

>> Tip Hudson: Is there something that people can do to support the International Year Rangelands? You know, say, a listener thinks that's interesting and wants to lend their support for that. Is there any way to increase the likelihood of the UN passing or accepting a resolution from Mongolia to establish an IYRP if people do something?

>> Fiona Flinton: Absolutely. There are things people can do. First of all, there is a website which gives a lot of information about the International Year. So, that's That explains a lot more about the year. So, and it also gives an indication about what people could do. So, people can contact, find out about local pastoralist groups and networks that exist in their country, and support them to raise the issue with their government. So, ideally, what we want to see is that governments, all governments will support the call. There has been a lot of support already from some specific governments but not all governments. Particularly your government is quite difficult to persuade because as that the US, amongst others, dislikes the idea of International Year seeing them as a cost to the taxpayer and others. So, there's still a bit of persuasion to be done to convince governments to support the Year. The other thing that could be done is for organizations to provide support letters for the Year, which can be sent to the -- there are addresses sent to the Mongolian government and sent to FAO that are basically facilitating this process. And yeah, I think it's really it's really through the through organizations working on these issues, contacting those organizations. If they don't know about the Year, raising awareness about that but getting those letters of support in to support the Year. There's more information on the website, so I would direct your listeners there.

>> Tip Hudson: Good. We'll post the website on the show note to the podcast episode and also put a few instructions there. I think we'll also come back and do on interview with a few other people that's dedicated to the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists and that will provide more information and maybe we can discuss a little bit more at that time how people can support it. I just had a couple questions for you in closing here now that we're at time. You mentioned that you've done a fair bit of work with women in pastoralism. And I'm curious, how have you been received as an English woman working in Africa to help people?

>> Fiona Flinton: Yeah. Yeah. I had a had an interesting experience quite recently, actually, in that someone flagged to me that I've taken on, well, that I'm very kind of a bit too aggressive in the way that I manage things. And I think it was a bit of a wake-up call that I have, I think, I have kind of felt the need to take on kind of more -- it's called a male characteristics -- on ways of managing in what is a very male dominated environment, whether we're talking about the development arena or within livestock science or arranged in science. And yeah, it was interesting to have this flagged to me. And it kind of instigated a bit of a reflection process on myself. And, you know, I don't really like that. I, yeah, I'm disappointed in myself a bit that I have felt the need or push myself to a degree that I've taken on characteristics that I feel are not appropriate. So, but I think it is part, yeah, part of the environment where I've been working in that it is very male dominated world, particularly working with governments. Of course, working with governments doesn't require or for sure wouldn't being aggressive with governments doesn't work. But I think maybe in the NGO Development work, yeah, it is quite male dominated. And as a woman, you do need to push to have your views heard. And obviously, I've had to push them a little bit too much. But I-- >?> Tip Hudson: Well, I wondered too, if it was a cultural difference and not just a gender difference because there's a lot of Eastern cultures communicate in more of a sideways manner.

>> Fiona Flinton: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: And we tend to be more direct whether we're male or female in, you know, in Western cultures.

>> Fiona Flinton: Sure. Yeah, though, I think probably might, yeah, my interaction -- yeah. I guess I have two levels of interaction. There's the interaction of within my peers and with others involved in the developments and science worlds but then there's the attraction with people in country. And, I think, with governments, I think with governments I have developed, managed to develop a way of being quite strategic and persuasive but not to a point of being excluded. And I think working with governments, for example, in Africa, I think governments really appreciate when you come with solutions or potential solutions, and you're prepared to work with them to test out those solutions, and to work through them, and to share your technical expertise but also to draw from them. So, it's like a joint problem solving together. And I've really seen that effective as a way to influence government. If you start criticizing government without coming with solutions and without being prepared to work through solutions with them, then doors will be closed. So, I think that's been a very important. Working with communities, working with pastoralists, I mean, I love it. The pastoralists in Tanzania that we've worked with, they feel like family. And I was lucky to go back there in December and back to the project areas and was presented with a young heifer, a young cow, who has been called Bella. And she's staying there, of course. I couldn't put her in my suitcase, but she's there. And it's a very strong reason for me to keep on going back to those communities to see how she's doing. So, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: I love that. Last question or related to that. What in your time and working in different parts of the world, what do you think are some lessons that that we, I say we, because most of the podcast listeners are in Western countries at this point. What do you think we in the West can learn from pastoralists cultures? What are some lessons that you've learned that you think would benefit other people. And I would add that about half of the podcast listenership is ranchers and about half are other natural resource professionals like ourselves.

>> Fiona Flinton: For me, a lot of it is about the passion that people have for the passion for their culture, their passion for their identity, the passion for that closeness with livestock. I think that is is just so strong. And that is, you know, one of the reasons why pastoralists and pastoralism survived today because they care so passionately about their livelihoods, about about their livestock, about their culture. And, you know, perhaps this is something that we have lost, perhaps in the West. You know, we don't have that passion, or many of us don't, have that strong passion and innate connection with nature, with livestock, working in harmony, working in an integrated way. So, I think for me, you know that's something that we can learn from. That you can be passionate. You can have passion about things. But you can also be successful land users. It doesn't have to always be about money. It doesn't always have to be about success in the way that we measure success. And yeah. I think for me, that's really what I've seen and I've learned today. I think that's what gives me the drive to continue to support pastoralists and pastoralism in the work that I do.

>> Tip Hudson: No, I think that's a great point. You know, our language reveals quite a bit about our values and in the United States, some time ago, we began referring to ranchers as beef producers. You know, reducing their role in society and their occupation to just the sheer, you know, pragmatism or the utilitarian function of raising beef animals. And for most people, it's more. If it was only about making money, many people would not be doing it because it's not particularly profitable compared to some other things that one could do with a large land resource and the money that's tied up in livestock. And for many ranchers, it is lifestyle. But they've been taught that that's not something that they should be proud of. That they're supposed to focus on their function of raising beef and not the lifestyle of raising animals. And I -- so, I'm in wholehearted agreement with you that that's something that is important.

>> Fiona Flinton: Great. Good, yeah. Excellent.

>> Tip Hudson: Well, Fiona, thank you very much for your time. It's been great to talk with you and we will post some links on the show notes about the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. And we might do this again because I think it'd still be worthwhile to talk about women in pastoralism, especially in Africa.

>> Fiona Flinton: Absolutely. Yeah. I'm happy to talk about pastoralism anytime you want me to.

>> Tip Hudson: Very good. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the Art of Range Podcast. You can subscribe to and review the show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to for articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission, Empowering the Rangeland Managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by Connors Communications in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Mentioned Resources

International Livestock Research Institute:
Guidelines for participatory rangeland management:…nd-agro-pastoral-0

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