on herd size -- one misses the greater question; how can society collectively help address issues that actually affect all of us?” Understanding the drivers of ‘irresponsible’ actions will help resolve grazing allocation issues. “All herders regard overgrazing as bad,” Molnár added.
Overgrazing for a conservationist, when there is not enough grazing for wild herbivores like zebra or antelope, is going to be different from “overgrazing” for a herder. There is no magical equilibrium about the “correct” number of animals in any place. It solely depends on what the community wants and agrees on.
The beautiful incongruity of pastoralism is that while herder knowledge is specialized and local, whether it be the rich pastures of Hungary, Mongolian steppes, or the northern Kenyan drylands, some truths are universal. Herders guide their animals in response to constant climatic change.
Although socioeconomic stratification amongst herders is hardly new in pastoral communities, the rapidly widening gap between the rich and poor is. Connections to institutions and those who understand herders from their perspectives is increasingly imperative. Equitable accessibility to such political networking remains an issue.
But through flipping the narrative and working on the ground, we may finally begin to harness and appreciate their knowledge. The biggest question now is whether pastoralists’ knowledge will survive the ongoing fragmentation and changes that directly impact their livelihoods.
KANG-CHUN CHENG is a Nairobibased freelance environment photojournalist with an interest in community-based natural resources management.
TOP Bringing the cows home in Bunyala on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. BELOW Grevy's zebra at Mpala Research Center's living laboratory in Laikipia. Mpala facilitates and exemplifies sustainable humanwildlife co-existence through education, outreach and by developing sciencebased solutions to guide conservation actions for the benefit of nature and human welfare.
24 | APRIL - JUNE 2022