OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Pastoral communities in the 21st century

Produce abundant, healthy nutritious chemical free food through indigenous knowledge & technology to sustain pastoral communities and beyond

Photo of Philippe Scheimann
5 3

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Kabarak university

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Ayala Alternative Organizational Consulting ltd. (TOP Global) Israel TOP Kenya Ltd (Kenya) , founding members are head of NGOs (YARD, KWEN, ELIMU TV) and Shophar in the field of Education for Sustainable Development, youth, women and agriculture, permaculture

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Nakuru, Kenya

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Communities Land size (1000skm2) Pop (1000s) Tugen 11 666 Samburu 21 310 Masaai 160 900 Pokot 9 621

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Professor Eluid Michura :

" I have done two academic research, one for my masters degree in 2002 and also with other researchers. This knowledge opened my mind and eyesight to learn the pastoral lifestyle production especially the food systems in these semi arid environments. The pastoral system of food production and their environments in which they've lived for so many centuries have not been understood. Their cultural way of production has been challenged and yet if well understood and modifications are implemented, pastoralism should not be a challenge in the 21st century and beyond.”

The pastoral communities suffer a lot not because of ecological challenges but they suffer due to a lack of organized food system production where the government has its responsibilities. Pastoralists are currently exploited by outsiders,  but with skills building and resilience built in them, they can face the dynamics of life. With this in mind, we have raised issues and solutions that can help improve pastoral lifestyle and how they can be helped to use the immense resources they have to turn around their economic and social systems for their own benefits. 

Lack of water and pasture in dry climatic regime are issues that can be mitigated with appropriate methodologies which can be achieved through practical research, empowerment, training (ESD). 

Pastoral communities suffer during severe droughts and flood season and large number of households loose their herds and many people die and yet all these are not necessary if initiative strategies are put in place, policies developed, economic diversification, risk management principles are employed and commitments by central and county governments. 

Pastoralists have great potential to change their lives for better without depending on relief aids from the government and other NGOs or international communities.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

These are groups of people living in the marginal zones called Semi arid and arid environments in Kenya who practice pastoralism (mode of lifestyle production).
They comprise of Masaais, Samburu, Turkana, Pokot, and Illchalmus.
They are mainly livestock keepers ruminants and non ruminants, small livestock such as goats, sheep, and large animals eg camels, donkeys, cattle, etc.
Some of them are also practicing dry land farming growing of grains such as millet, sorghum, cassava, cowpea
The pastoral communities landscape is varied mostly plains, undulating interrupted with hills and valleys. The rivers or streams are seasonal and water is only available in short rainy seasons.
Some places are rock and steep while others plateaus Climate Hot and dry almost throughout the year. Rain only comes in few months but not enough. Erratic rainy period is too short to grow crops that last long. Temperatures are high ranging between 28 to 35 C, low humidity and very windy.
Nights are cold and hot during the day.
Evaporation rate is high. The rains are infrequent and irregular, sometimes with no rain during long periods of several years.
For centuries, they have developed easy and simple lifestyle for survival.
They practice two types of pastoralism- Nomadic –the entire community moves with their entire households and livestock from place to place dictated by weather conditions which influence food for their livestock which is mainly naturally grown grass and water. During the wet season grass grows a lot and water is available, at this time they temporarily settle . When the dry season approaches, they move to a new ground where there is pasture and water.
Pastoralists are more concerned with their livestock survival because this is their food. Sedentaries live an agrarian life and also keep livestock. This is done in marginal areas and they grow food for consumption.
They suffer a lot of crop destruction due to bad weather and animals. They practice traditional methods of crop husbandry to cope with changing climate especially droughts. Over 95% depend on livestock production which is why they keep livestock. Meat, Blood and milk are the main diet for pastoralists. Hide and skin for clothing and bedding and housing.
The diet is not balanced because it comes mainly from animal products such as meat, blood, milk and little from wild fruits such as cactus, euphorbia fig.etc.
There is a high level of hunger and malnutrition and thus loss of lives. Food insecurity is high and quite often depends upon food aid. There is very little growth of vegetables and fruits due to poor climate. Occasionally grains, fruits & vegetables are imported from outside the region.
They live in temporary structures constructed using mud, cow dung and sticks.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

These communities have depended heavily on aid since the colonialist system of production disrupted their indigenous one. They have remained vulnerable to environmental dynamics and no longer able to cope with their lifestyles and livelihood since independence. They suffer all the years because they wait helplessly for support and yet they could be empowered to use local resources for their sustainability.

They lack leadership and need to use both indigenous and new strategies in food system production. In the past decades, pastoralists have been affected by a number of processes that have seriously reduced their capacity and responsibility to manage their own grazing and water resources.
Outsiders have invaded their land, always taking the best areas. They have introduced individual title deeds, thinking them superior to the traditional, managing dry land resources of communal land ownership. They have established national parks, game reserves, wheat farms and big irrigation schemes.

Pastoral areas have been the scene of civil wars and cross-border conflicts. This has cut pastoralists off from large areas of grazing. Sophisticated weapons are now available everywhere, leading to high insecurity.
Big rangeland - management programmes have tried to introduce other livestock practices, ignoring the value and high productivity of the pastoralists’ existing production systems.
All these attempts have failed. Demographic pressure forces small-scale crop farmers to encroach upon the pastoral lands, again taking the most valuable pieces. Many relief and reconstruction programmes have neglected local methods to cope with droughts.
This has led to a loss of independence, self-esteem and pride among pastoralists.
In an example of the interaction between highlands and lowlands, extracting water upstream harms the downstream pastoral production system by decreasing the availability of water for grazing land & flood-recession agriculture.

Lack of secure title to the land Erosion of their resource base,
Changes in their economic relationships within regional contexts
Domination of political relationships by central government.
Lack of investment and working capital
Limited access to credit, poor grazing conditions,
Highly variable climate (Climate change)
Insufficient farm size- due to expanding population and infrastructure
Inadequate or damaged infrastructure,
Poor access to extension officers who, in turn, are often absent.
Market forces and diminuendos
Frequent droughts
Losing indigenous knowledge in livestock production
 Middlemen question – making big cut.
Tragedy of waste deposition.
New diseases of livestock.
Weak government policy.
Wildlife livestock conflicts.
Food contamination.
Food storage for future use in drought and flood times.
Inadequate budgetary allocation
Low use of technology
High cost of farm inputs and adulterated inputs.
Pre and post harvest losses

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

1The CMDRR approach
2 Early warning systems
3 Natural resource management
4 Early warning and natural resource management support to preparedness and coping strategies

The main staples of Kenyan cuisine are: Maize meal (called Ugali when cooked and unga when raw) and rice. Maize has limited nutritious value and should be completed with additional food.
Economics Development of the Pastoral Livestock Sector
Diversification of the Pastoral Economy
Improvement of the Rural Infrastructure
Empowerment of the Pastoral Communities
Creation of an Enabling Environment Practice agro forestry, forestry, alternative sources of income
Diversification of economic activities: more focus on marketing of other livestock products (e.g. manure, hides) will significantly reduce over dependency on sale of live livestock
Encouraging public-private partnership investments in the animal health sector within the pastoral areas to increase capacity
Culture Techniques for drying surplus food
Preparedness strategies: the role of traditional early warning systems
Coping strategies during drought
Changing gender roles
Organic farming
High quantity farm yard manure available in animal biomas sold to supplement household income
Technology People need to purchase equipment usually made out of Kenya. Using open source hardware and software should allow locals to develop and manufacture their own equipment based upon their specific needs. Using videos for agricultural shows as alternative to extension officers. Videos shows demonstrations are being used by small scale farmers by Access Agriculture to intensify food production
Use of mobile phones and smart phones to watch farmer demonstrations
Use of technology to upload various problems as well as local solutions
Digital pastoralism
Need to expand communication coverage in dryland environments
Abundant human resource
New and expanding markets Potentiality for increasing production
Vast irrigation potential
Value addition. Creation of value addition for livestock products- pastoral farmers are selling their milk to processors and only 15% sell to milk vendors opportunity for processing and value addition
Policy Government policies to seriously commit the treasury to provide infrastructures for development.
Managing the drought cycle Environmental management.
Strategies developed to conserve and protect sensitive ecosystems for pastoral community sustainability.
Roles of women and men. To empower all gender roles
Managing conflicts. Peace initiatives and implementation plan Restricted mobility.
Herders avoid polluted areas.
Destocking- Done before the onset of droughts to avoid livestock loss
Rights to enter new areas.
Pastoralists should have free range grazing regime.
Pressure from political dynamism Government pressure to take control & management of forests, tourism & other resources
County government in should partner with pastoral for good politics

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Using TOP (Technology of Peace) guiding principles of holistic sustainability, we are working on 3 different levels:
uplift: there is a switch on the mindset from victim/needy to leady. In other words, from foreign help to self help
upgrade: improve the soil and the various situations thanks to indigenous knowledge, technology and sharing existing solutions
upcycle: from waste to treasure. in other words: circular economy. Nothing is being wasted and new products and services are created even from waste.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Pastoralists are used to move from one place to another because the land used to be rather poor. Once we have taken care of the land, there is no reason why they will not stay in the same area.

Our vision is a genuine combination of inner, ancestral knowledge with open technology and AI so that pastoralists can lead a balanced life.

Upgrade: people will have full traceability from plant/livestock to plate so that middle men are no longer a burden but are here to bring some added value.  Important us of tools such as livelihoods-based information and monitoring system, animal disease control and prevention system. A successful approach to livelihoods programming is context specific, is based on an in-depth livelihood analysis,seeks to establish strategic partnership among the different actors involved in pastoralism, including the private sector and employment of appropriate cutting edge technologies and innovations.

Politics: some pastoralists over the years will have reached some seniorpositions so that they were able to protect their tribes

Education: pastoral education combining literacy and numeracy education with livelihoods skills and training, as in the agro-pastoral field schools and junior farmer field schools. Resilience is built in them to survive the dynamics on life.
In addition, the following existing example managed by TOP Kenya will be highly spread in order to address the cross-border and regional dimension of pastoralism.

MarugeSchool is located close to the border between Kajiado and KiambuCounties. Kajiado County is found in the Great Rift Valley and is largely occupied by the Maasai community. On the other hand the neighbors in Kiambu County are largely farmers and derive their livelihood through agriculture. The two communities sometimes find themselves in conflicting situations over the use of the natural resources.  As part of the schools wider scope, permaculture study, conflict resolution through education and children is greatly emphasized.

Food security & nutrition : wider use of mixed farming and growing vegetables along meat will ensure a balanced diet and healthy life.
Permaculture is no longer only permanent culture but is taking into account open technology so that the term that will be used is PermaCulTech (Permanent+ Culture + HiTech )

Upcycle– creating new ways and products:

Development of the animal feed resources, including agro-industrial by-products such as molasses, bagasse and haymaking;
development of pastoral natural resources and natural resources governance, including water and animal feed resources.

Source of inspiration:
People from all over the world will want to learn from pastoralists and their way of thinking, their inner knowledge,  their connections to nature and to spiritual dimensions. Safaris will not just be about seeing wild animals, but it will also mean to live for a few days/weeks with pastoralists. This way, there will be some mutual exchanges including pastoralists trainers going to various places in the world to convey their skills and inner knowledge.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Gregory  Kimani

Hi Philippe,
Its great to see a vision focusing on change of mindset and transforming the underserved lives of the poor farming and pastrol populations. At NUAP we also have various technologies and topics that can be utilized in your vision to increase food security. All the best in the challenge.

Photo of Philippe Scheimann

Hi Gregory,
thanks for reaching out.
We welcome collaborations with TOP. We'd love to know more about your solutions.
Best if you can contact TOP Kenya local coordinators and work out some joint efforts.
I will send an intro email.

Photo of Gregory  Kimani

Thanks Philippe.
Am looking foward to combining our efforts and a possible collaboration.

View all comments