Lands of the Future
Transforming Pastoral Lands and Livelihoods in Eastern Africa
During a workshop called Lands of the Future at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, Germany on March 4-5, 2013, prominent anthropologists were invited to discuss the future of pastoralism in Africa. This workshop resulted in the creation of the Lands of the Future Initiative (LOF), which addresses some of the pressing issues and concerns related to the adaptation and transformation of pastoral peoples to large-scale land acquisitions and other forms of investment in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of eastern Africa.
The Lands of the Future Initiative – open to scholars and practitioners from all disciplines – aims to raise levels of pertinent knowledge about pastoralism and agro-pastoralism within changing economies and contends that pastoralists are central actors in development processes and questions of sustainability.
The Lands of the Future Initiative provides a basis for informed discussion, comparative research and exchange in cooperation with its associates, related projects and research programmes at partner institutions.
Pastoralists throughout the world are facing times of turbulent transition with global economic trends increasingly becoming investment reality in pastoralists’ territories. Changing land use patterns and disturbances to the environment and livelihoods of pastoralists are obvious in eastern Africa, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of pastoralists in the world. (Agro-) pastoral communities, who engage in subsistence economies, are and will continue to be significantly affected by large-scale domestic and foreign commercial investments, by resettlement schemes and by the changes in land use within their territories. Governments, politicians, and local communities, NGOs and human rights organisations, activists, and investors as well as scholars from different disciplines represent divergent voices concerning the implications of investments within pastoral territories. Often these voices seem irreconcilable. The Lands of the Future Initiative searches for solutions where conflicts of interest occur, above all, to prevent serious conflict scenarios that arise when divergent interests harden into opposing fronts.
Although biased perceptions of the “unproductive” uses of pastoralism have become outdated, government policies still do little to formally recognise or integrate pastoral lands as critical parts of rural livelihood systems and economic development models. Instead, many states give preference to large-scale agricultural investments, resulting in the loss or fragmentation of rangelands, induced sedentarisation of pastoralists, and a radical reduction in livestock numbers. The Lands of the Future Initiative states that alienation of pastoralists from productive lands often is unwarranted, unproductive, and unadvisable and that local communities and local level authorities with time tested knowledge should be central actors when developing environmentally sound approaches to living with, not simply off, natural resources. The potential of flexible, sustainable and resilient agro-pastoralist land use systems expecially in times of climate change cannot be underestimated. This position does not support the idea that pastoralists should be coerced into market-based arrangements or that their knowledge should be misused for the building of new economies but corresponds to global efforts to achieve context specific food justice and climate justice that considers a plurality of livelihoods (see our working paper and our recent publication on the right).
Over the years people engaging in the LOF Initiative have come together in many different settings – in pastures, fields, villages and watering places, farms, firms, cities and government offices, universities, conferences and e-correspondence. Find our list of workshops and panels below:
VAD Congress 2021. Association of African Studies, Germany, Frankfurt 2021
Lands Of The Future – Futuremaking With Pastoralists In Africa
organized by Echi Christina Gabbert and Günther Schlee
VAD Conference AFRICA CHALLENGES, 2021, 7 to 11 June 2021, in Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Positive futuremaking starts when space, time and land with its inhabitants are brought and thought together, when diverse forms of life on, with and off the land can be accepted as valid elements of futuremaking; when unnecessary distinctions among livelihoods and forms of existence are overcome; and when all members of society are trusted to cooperate to build states on peaceful terms. Furthermore, when social, ecological and economic factors are not construed as antagonistic but as integral parts of futuremaking, then knowledge about the land fosters knowledge about the world. While there is sufficient evidence that pastoralism is a rather sophisticated way of life in certain areas of the world, state policies for pastoral territories in Africa, continue to ignore inclusive solutions that challenge ‘modernist‘ preconceptions of progress that by definition exclude pastoralists. The ties between pastoralists and states have been stressed and ruptured for centuries. Divisions are created between those who consider themselves modern, or open to modernity and progress, and those who are denigrated as backward and uninformed. Yet, mutual futuremaking by states and pastoralists is possible if differences beyond the modern/backward divide are also regarded as opportunities. To address these challenges, misconceptions about pastoralists need to be corrected to foster more holistic discourses about food providers, well-being, sustainability and peaceful futures. This is crucial for a peaceful living together that cannot be built upon or sustained by way of stigmatization and exclusion of pastoralists. What then can pastoralism contribute to peaceful futuremaking?
We are looking for theoretical and empirical contributions that discuss the role that pastoralists in Africa can play in the search for alternatives and deep transformation in the fields of land use, livestock and crisis management, innovation, change and democratic egalitarian principles, state-building, land rights, human rights and peace formation,alternative economies and sustainability.
ICES 20 - 20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Mekelle 2018
Lands of the Future. Time for Innovation. Can Ethiopia’s developmental politics still set a global example of equitable development?
Convenors: Dr. Echi Christina Gabbert, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Goettingen, Germany/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany, Dr. Fana Gebresenbet , Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, Dr. Edward (Jed) Stevenson, University College London
20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Mekelle, October 1-5, 2018
Ethiopia’s culturally diverse regions and populations provide unique resources of political, philosophical and socio-ecological knowledge, with century-tested agricultural and agro-pastoral production techniques still active. Yet the implementation of developmental land use schemes in Ethiopia in the last decade, understood to create benefit for all, has been overshadowed by approaches that often disregard local knowledge and cultural particularities without being suitable to decrease socio-economic inequality and ecological hardship. But how can we meet the needs of all within the needs of the country and the planet? Can Ethiopia still set a much needed, much different and innovative example that seriously integrates local knowledge and cultural particularity in a globalizing world? What good could come out from recent changes in land lease policies, e.g. by giving more agency to the respective regions? Are international norms and principles, enshrined in the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems and Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure practicable? Can local knowledge inform national and global planning for food security, as realized e.g. in agroecology?
To address these questions we are interested in bold and original contributions that discuss innovative and peaceful solutions on the local, national and global scope. We will look at national and international power relations while reflecting on cultural particularities and possibilities for mutual knowledge exchange and respectful communication in land use and development politics in Ethiopia. We want to share lessons drawn from particular cases in Ethiopia to a global audience and examine how ideas and principles at the global level are accepted and implemented at national and local levels. Topics of interest are: land use, resource management, local knowledge and livelihoods, centre-periphery relations, agro-pastoralism, human-nature relations, biodiversity, global markets, investment, climate change, drylands, conflict and peace. We especially welcome examples of innovative, integrative, cooperative and equitable development without asking for blue print solutions. This panel will also bring together researchers from two interdisciplinary networks – the Lands of the Future Initiative and the Omo-Turkana Research Network.
International Workshop – Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in cooperation with McGill University and the International Canopy of Conservation, Halle/Saale 2018
“Transformations and Visions: responses, alternative and resistances to large scale and deals in the Global South”
organized by Echi Gabbert in cooperation with McGill University and the International Canopy of Conservation
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, May 23-25, 2018
For this workshop we want to bring together a select group of engaged, interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners who are working on land deals in different countries in the Global South, to present case studies and ideas that describe reactions and alternatives to large-scale land deals for commercial or conservation purposes. These case studies may (but not exclusively) examine the promises, challenges and limitations posed by:
a) Transnational and national legal and policy options, such as land laws for collective or individual titles, or the effectiveness of guidelines and actions to support local livelihoods such as small scale agriculture and agro-pastoralism.
b) Alternative agricultural, agro-pastoral or conservation approaches and models that challenge large scale land deals or that encourage better forms of inclusion of local knowledge and livelihood concerns.
c) Various forms of ‘resistance’ (broadly defined) at the local, national and transnational scale.
In this workshop, key individuals who have considerable experience working on land and rural development issues, alongside scholars and practitioners who are practically engaged with alternative approaches in the Global South, will critically engage with case studies that explore future directions, challenges and possibilities that support local livelihoods, social and economic equity and environmental ‘sustainability’, with the goal of moving forward from rather than rehashing critiques about large-scale land acquisitions.
The workshop will be structured to stimulate discussion and debate to encourage creative ideas for future directions in addressing land deals and the challenges they pose. The outputs will include two publications: one that is aimed at an academic and practitioner audience, and the other that translates these cases and ideas in a form that is more accessible to local communities, NGOs and activists. The workshop is structured around panel presentations and in-depth discussions of papers and case studies.
IUAES Inter Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, Dubrovnik 2016
Lands of the future – Means and ends of pastoralism in a globalizing world
organized by Echi Christina Gabbert and Nikolaus Schareika
IUAES – Inter Congress: World Anthropologies and privatization of knowledge: engaging anthropology in public, Dubrovnik, May 4-9, 2016
Pastoralists are facing times of turbulent transition. In the past decade global economic trends have increasingly become investment reality in pastoralists’ territories. Changing land use patterns and commercialization of livestock markets create disturbances to the environment and livelihoods of nomadic, transhumant and (agro-) pastoralist people throughout the world.
In some areas where agro-pastoral territories are turned into industrial zones in the course of large-scale agricultural projects, political rhetorics declared agro-pastoralist territories as empty land or fragile ecosystems and handle pastoralism as outdated practice, resulting in new land uses, sedentarization of pastoralists accompanied by destocking, de- and (sometimes) ‘reskilling’ of pastoralists as labourers. In other areas, the commercialization and globalization of livestock markets leads to a radical change from local knowledge based family production to industrialized animal husbandry for national and international meat markets.
On the other side of these developments stand voices to remind that agro-pastoralist expertise is crucial not only for livestock production but also for ecological sound and sustainable use of arid and semiarid lands. Pastoralists, who embed ecologic and climatic variability in their production systems are highly adaptive especially in areas in which production systems which depend on stability must fail (Krätli 2015). To eradicate these systems would lead to ecological and social degradation and possible impoverishment of local populations. But also a realistic approach on industrial meat productions systems in comparison with highly efficient traditional livestock systems is necessary to weigh costs and benefits before ending or changing pastoralism for hastily calculated means.
ICES19 - 19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Warsaw 2015
Power, Peripheries and Land: Development across the last frontiers of Ethiopia
organized by Echi Christina Gabbert and Dereje Feyissa
19th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies ICES: Ethiopia – Diversity and Interconnections through Space and Time, Warsaw, August 24-28, 2015
In the last decade, peripheral regions of Ethiopia have become subject of development planning of the Ethiopian government. In the course of fast track development plans, regions mainly home to pastoral and agropastoral people practising subsistence economies are mapped out for and turned into investment zones for commercial use for national and international investors. Different actors and groups of actors represent divergent views on these development efforts and more than often their views seem irreconcilable moving between hope, fear, and anger. Whereas some calculations promise benefit for all through overall economic gain, others foresee a sell-out of Ethiopian natural and cultural resources and resulting impoverishment of people. Especially the establishment of new commercial farms have already induced new sources of violent conflict (e.g. in Gambella and SNNPR).
The contributions to this panel, empirical and theoretical, discussed examples and divergent views on livelihoods and development planning in Ethiopia, encompassing policies, economic, juridical and cultural considerations across the „last frontiers of Ethiopia“ (Markakis 2011). We want to discuss how the present development dynamics mirror centre-periphery relations and how historical responsibilities as layed out in the Ethiopian Constitution may help to reflect on emergent pathologies of development schemes to work out constructive criticism on contested arenas of development. Questions for discussions were: How can we integrate divergent interests to gain a realistic overview of the situation? How measurable and accountable are cost- benefit calculations? Which relevant points of historical responsibilities need to inform feasable policies for the peripheries? Can Ethiopia still set an example for sustainable development that does not repeat mistakes made at other places and/or at other times and if so how can this be achieved?
AAA - American Anthropological Association, Annual meeting, Washington DC. 2014
Anthropologists and the Global Land Grab in Eastern Africa: Research and Advocacy
organized by John Galaty and Echi Christina Gabbert
AAA American Anthropological Association 2014 Annual meeting: Producing Anthropology, Washington DC., December 3-7, 2014
Land holding and land use is rapidly changing, not least because of the arrival of global investors on the scene where peasant farmers and pastoralists have long pursued their livelihoods. On terrain long the object of debate between land holders and development projects, diverse and divergent voices are now heard about the implications of investments for development. These include representatives of governments, corporate investors, local community members and leaders, NGO’s, academians, environmentalists, churches and human rights organizations. The complexity of viewpoints heard is matched by the range of interests currently engaged in acquiring land. Africa is now experiencing what has been called the second great African land grab, the first having been the massive acquisition of land at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries when colonial settlement was established.
What is at stake in the large-scale acquisition of land by local and international investors is itself under debate, as apparently irreconcilable voices make claims and arguments. Anthropologists have been part of emerging discussions about new land uses. They have established new research networks that analyze new land uses (e.g., Future Agricultures Consortium, Lands of the Future), engage with human rights organizations and serve as consultants for governments, investors and NGOs. Indeed, anthropologist seem predestined to engage with the topic as the territories concerned often are the same peripheral regions where they have for generations conducted long-term fieldwork, such as the regions inhabited and used by peasants, pastoralists and agro- pastoralists in Northeastern Africa and elsewhere on the continent. If for investors central questions concern returns on the land from commercial agricultural ventures or the utility of international conservation enterprises, for anthropologists it is usually the well-being of communities who often face dispossession as their lands are “repurposed”.
The panel examined two intertwined issues, the politics underlying this “repurposing” of land through the mediation of large-scale land acquisitions, and the complex roles played by anthropologists, and Anthropology more generally, in the mediation between communities and diverse agents of change. While investigating changing forms of land use and land tenure in the wake of land acquisitions by outside interests, researchers can quickly find themselves in dilemmas that are symptomatic of the opposed positions of stakeholders, partners and audiences in globalizing arenas. Anthropologists are often obliged to “position” themselves in relation to these diverse interests since the linkage between land acquisitions and the dispossession and displacement of local communities introduces a critical moral dimension that cannot be ignored. In this sense, new land uses and conflicting land rights raise critical questions of human rights and cultural rights that often clash with development policies and global market dynamics. The panel will examine cases where moral and pragmatic issues are highlighted both in the political dynamics of land grabbing and in the multiple roles anthropologists play in this important venue in which the very nature of Anthropology is at play.
VAD Congress 2014 - Association of African Studies Germany, Bayreuth 2014
„Lands of the Future“ – Pastoralism, Land and Investment in Africa
organized by Echi Christina Gabbert and Shauna LaTosky
Conference “Future Africa”, Association of African Studies Association Germany (VAD), Bayreuth University, June 11-14, 2014
In the past decade global economic trends have increasingly become investment reality in pastoralists’ territories in Africa. Changing land use patterns and disturbances to the environment and livelihoods of pastoralists are obvious e.g., in Northeast Africa which is home to one of the largest concentrations of (nomadic, transhumant and agro-) pastoralists in the world. The relation of local populations to national and international investors poses a special challenge, as the politics, economies and fates of people who have never met are merged through global economy rather than through human encounter. Investors often have never visited the territories their companies invest or work in, yet their presence can have a significant impact on people’s lives. Contributions to the panel presented different positions on investment in pastoral areas and discuss visions and recommendations to address emergent conflicts of changing land uses.
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology 2013
Lands of the Future Workshop
organized by Günther Schlee, Echi Gabbert and Shauna LaTosky
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, March 4-5, 2013
This workshop addressed issues of large scale land acquisition and other forms of investment in North East Africa to discuss various possible strategies for raising levels of pertinent knowledge about the agro-pastoral and pastoral groups involved. Our aim was to build a supportive network of scholars from different disciplines including agro-pastoralists to gather, exchange and compare data, publish in different media and cooperate with other initiatives and projects. We envisaged regular meetings and an accompanying website to carry news and information about our activities and encourage more scholars and practicioners to join and actively exchange.
Abbink, John; Askew, Kelly; Dereje Feyissa Dori; Fratkin, Elliot; Gabbert, Echi Christina; Galaty , John; LaTosky, Shauna; Lydall, Jean; Mahmoud, Hussein. A.; Markakis, John; Schlee, Günther; Strecker, Ivo; Turton, David 2014. ‘Lands of the Future: Transforming Pastoral Lands and Livelihoods in Eastern Africa’, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Working Papers No. 154.
Asebe Regassa, Yetebarek Hizekiel and Benedikt Korf 2018. ‘Civilizing the Pastoral Frontier: Land Grabbing, Dispossession and Coercive Agrarian Development in Ethiopia’, Journal of Peasant Studies. pp. 935-955.
Buffavand, Lucie 2016. ‘“The Land Does Not Like Them”: Contesting Dispossession in Cosmological Terms in Mela, South-West Ethiopia’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 10(3): 476–93.
Buffavand, Lucie 2017. ‘Vanishing Stones and the Hovering Giraffe: Identity, Land and the Divine in Mela, Southwest Ethiopia’, Ph.D. dissertation. Halle (Saale): Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Institute for Social Anthropology.
Fana Gebresenbet 2016. ‘Land Acquisitions, the Politics of Dispossession and State-Remaking in Gambella, Western Ethiopia‘. Africa Spectrum, 51(1): 5-28.
Gabbert, Echi Christina 2014. ‘The global neighbourhood concept: a chance for cooperative development or festina lente‘, in Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe (ed.) A Delicate Balance: Land Use, Minority Rights and Social Stability in the Horn of Africa. Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, pp. 14-37.
Gabbert. Echi Christina 2018. ‘Future in Culture: Globalizing Environments in the Lowlands of Southern Ethiopia’, in Jon Abbink (ed.), The Environmental Crunch in Africa. Growth Narrative vs. Local Realities. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 287–31.
Gabbert, Echi Christina, Gebresenbet, Fana, Galaty, John G., Schlee, Günther 2021. Lands of the Future: Anthropological Perspectives on Pastoralism, Land Deals and Tropes of Modernity in Eastern Africa. New York: Berghahn.
Regassa, Asebe, Klute, Georg and Detona, Mohammed 2018. ‘“They Have Stolen Our Land.” Enclosure, Commodification and Patterns of Human-Environment Relations among Afar Pastoralists in Northeastern Ethiopia‘, Modern Africa: Politics, History and Society 5(2):127-150.
Schlee, Günther 2013. ‘Why states still destroy pastoralism and how they can learn that in their own interest they should not‘, Nomadic Peoples 17 (2): 6 – 19.
Schlee, Günther 2013. ‘Territorializing ethnicity: the imposition of a model of statehood on pastoralists in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia‘, Ethnic and Racial Studies 36 (5): 857 – 874.
Tewolde Woldemariam and Fana Gebresenbet 2014. ‘Socio-political and conflict implications of sugar development in Salamago Wereda, Ethiopia‘, in Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe (ed.) A Delicate Balance: Land Use, Minority Rights and Social Stability in the Horn of Africa. Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, pp. 117-143.
“Explains clearly how changes in pastoral and agro-pastoral land use/lease in East Africa lead to environmental degradation and depletion of resources … a very important book.”
“The overall volume is highly coherent, well integrated, ethnographically convincing as well as written with technical clarity and sober positioning … no comparable material exists in scope and focus.”