Friday, 30 August 2013

Refugees And Their Livestock In Chad

Interesting article from IRIN looking at the challenges of hosting nomadic pastoralists, who fleeing Darfur (and other places), with their livestock, in Chad. The article talks about the government/UNHCR attempts to move them to a camp where, they say, these herders will be able to seek pasture for their animals. The UNHCR makes a very good point:
"How do you deal with an emergency for people who believe national borders don't exist? You cannot fix them [in a location]; it will not work. There is a need for innovative approaches," said Mamadou Dian Balde, the UNHCR deputy representative in Chad.
"They need freedom of movement, a large area, a settlement, not a camp per se. But how do you do this in a durable way? There is a need to develop community-based programmes for livelihood sustenance." 
Supporting refugees who are nomadic pastoralists is always difficult and encampment has proved highly problematic. Creating spaces where pastoralists can continue their livelihood strategies is the best possible outcome. Of course, in practice that is a very complicated thing to do. Further complicated by local realities like this one (from the article):
The size of the new herds in Abgadam also remains unknown: local culture forbids the counting of household livestock as it is considered as a bad omen.  
Try working out whether the influx of animals will exceed the capacity of available grazing land when you aren't allowed to count the cattle. You have to say this for aid work, it is never boring.

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